July 22, 2013

Al-Qaeda's Direct Threats To India


In a recent video message obtained and translated by Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Al-Qaeda's Propaganda Chief  in Pakistan, Ustad Ahmad Farroq has declared that 'The War That Is Underway In The [Pakistani] Tribal Area Is The Battle For The Future Of The Whole Of [The Indian] Subcontinent'. 

This one is latest in series of direct threats to India from Al-Qaeda's top leadership based in Pakistan. Such threats are being regularly issued as deadline of US military withdrawal is approaching nearer. This new trend began in July, 2012 when Farman Ali Shinwari on being appointed as Al-Qaeda's Chief Operational Commander in Pakistan pledged "full support" to  terrorist groups active in Kashmir. Shinwari is a former member of Hurkat-ul-Mujahideen and is believed to have good rapport with various millitant groups active in Kashmir valley.

In March, 2013, another commander of Al-Qaeda military wing Asmatullah Muawiya threatened India over execution of Azmal Kasab and Afzal Guru and vowed to target India once the US forces leave Afghanistan. In June, Al Qaeda leader Maulana Asim Umar who is considered part of Al-Qaeda think-tank in Pakistan, released a video message inviting Indian Muslims to join jehad. This message again contained references to US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and warned of increased terrorist activities in India. In this message, Asim Umar also disclosed  dispatching of millitants to Syria which are now being confirmed by ground reports from Syria.These messages also have references to Buddhist-Muslim clashes in Myanmar and repeatedly refer to various SAARC and ASEAN countries.

While Al-Qaeda has no direct presence in India, nor is there any evidence of any recruitment drive carried out in India so far, it has always taken much interest in terrorist activities in India. While it is widley believed that Al Qaeda's Brigade 313 Commander Ilyas Kashmiri played an important role in orchestrating 26/11 attacks, last year Hindustan Times reported quoting former US C-T Officer Bruce Reidel that evidence collected from Abbottabad compound by US SEALS suggests that Osama Bin Laden might have seen the Headley surveillance tapes and Al-Qaeda had a more direct role in planning of 26/11 attacks.

Many analysts have seen Asim Umar's latest message as Al-Qaeda's frustration on account of lack Indians in its ranks. However, it must be borne in mind that Al-Qaeda has never directly got involved in ground operations in India and has always abetted and co-ordinated such attacks through its affiliates like LeT and JeM.Thus Asim Umar's message is to be seen less as an attempt to recruit Indian muslims and more as an indication of policy formulation process which is underway in Al-Qaeda's core leadership with regard to redeployment of human resources across South Asia and Middle East after US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Recently, another Al-Qaeda affiliate, HUJI has declared sending millitants to Myanmar. All this is part of Al-Qaeda's larger trans-national strategy of capitalizing over local issues in various SAARC and ASEAN countries. Due to historical and cultural linkages of South Asian countries a danger of spilling over of violence from one country to another always remains. Recent blasts in Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya may be part of this new pattern.

This also clearly indicate that Al-Qaeda's vision for South Asia and Middle East is being clearly followed by it affiliates in their operations and deployments. The pre-declaration of US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan has enabled groups like HUJI and TTP to send millitants to Syria and Myanmar. India should maintain a close watch on these patterns as some kind of escalation in terrorist activities in India may be expected even before US troop withdrawal in 2014.

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