Why ISIS Should Torment Omar Abdullah?
No jihadi discourse has elicited as much support as ISIS. There has been unprecedented support from even Western countries. Youth, both male and female, have joined the ranks of the ISIS from Britain, Australia, France, Belgium, Denmark etc
On October 10, masked men hoisted the ISIS flag in Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid. This incident followed the Friday prayers. A similar incident had taken place on October 6, wherein some youth waved the ISIS flag after Eid prayers. Three months earlier on June 27, some youth were seen carrying the same flag after the Friday prayers.
In Kashmir, the linkage between Friday prayers or religious gatherings, and demonstration of ISIS flags is, therefore unmistakable. Despite these incidents or show of solidarity with the idea of Islamic Caliphate in the Kashmir Valley, on no less than three occasions in five months, the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Mr Omar Abdullah maintains that there is no ISIS in the Kashmir, and all the reports and visual footage is a hype by the media. Significantly, the Chief Minister made comments to this effect as he emerged from the Union Home Minister’s office.
Mr Abdullah should be very concerned that the last two incidents took place even as the State is struggling to recover from the most devastating floods in the history of that land. During these floods, the Indian Armed Forces put their own families and lives at stake to provide rescue, relief and rehabilitation to the affected, which includes the ‘separatist leaders’. The same separatist leaders who after being rescued, tried to hijack relief material once the situation abated.
A Blast From The Past
In more than 65 years of its existence as independent states, India and Pakistan took almost half a century to develop a process in 1997. The roots of India-Pakistan Confidence Building measures date back to May 1997, when at Male, the capital of Maldives, the then Indian Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif mooted the idea of a structured dialogue or the Composite Dialogue Process. India and Pakistan have made peace overtures on three occasions. The first composite dialogue came with the Lahore Declaration, which collapsed due to armed clashes of the Kargil War in 1999. Although, the two rounds of talks in 1998 (October 16–18 and November 5–13) had not seemed particularly encouraging.
However, no discussions were likely to be able to survive the subsequent war. From that point, the possibilities of confidence building measures seemed distant as the Nawaz Sharif’s government in Pakistan was overthrown by a military coup and the new leader, General Pervez Musharraf, condemned the Lahore Summit. Failed Lahore Declaration and the broken Agra Summit in April 2001, the prospects for negotiation got much worse, due to the December 13, 2001 terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament, in which over a dozen of people, including five security guards were killed. This led to a state of alert on the border for war by both sides. Tensions between India and Pakistan rose throughout the spring and summer of 2002, when New Delhi initiated a full scale military mobilisation and war between India and Pakistan seemed imminent possibility. Yet that tension began to diminish in October 2002 and within six months, the focus had returned to these measures. The then Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, during his visit to Kashmir, reiterated that his government would like to extend ‘hands of friendship’ to Pakistan. Taking a cue, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, called Mr. Vajpayee in April 2003, and thus broke the ice between the two feuding neighbours. So in April 2003, India began, what was described as a ‘step-by-step’ initiative towards Pakistan. In July 2003, diplomatic relations and direct transport links were re-established and in November 2003 a ceasefire was initiated along the LoC. Since then, four rounds of serious discussions have taken place between India and Pakistan till November 26, 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
Ceasefire Violations and Change of Guard in India
Narendra Modi, who was sworn in as Prime Minister of India in May this year, was seen as likely to take a tough stance towards Pakistan, surprised everyone by inviting Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, along with other leaders of India’s South Asian neighbours, to attend his swearing-in ceremony .
The invitation, Nawaz Sharif’s confirmation and the reported rapport between the two democratically elected leaders raised hopes that they could bring about a substantial improvement in relations between these two countries, which had been in deep freeze since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, carried out by Pakistan-based Islamic militants.
