How can India deal with Islamic State fallout?

How can India deal with Islamic State fallout?How can India deal with Islamic State fallout?This was first  posted on in an invited  reply to the question

How can we Indians survive if ISIS attacks us?

The question should not be  how  we would survive an attack – it should be how we will ensure little or no casualties to ourselves while eliminating the attackers entirely.

Despite all its brutal ways, near-elimination of the Yazidi tribe, murdering Shias  and capture of parts of Iraq and Syria, ISIS is beginning to lose out on the war front. It is no state and has no regular armed force – it’s just a loose gang of terrorists who hope to use the name of Islam to capture power. Its hold on the population that it has captured is tenuous – which means it cannot last very long. If Iran, the Shia militia and the Kurdish forces had a free hand to deal with the menace, ISIS  would have been eliminated a long time ago. Once that was achieved, the UN could have intervened and held a general election to decide Syria’s fate.  It’s the political solution that the United States, its allies and Saudis prevent from happening. Saudis would rather have Al-Assad’s Shia regime eliminated and Assad himself killed as ignobly as Saddam and Qaddafi were,  rather than have ISIS removed from the scene. Whatever the manipulations by vested interests,  and however strong the clandestine support it receives, ISIS has no future in the Middle East.

That being so, there are chances that small groups of terrorists fleeing from Syria and Iraq  and regroup outside our borders  to create sporadic troubles for India. They are likely to get guidance and support from whatever remains of  ISIS, ISI of Pakistan and possibly  a few frustrated Kashmiri militants. There is also a good chance that if an attack takes place in some parts of India resulting in a number of deaths, ISIS or Al Qaeda would  take credit for it. The blatantly anti-Muslim utterances by the self-styled patriots in India can make it easy for terrorists to create sleeper cells among our own disgruntled Muslim youths.

Terrorists have the advantage that they have nothing to lose if they failed to achieve their aims of an attack . They also have the option of choosing soft targets and holing up with  hostages to fight a whole battalion of government forces – as they did in Bombay. The massive Dubrovka Theater hostage crisis in Moscow in 2002 and the lone-man holdup in a Sydney restaurant in 2014 are  other  examples of how a small group of terrorists, even one man, can create terror and death among the masses. They can pick and choose the weakest spots – places were a lot many civilians congregate as in malls, rail stations, airports, mosques  or temples.That the terrorists have no regard for human lives but the governments have, works to their tactical advantage.  The attackers are thoroughly indoctrinated to believe that their own death is nothing to fear , it would take them to a face-to-face interview with Allah who would give them a passage to heaven.

The answer to this is eternal vigilance. One is  always surprised at the ease with which terrorists (not to forget the so-called Maoists, a desperate group of our own citizens who try by violent means  to right the injustice meted out to them ) attack our CRPF camps, even military units and convoys. Military and border forces need to give up the practice of stationing a bare minimum number of men on guard duty (mostly ageing men  from Defence Security Corps) and allowing all the rest to relax and sleep peacefully at night without considering the risk involved. There is no reason why,  at a given time,  up to a  fifth of officers and men, well armed,  of a unit cannot take turn to keep vigil at day time as well as at night. There is also no reason why personnel traveling by convoys cannot be at the ready, weapons loaded and cocked, to face surprise attacks.

You find airport (and possibly railways) security on the alert after an incident, but soon relaxing into a state of casual lethargy. A security officer at Delhi airport might give you a good frisking – but at other airports and rail stations it is a bored routine for them. At malls anywhere in India, frisking by private security is an apologetic brushing  of your clothes, more concerned than security  that your modesty must not be offended. On many occasions, I ask a security man if he had made sure that I wasn’t carrying a dangerous weapon.  Such a question is laughed off.  Cars are inspected with a mirror under the engine chassis – why on earth couldn’t one be carrying a bomb inside the cabin or the boots ? We have had bomb explosions in car parks in the past. What security do we have for checking cars before they enter large parking lots?  In Australia I found minimum visible security, but they use trained dogs who check every bag that enters and exits the airports. They also sniff your person. Why can’t our government get hold of all the Labradors and other suitable dogs, train and employ them for sniffing out  explosives as well as drugs?

