A Caliphate in South Asia?

Event report of ‘In Conversation with Dr. Arabinda Acharya’ hosted by CPPR Centre for Strategic Studies at Kochi, Kerala

Since Jihadism came into the picture, with the declarations in 1996 by Bin Laden followed by the 1998 declaration, there has been an over estimation of the adversary and under estimation of the state responses when it comes to a terror attack. The nature of extent of a crime is usually more powerful than the number of people killed.

There are ways through which terror organizations, like the ISIS and Al-Qaeda, keep control over the captive regions.
• Talking peace with the government (e.g. in Philippines)
• In places where there is a tough terrain
• Through massive state or institutional support for their own geo-political objectives (Pakistan supports LeT, Iran-Hezbollah etc.)

Basics of Radicalization
The ideology or the narratives that are followed are usually by carrying out attacks based on an aspect of a god’s nature. It is said that Islam is being attacked by this country. Therefore, it is the duty of a Muslims to carry out an attack.

But, this is not unique or specific to Islam alone.
• Christianity transcendence implied by god’s omnipresence
• Hindu god as nirguna brahmin.
• Islam- tawhid, the act of believing Allah is the one.
• Even exhibited in some fringes of Buddhism.

Eschatological
There are theology concerns with the final events in the history of the world or human kind. Most religions have a theory (Christianity-Rupture, Hindu-Kalki, Buddhism-AUM, Islam-end of times battle).

The other concern lies as to how ISIS controlled places which were destroyed. They control territory so it can be taken out.

It is also important to understand radicalization. It is important to know the process. Very few countries are doing this. It is also important to know the cause of the terror attacks that take place which are sometimes inevitable in respect of certain communities. Many attacks in Europe and the US are due to white supremacy. It is not just the poor or uneducated. Members are highly educated. Some try to carry out attacks together without even knowing each other.

There are a few approaches of radicalization. The most common is the top down approach like traditional leader inspiring a group of people in a certain territory. The approach can also be a bottom up approach, for example radicalization using internet. Some can also be cause based.

Predispositions of radicalization vary in both nature and intensity. There were only two areas in India where Osama Bin Laden was popular. One in Maharashtra and some areas in UP. Only one person from India was in a leadership position in Taliban. Socio-political contexts and reacting to grievances also vary.

90% internet searches on Islam lead to around 60,000 websites with content that are radical in nature. It is also important to understand how the content or the messages are received and very few countries are doing this. It is also important to know the nature of reactions to grievances on the part of the recipient of such radical ideas. Socio-political contexts vary resulting in varied reactions to grievances.

The objectives of various terrorists groups including Al Qaeda and ISIS are incongruous. Though agreements are made on broader aspects of global jihad, their objectives remain grounded in local issues and grievances.

The global terrorist outfits are exploiting modern age technologies like ransomware, artificial intelligence and crypto-currency to wage proxy wars. India to assess whether the country is prepared to need the new challenges that terrorism will thrown in its way.

During Arab Spring, notion was that, it was a direct challenge to Jihadism. But, that wasn’t the case, although the Arab Spring did remove some leaders.

Receptiveness to external stimuli also varies which is very much visible in South East Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. Nevertheless, the types of attacks are different. The messaging or narrative changes in order to formulate grievances.

Therefore, this leads to one of the most important aspect, which is localization of Jihad. Changes occur in extremism. Social, political systems change. Local culture and identities are country specific.

After 2005, the content started changing where a local issue was given more importance. Before this, there was just a copy paste version or a direct translation of the major issues across the world. Corruption in Indonesia started to be addressed; local issues were important. People were not much concerned about the Middle East. Many groups in South Asia do not believe in jihad. There are local issues that are more important. Objectives were not to join Al-Qaeda. But fighting was for the local issues. There are agreement on broader aspects but remain firmly grounded in local issues. For example, the Bali bombings, the objective was to kill tourists. Similarly the objectives of the 2009 Ritz Carlton bombings was targeted to local police. Here, killing the local president was much more important.

There are differences and commonalities in how different terror groups like the ISIS and Al-Qaeda works. ISIS uses social media as any means, controls the territory and has a huge resource. Al-Qaeda was also in possession of territories and thus did not have to defend. Taliban was doing that. They also had the stability in terms of the time and space to plan and carry out an attack.

There were a few common ideologies as well. The most importantly was the end time’s battle, which they believe will take place in Syria. Both understand that the US could upset the Caliphate project. Another important ideology they follow is provocations that aim at bringing US out of the hole, which will lead to the end of time by defeat of evil forces.
Muhammed Naser was arrested in Chicago for attempting to move to Syria. Paying taxes to Islamic states was important.

ISIS had a steady flow of money. However, in 2015, money was destroyed. Al-Qaeda had three websites and a news production company. Context and instruments are different. The strength, ability, resources and outreach of both these terror groups have reduced. ISIS used to have an online news portal which is not in operations any more.

Foreign fighters associated with ISIS are estimated to be around 120,000.

Indian Subcontinent:
September 2014, Ayman al-Zawahiri declares jihad in Indian subcontinent. Raises the flag of Jihad. Hafiz Saeed said that Ghazwae Hind is inevitable. Indian Mujahideen played/plays a major role.

A few of the terror groups in the Indian subcontinent are Jamaatul Mujahidin Bangladesh (JMB) HT in Bangladesh, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and others Pakistan, Taliban and others in Afghanistan and some fringe groups in Sri Lanka and Maldives.

Afghans continue to disown responsibility for their own security sheltering under the great game rhetoric. Bangladesh did well with extremists. Initially but caving in and overwhelmed by Rohingya (Many of them are joining JMB and other terrorist organizations. They have no homes, no basic facilities and rights. Pakistan is a victim of the most brutal manifestation of terrorists and declining relationship with Washington. In India, the number of people becoming radicalized is very small.

Al-Qaeda is a brand of global jihad and the ISIS Islamic state has differing resonance. Groups like ISIS have immediate appeal but have short shelf life. Prospects of a caliphate in South Asia is unrealistic.

The root cause is important. In counter terrorism, cooperation there is mostly national level response and between nations, we see mutual distrust and lack of cooperation. Therefore, even though there is no chance of prospects the fight will go on.

 

The Speaker : Dr. Arabinda Acharya

Dr. Arabinda Acharya specializes in political violence and terrorism, regionalism, human security, and cybersecurity. Dr. Acharya holds a PhD in International Relations from Deakin University in Australia, a Master of Science in Strategic Studies from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and a Master of Arts in Political Science. He is also the author of many books in the areas of his expertise.

 

 

The Event : ‘In Conversation’ with Dr. Arabinda Acharya

Dr. Acharya was speaking at the event ‘In Conversation with Dr. Arabinda Acharya’ hosted by the CPPR – Centre for Strategic Studies at Kochi, Kerala. P K Hormis Tharakan, Adviser to CPPR moderated a discussion after the talk and presented a memento to the speaker. Chithira Rajeevaan, Research Assistant, CPPR delivered the vote of thanks.

 

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