But hopes of progress got scuttled in August when India abruptly cancelled secretary level talks amid anger over an invitation by Abdul Basit, Pakistan’s high commissioner in New Delhi, to Kashmiri separatist leaders for “consultations” ahead of the proposed Islamabad meetings. Ever since the cancellation of these talks, Pakistan has continued to breach the ceasefire along the Line of Control in Poonch-Rajouri sector and also along the International Border in the Jammu region. The latest high magnitude ceasefire violations occured from 4th to October 6, 2014, Pakistan resorted to unprovoked firing along 25 Border Out Posts (BOPs), killing five villagers and injuring 34 others, besides causing damage to houses and killing livestock in village Arnia. Analysts said the exchange of gunfire and mortar shells was the heaviest fighting along the Line of Control since the 2003 ceasefire, signed after the two nuclear-armed neighbours came to the brink of full conflict. Indian security analysts believe the Pakistani army is seeking to test the relatively new administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and provide cover for militants to sneak into Kashmir. Also, Pakistan wants to highlight the issue of J&K at world forums, as was done by PM Nawaz Sharif during the recently concluded UN General Assembly Meet at New York. Hence, the provocation at the border is heightened to draw reaction from India, which would label J&K as a disputed territory. Keeping Pakistan’s earlier records, it can be suggested that Pakistan resorts to such India centric activities to divert the attention of their local population from internal socio-political crisis. Analysts also believes that the Pakistan Army and ISI want to keep the issue alive to maintain their reputation in Pakistan. In case they do not display their continuous aggression, their authority and credibility will get a beating in the eyes of the people of Pakistan. Besides, the Military establishment wants to undermine the authority of their democratic government by going on the offensive against India. The recent threat by al Qaida to establish its militant wings in India and the support assured by Pakistani jihadist elements and Taliban’s to ISIS has served as a catalyst for Pakistan to activate its cross-border provocations with renewed vigour.
Unlike earlier governments, the new government toughened its stance on these issues and warned Pakistan to stop these “unprovoked firing and shelling”. Arun Jaitley, India’s Defence Minister warned of harsh consequences of continuing violations of the 2003 ceasefire agreement between the two countries. “Pakistan in these attacks has clearly been the aggressor but it must realise that our deterrent will be credible,” he said. “If Pakistan persists with this adventurism, our forces will make the costs of this adventurism unaffordable.”
By Nilabh Krishna
Mr. Abdullah, the young Chief Minister of J&K, should be disturbed at the abysmal dehumanization of elements within the population. They are only confined to the Kashmir Valley of the State. No floods and no outreach by the Union could wean these elements from the path of religious radicalization. How diabolical?
The entire country rallied behind the flood affected in Kashmir. Goodwill and resources flowed and continue to flow. The per capita expenditure by the Union government has always been highest with regard to Kashmir. These elements in the Kashmir Valley have defied the oft repeated logic that development unites. Even after the floods, the separatists continue to clamour for Pakistan, which was created as a homeland for Muslims. The Ahamadiyas and Shias find this homeland veritable hell. The violence against Shias and Ahamadiyas, leave alone the barbarism against Hindus and Christians, have deflated all the pretentions of Pakistan being secular in governance.
Do these separatists by inviting the ISIS want to purge the Shias in J&K, in their desire to join the failed state of Pakistan? It appears so, because the ISIS that they support is rabidly anti-Shia. In fact, the ISIS speaks of Sunni supremacy. The Islamic caliphate that they envisage has only a subsidiary and subordinate status for Shias.
The ISIS spokesperson Abu Mohammad al-Adnani has spoken about transforming Iraq into a living hell for Shias and called for destruction of Nazaf and Karbala. In fact, the guiding philosophy of ISIS is not ‘anti-Westernism’ or ‘pan-Islamism’, it is patently and unequivocally ‘pan-Sunnism’.