Even if we make the best of friends with a civilian government in Pakistan, there could be an ambitious adventurer in the army – another Pervez Musharraf – who could arrange an attack, their soldiers dressed as and  pretending to be  tribals or Pakhtoons. ISI could pass them off for elements of ISIS (but not LeT or other outfits that enjoy their clandestine support).  Life in the former North West Frontier is a life of internal battles, and every adult is armed – so they might welcome a chance at a go against the non-believers across the border. We have had such war-like attacks  in 1947 and 1999. We need to equip our soldiers on the border posts well for their protection against the deadly weather, and adequate provision of weapons and ammunition against surprise attacks. Praising a few soldiers after they are dead may sound very patriotic, but silently preparing them to face enemy as well as the environment would be  superior strategy.

There will be a massive shift in the situation if the terrorists are able to get hold of a dirty bomb with small nuclear heads. Even the West is concerned about the security of the nuclear arms-pile held by Pakistan. China, despite its overtures of extreme friendship with Pakistan would also be aware of this danger.  Note that China did not hesitate to take a U-turn against its close ally North Korea when the latter’s nuclear ambition went too far. Recalling that the Powers that be in Pakistan did not hesitate to proliferate the technology in return for fissionable materials, money and know-how in certain areas, one could always suspect that in a desperate situation, it – specifically the ISI – could equip the terrorists with dangerous  compounds  of uranium or other fissionable materials that  could cause death by radiation within a limited area. India needs to prepare itself against such an eventuality.  Hopefully work is being done  by our scientists who are concerned with nuclear radiation and the need for mass protection against it.

Keeping in mind that the so-called Kashmir problem could be an excuse for an attack on India,  there are a few positive actions that the  government and the people need to take  to forestall an attack in the name of ISIS or Al Qaeda or by their ideological allies scattered all over Asia and the Middle East

  • Respect our minorities and treat them as equal citizens. A democracy cannot have second class citizens.
  • Let there not be different standards for minorities for punishing the guilty.
  •  Keep religion away from politics, social functions and institutions of education.
  • Prevent irresponsible talk that instills fear and suspicion among our own minority youth.
  • Treat Kashmiris as our own citizens with genuine political and social bonding.
  • Communicate with the rebels and negotiate solutions.
  • Stop talks about scrapping of article 370 which is an obligation under the instrument of accession.  Kashmir has a high-court ruling to the effect that the article cannot be abrogated. This order has  not been, and will not be,  overturned by the Supreme Court.
  • Respect that the article gives a unique status to the State except those that pertain to Communications, Defence, Finance, and Foreign Affairs. Such arrangements are not unusual : they  exist in the United States and the European Union. Rome enjoys a special status under Italy; Canary Islands under European Union; Hong Kong and, officially, Taiwan under China.If the Communist China can respect the article of accession of Hong Kong, albeit for a limited period of 50 years, there is no reason why some of us should wish to dilute and solemn commitment with the people of Kashmir.
  • Talk to Kashmiris, not to Pakistan. You can’t ignore your own citizens and negotiate with foreigners about the fate of the latter.
  • Strengthen our defences along the coasts  as well as land borders. Leave not an inch unattended.
  • Treat our own adivasis who make up the larger section of Maoists well and with respect. Stop creating enemies within if we  have to keep foreign enemies beyond the borders.
  • Islamic terrorism is a common problem for China as well as India. Xinjiang province of China is contiguous with other Islamic countries towards its West, many of which have been infiltrated  by  terrorists and have contributed volunteers to fight with the ISIS. Make common cause with China and stop talking nonsense about every guided missiles acquired or developed by us being targeted at Beijing.
  • Repeal AFSP Act that only helps create enemies of our own people. Just strengthen the borders and enforce the rule of law with the help of a trained police force. Recall that the Act has only made the situation worse in Kashmir, Nagaland and Manipur.

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