Do Taliban threaten us?

By K.N. Pandita

Afghan Talban are to be differentiated from ISIS marauders and Pakistan-based various terrorist outfits. Recapitulating the narrative of emergence and evolution of Taliban in Kandahar, and their ability to establish a government in Kabul in 1996, we find that their interests lay essentially in creating the Islamic Caliphate of Afghanistan with no agenda for carrying the fight for Islamic Caliphate to any other part of the world, much less to India.

Their ouster from Kabul and replacement with a moderate, and subsequently externally installed/elected government, led to their long drawn battles against US-NATO forces in Afghanistan. That struggle continues to date. At no point of time did Afghan Taliban leadership (Mulla Omar et al) say that they nurse the agenda of carrying their fight to other regions outside Afghanistan. I understand this remains the agenda of their armed struggle even now and as such India should not entertain apprehensions of Afghan Taliban incursion into India.

As far as the ISIS is concerned, yes, they have spoken of “ghazavatul Hind” meaning the “Indian Campaign” as reflected in at least four well-known works of hadith. But allusion to this concept has been made not by al-Baghdadi of ISIS but by al-Zawahari, the current successor of Al Qaeda after the liquidation of Osama bin Laden. Osama bin Laden did not highlight the concept of modern Islamic Caliphate for the Muslim ummah. He was not even directly propagating for confrontation with the US. His real target was the Saudi monarchy with which he had developed serious differences and had parted ways. He knew that if he had to galvanize support against Saudi monarchy, he must appeal to radical Islamic sentiment and also the tradition which disapproved monarchical rule for Muslim community. On this basis he could muster strong support from the tribal fighters in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and Waziristan region knowing that these lawless people have tremendous fighting capacity and strong tribal traditions all compatible with the ideology that he nurtured. In this way, ideological and strategic alliance between Osama and the leadership of the tribesmen of NWFP of Pakistan was forged.

The US jumped into the fray essentially not because she had indisputable clue that Osama/Al Qaeda was involved directly in 9/11 tragedy. The US has strategic interests in Saudi monarchy and that catalyzed her military action in Afghanistan and NWFP. Thus anti-US stance brought the Taliban and Al Qaeda closer and they fought in tandem against the US. At no point of time did the Al Qaeda-Taliban combine speak of launching incursion into India.

The rise of ISIS is the last attempt of diehard Sunni Islamist radicals to fulfil the dream of establishing modern Islamic Caliphate from the Dardanelles to the Straits of Malacca. In their geo-political ambition, Indian sub-continent assumes conspicuous place. Hence they have been speaking of ghazavatul Hind or Indian Campaign in that context. Kashmir becomes handy to propagate Islamic predominance. But after initial success and unleashing of Sunni radical Theo-fascism bordering on barbarism in the Middle East, ISIS is inching towards direct confrontation with non-radical Islamic factions (Syrians, Shias, Kurds, Jordanians, Turks etc.). In theoretic terms it is ideological war between democracy and liberalism against theocracy of crudest form of conservatism. The Western world has firmly decided to covertly and overtly support the elements that are taking on or will take on the barbaric hordes.

As a question of strategy, it is highly desirable that confrontation and conflict within the Islamic fold intensifies to sideline radicals and their perverse ideology. Rational Islam looks for space to flourish and it must. This is a long-drawn conflict — maybe for another half a century— and as such, I do not think that India needs to be critically apprehensive of any threat to its integrity from external Islamic radicals.

Pakistan-based jihadi organizations are to be understood on the basis of their respective agenda. Pakistan State has always played leading role in radicalizing its Muslim society. It has the compulsion of justifying to its new generations the rationale behind asking for a separate homeland for the Muslims of united India. That narrative is embedded in whipping up hate India and hate Hindu sentiment, something which is now integrated into Pakistani psyche.

This psyche is pervasive and Pakistani army and its super intelligence wing ISI made use of it in creating anti-India diehard jihadi legions and projected it as the frontline of Pakistan army in its armed confrontation with India. Kashmir and Bangladesh serve as catalyst to proxy war against India.

But apart from Indian obsession, Pakistani radical groups have complicated connections with Taliban, Al Qaeda and now ISIS. These groups want to prove they are more Islamic than other Muslims. Therefore the Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan is fighting Pakistan army because in their own words, it is the stooges of the Americans. Here their link with Al Qaeda and Taliban of Afghanistan becomes understandable.

India need not entertain any fear from TTP succeeding at any future point of time in making forays into Indian Territory. Pakistan army’s fight to finish campaign in Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa and Waziristan will destroy fighting capability of the TTP and sooner than later the Pak Taliban will be forced to submit to the authority of Pak army. I think that even a negotiated deal between Pakistan army and the TTP will not leave the latter with as much of energy and logistical wherewithal to opt for ‘ghazavatul Hind’ though Pak army would want it to happen.

As far as LeT is concerned, it is a creation of Pak army and the ISI. It is a strong anti-India organization, no doubt, made stronger by warm patronage of the Army. It claims that beginning with anti-India campaign in Indian part of Kashmir, it will extend its agenda to other parts of India. Indian security forces are taking care of it and its moles here or there in other parts of the country. Its achievements till date are that it has succeeded in causing bomb blasts in some Indian cities, Mumbai attack being the major one, and recurrent infiltration bids across LoC or International Border in J&K. This organization is banned by the US as well as Pakistan. On the ground, its activists including infiltrators and suicide bombers have had to suffer heavy casualties at the hands of Indian security forces. During last two decades, its achievement is nothing beyond engineering the death and destruction of misguided Kashmir youth who worked for them.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, another Sunni jihadi outfit of Pakistan, has made it public that its agenda is to finish the Shia population of Pakistan. It faithfully adheres to that agenda. As long as Pakistani government is in no mood to take on this terrorist organization, and as long as Iran remains a silent spectator of Shia carnage at the hands of Sunni zealots of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and others, the Shias of Pakistan remain on the verge of ethnic cleansing in Pakistan.

But if India is in reality face to face with threat from radicals, it is only from home bred radical outfits. No doubt these are trying hard to establish links with external Islamic terrorist organizations, and some cases have already come to light, the fact remains that they draw real strength not from their external cohorts and accomplices but from local political class that uses them as their vote bank instrument. A section of Indian print and electronic media, enjoying the largesse of petro-dollar barons has become their spokesperson. It is this threat to which Indian nation has to respond.
(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University, India).

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