No jihadi discourse has elicited as much support as ISIS. There has been unprecedented support from even Western countries. Youth, both male and female, have joined the ranks of the ISIS from Britain, Australia, France, Belgium, Denmark etc. In India, there have been reports of few youth hailing from Maharashtra, fighting on behalf of the ISIS. There have been also reports of youth from Hyderabad moving all the way to West Bengal on their way to Bangladesh with the ultimate objective of joining the ISIS. Does the Burdwan incident, wherein bombs accidentally detonated during manufacture ,have any links with the ISIS? It is plausible, given the anxiousness displayed by the culprits and some collusive State government officials to remove the vestiges of the conspiracy and network! There is increasing evidence that following the crackdown on jihadi outfits in Bangladesh by Sheikh Haseena government, West Bengal has emerged as the new terror epicenter. These relocated fundamentalist organisations and jihadis are considered to be politically useful! Some youth from Tamil Nadu flaunted a group photograph with all of them sporting Islamic State emblem T-shirts. Two men were arrested for ordering these ISIS T-shirts.
ISIS Nefarious Design
The announcement of the establishment of a caliphate in parts of Iran and Syria is the most significant development in the international jihad since 9/11.
Upon declaring a caliphate, the Sunni militants demanded allegiance from Muslims around the world. In a map widely-shared by the ISIS supporters on social networks, the Islamist group outlined a five-year plan for how they would like to expand their boundaries beyond Muslim-majority countries.
As well as plans to expand the caliphate throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and large parts of western Asia, the map also marks out an expansion in parts of Europe.
Spain, which was ruled by Muslims for 700 years until 1492, is marked out as a territory the caliphate plans to have under its control by 2020.
Elsewhere, ISIS plans to take control of the the Balkan states – including Greece, Romania and Bulgaria—extending its territories in eastern Europe as far as Austria, which appears to be based on a pre-First World War borders of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
ISIS regularly makes statements and releases propaganda calling for the return of the geographical boundaries in place before the Great War. The barbaric extremist group aims to expand its caliphate to Khorasan, which includes Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, South-East Asia, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Some analysts are of the view that the strong emotional appeal of ISIS, or its capacity for online indoctrination is because unlike other global jihadi movements in the past, this is predominantly rooted in anti-Shia discourse. In other words, anti-Shiaism or pan-Sunnism has triumphed over pan-Islamism. It can be therefore inferred that historically and inherently the Shia-Sunni divide therefore runs deep and wide.
Mr Omar Abdullah should be concerned that this pan-Sunni discourse of ISIS may engender deep divide between the Shias and Sunnis, not only in his state but also in other parts of the country. The Times of India (August 2, 2014) highlighted the unease of Valley’s Shia population and attributed a statement by one resident of old city in Srinagar, Mirza Hussian: “We fear this may put our lives at risk since the ISIS leader is targeting the Shias, besides Islamic shrines and monuments”.
The reverberations of the ISIS discourse have been felt in other parts of India. In June this year, the call to arms by Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for protection of Shia religious shrines in Iraq, did galvanize segments of the Shia population in India. The anti-Shia discourse of the ISIS has also provoked clashes between Shias and Sunnis in old parts of Lucknow city. The Hon’ble Chief Minister of J&K should be concerned by the transcripts of communication (Indian Express report dated 13 October 2014, attributed to NIA) between the jihadis based in Pakistan and India. It is clear from these communications that the various jihadi groups like Al Qaeda, Taliban, LeT and ISIS may be in competitive mode but are certainly not adversarial. It emerges that career choice is being made by the jihadis in choosing the various jihadi groups depending on their proclivities and convenience. The Chairman of the United Jihad Council, Syed Salahuddin, has sought help from Al Qaeda and other transnational organizations like the ISIS for liberation of Kashmir. Various jihadi groups based in Pakistan, like Sipahi-e-Sabha, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), and a splinter group of Taliban Tahrik-e-Khilafat have openly expressed support for the ISIS.
Is the ISIS, therefore, Mr Abdullah, a convenient organization for the separatists to be used as a subterfuge and for the purposes of deniability?
And finally, Hon’ble Chief Minister, it should worry you that the map of the Islamic Caliphate envisaged by Mr Baghdadi includes Kashmir. You should be a worried man Mr Chief Minister and so should be all politicians in the Kashmir Valley. If it is not so, then it can be assumed that there are anti-nationals and separatists in many political shades as well. The term, ‘soft separatists’, is no doubt gaining currency.
By RSN Singh