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Summary of Panel Discussion on ISIS

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Summary of Panel Discussion on ISIS
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This is the summary of a Panel Discussion entitled “Growing Threats to India after the Emergence of the ISIS” organized by the Delhi-based think tank Patriots Forum on 21 March 2015. Pankaj Sahay attended the Panel Discussion on behalf of IndiaFacts and prepared this report.

The Panel Discussion was inaugurated by Sri KPS Gill.

In his inaugural remarks Sri KPS Gill made the following observations –

  1. There has been a plan for India (by the jihadis & their supporters) right from 1947 onwards.
  2. People are cultivating and catering to vote banks – they say anything which may even be anti-national.
  3. India is the nation most threatened from the ISIS.

Mr. RK Ohri (IPS, Retd, expert on Islam), introduced the subject of the discussion and made the following observations –

  1. All Islamic groups are essentially one – they may be different or they may appear to have differences but those are incorrect in the final analysis.
  2. ISIS is on its way to making a Caliphate and has also issued its own licence plates & coins.
  3. Number of Indian youth have joined ISIS. Some estimates put it at 300+, Prof MD Nalapat estimates at 1000+, Mr Ohri puts it at a much higher number.
  4. Indians (expatriates) working in the Gulf are also joining and being diverted towards the ISIS
  5. He outlined the threat posed by AuT (Ansar-ut-Tawheed fi-Bilad al-Hind) and observed that approx. 2,70,000 Indian Muslims are regular visitors to the AuT site. If an estimated 10% of these actually join ISIS, it is a large number.
  6. Hafeez Saeed (Pakistan) said that they are with the ISIS.
  7. The present size of the Caliphate is larger than that of the UK.
  8. He noted that savagery was used as a force multiplier in medieval times by Muslims.
  9. Likewise, the self-appointed Caliph, al-Baghdadi and the ISIS were ruthlessly implementing the guidelines in the thesis by Abu Bakr Naji on the Strategic Management of Savagery.
  10. “The Management of Savagery” has become the war manual of the ISIS. It was published online in 2004, translated by William Mc Cants, Fellow, West Point Combating Terror Center, in 2006.
  11. The core of the thesis is to create pockets of violence and political chaos by taking recourse to unremitting savagery for acquiring territorial control in selected areas.
  12. He noted that India is already in this phase.
  13. For defeating savagery the world has known only two examples –
  14. a) The Sikhs, who took the fight into Afghanistan
  15. b) Currently, the Israelis, who survive in a hostile neighbourhood.

Mr PC Haldar (former Dir, IB) made the following observations –

  1. The ISIS is spreading largely by M&A, franchisees, and not so much by direct recruitment.
  2. There are many unconnected individuals or organisations working separately but their efforts are co-ordinated.
  3. It is difficult to spot such individuals and deploy Counter Intelligence strategies.
  4. Indian Intelligence apparatus works at 3 levels – District, State & National –
  5. a) For those cases of manifest violence, the hard power of the state is required
  6. b) It is required to spot the early precursors, events and trends
  7. c) Engage a segment of the Muslim community which can help in providing a counter-narrative

Mr OP Sharma (former DGP & then State governor) made the following observations –

  1. India is caught in a certain way of thinking, leading to it being a soft state.
  2. Comparing the response of the US after 9/11 – the USA Patriot Act was passed within 13 days of the event, which is draconian with many of the rights and freedoms suspended.
  3. The Bill had only two persons opposing it initially and finally only a single one.
  4. The Political class in India does not show such clarity of purpose.
  5. WRT Punjab terrorism, it was Kashmir which was the issue.
  6. The ISI had told the militants that the way to Khalistan was through Kashmir – K2 – Khalistan & Kashmir.
  7. The ISI sent a large number of Hindu boys, or others trained in the Hindu ethos, dress, etc
  8. The ISI also sent Muslims in the garb of Sikhs as part of its strategy.
  9. Additionally the ISI was trying to create a communal conflagration.
  10. The K2 strategy was changed to K2M, with M – the Muslims of India.
  11. The belief was that once Indian Muslims join in the disintegration of India will begin.

Gen GD Bakshi (ex Indian Army, Security Analyst) made the following observations –

  1. He gave a background of the ISIS, its creation and the 2nd Gulf war.
  2. Saddam (Iraq) and Gaddafi (Syria) tried to move away from the US$ and they both no more exist. ISIS was used for such purposes, against Iraq & Libya.
  3. Now Russia is trying the same – to move away from the US$.
  4. US trained soldiers have joined the ISIS.
  5. He noted that the biggest fault line in Islam is the Shia-Sunni divide.
  6. He also noted that the opposition to Israel in its neighbourhood has been decimated.
  7. OBL was one of the star recruiters for the Afghan jihad.
  8. The biggest blowback the US faced was that of OBL (likewise ISIS).
  9. The ISIS was used by both the US and Saudi to destabilise Syria.
  10. He observed that the Koran has both peaceful verses and the later Medinan aggressive verses.
  11. He alluded to the lore – the battle of Dabi, where Islam will destroy the armies of Rome.
  12. All Muslims of the world are obliged to owe allegiance to the Caliph (Al-Baghdadi) because he satisfies the prescribed conditions and is from the Koresh (the Prophet’s) tribe.
  13. He stated that the ISI(pakistan) will bring ISIS to India.
  14. He noted that the ISI had already sent its retired soldiers to serve in the ISIS.
  15. The ISI had declined to send its serving soldiers to the ISIS.
  16. Indians from the Gulf are being diverted to the ISIS.
  17. He noted the structure of the AQ(Al-Quaida) – it has franchisees, no central overarching authority.
  18. He observed that there is every possibility of self-radicalisation on the internet and that one must prepare for such conditions.
  19. These self-radicalised individuals serve to form the advance guard of the ISIS.
  20. He noted the Koranic lore of the Ghazwa-e-Hind.
  21. He mentioned that the direction of assault would be from the South – in India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives

Noted journalist Sri Hiranmay Karlekar (author & security analyst) made the following observations –

  1. Identity plays a very important role in the people joining the fundamentalists.
  2. The identity of being the glorious fighter of Islam had a strong appeal.
  3. On understanding the identity, he mentioned two books – The True Believer, by Eric Hopper & Escape from Freedom by Eric Fromm.
  4. Identity plays a role in making it into a fundamentalist mass movement, to a terrorist movement and finally into a Caliphate.
  5. He noted that the Shias are Taqfirs, apostates, as per the Sunnis.
  6. He noted that in Islam, the less extremist group loses to the more extremist group.
  7. One by one, extremist groups are joining ISIS & Al-Baghdadi.
  8. He observed that possibility of alienation of Indian Muslims could create an issue.

The Panel noted that –

  1. It is necessary to destroy the ISIS in its home-ground.
  2. However, the UK & the US do not seem to appreciate this fact.
  3. Europe, Canada are facing today and will face major problems in the future.
  4. It was noted that Article 355 of the Constitution of India states that it is the duty of the Union to protect the States from external aggression and internal disturbance.

This may require a declaration by the Union Govt to that effect.

  1. It was noted that Al Qaeda had announced a Caliphate in West Bengal.
  2. It was noted that in India there were no laws for people showing signs of joining the ISIS (like Sec 107 of the CrPC).
  3. Sri KPS Gill stated that it is important to build an army which can intervene 2000 kms away.

The Panel Discussion was closed by Mr. Justice (Retd) DS Tewatia.

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Pankaj Sahay

The author is a researcher in the IT industry.