Pakistan-China script in university


The recent anti-national sloganeering in JNU campus has shaken the collective conscience of India. This anti-national fulmination by the students of the JNU had vicious pro-Pakistan overtones in context of Kashmir. The centrality of Kashmir drove the students to the extent of wishing ‘breaking India’ into nine pieces. It may be reiterated that these students are subsidized hugely by the Indian taxpayer.

The recent anti-national sloganeering in JNU campus has shaken the collective conscience of India. This anti-national fulmination by the students of the JNU had vicious pro-Pakistan overtones in context of Kashmir. The centrality of Kashmir drove the students to the extent of wishing ‘breaking India’ into nine pieces. It may be reiterated that these students are subsidized hugely by the Indian taxpayer.

This author, asked one of the key leaders of the entire anti-national movement a basic question with regard to Kashmir rather Jammu and Kashmir, the question being – which are the broad geographical parts of the Indian held and Pak Occupied J&K? This question was asked with the qualifying pre-condition that if she, the anti-national and Kashmir activist were to answer correctly, this author would never show his face on television. It may appear to be a huge risk but this author was confident that the so-called activist would be askance at the question. This author then asked the lady activist if she had any clue about Northern Areas or Gilgit-Baltistan. She again drew a blank. She was then reminded that one can only be an activist, if one is informed about the subject, but unfortunately this is never the case.

In India, most activists have no clue about the causes that they take up beyond rhetoric. A lot of these activists are on the payroll of NGOs and agencies of inimical countries. Many of the activists in JNU are no exception. This author since the anti-national staging of theatrics has shared many media platforms with professors of the JNU. They all stressed on the inescapable desirability of debates and dissensions on the campus. They invoked democracy in pursuit of their Leftist agenda. When reminded that the French have declared emergency after one attack and the man who threatened to kill the then American President on Facebook still languishes in jail, they had no answer. Importantly, when asked if they did condemn China for not allowing space for alternative ideologies, they all refused to comment. The China factor is therefore overriding. The anti-national sloganeering exposed the tryst between the Maoists, the Jihadis and the Pak-sponsored Kashmiri militants. Therefore, the Pakistan angle is also pronounced.

Tryst between Maoists, Kashmiri Militants and Jihadis

The tryst between the Maoists, the Jihadis and the Kashmiris was in the ferment for very long. The most glaring indicator was in October 2010 when Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani – Arundhati Roy and the Maoist leader Vara Vara Rao shared the stage at a seminar in Delhi. The topic of the seminar was ‘Azadi – the Only Way’. A large number of JNU students were cheering them, but there were also patriotic elements present, who neutralized this cheering brigade in their own innovative way. The then Law Minister M Veerappa Moily said “…most unfortunate. While there is freedom of speech, it can’t violate the patriotic sentiments of the people.”

The then J&K Chief Minister’s father Farooq Abdullah said: “There is too much of freedom in India that some Indians themselves are taking advantage of this and destroying the country. There are no limits of the way they are using this freedom”.

In June 2009, Mohammad Omar Madani, a close associate of Hafiz Saeed, was arrested by the Special Cell of Delhi Police near Qutub Minar area in New Delhi. He revealed that LeT has forged a linkage with Maoists and other insurgent groups in India. He emphatically declared that he arrived in India in May 2009 to initiate the ISI’s support to the Maoist insurgency. His diaries contained the blueprint of Pakistan ISI’s plan to dismember India.

Madani also confirmed the ISI plans to establish a joint jihadi – Maoist base in South India. It may be recalled that there were unimpeachable reports about 500 Maoists and cadres of Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) undergoing joint training in the Vagamon hills on the Idduki-Kottayam border in 2008. Madani during interrogation gave extensive insights into the Maoists organizational structure and functioning and had been receiving fake currency to fund terror activities in India.

So what we saw at the JNU was a reverberation of the common agenda which aims at imploding India through the volatile mix of violent ideologies of Maoism and Jihad.

The attack on Army convoy in Moltuk valley at Parolong in Chandel district of Manipur on June 04, 2015 in which 18 personnel of 6 Dogra were martyred was ascribed to the NSCN (K). There was however another group, Peoples United Liberation Front (PULF), which was suspected to have played a facilitators role. The link between this Islamic Group of Manipur and LeT has been in evidence for some years now. The first reports with regard to this nexus emerged in December 2006 with the arrest of three Manipuris, i.e. ‘Salmaan Khurshid (23), Abdul Rahman (24), and Mohd Akbar Hussain (20) by the Delhi Police. They were carrying 20 Kg of RDX, detonators and hand-grenades.

Delhi, therefore, has emerged as the meeting point between the Jihadis, Maoists and various insurgent groups.

It is from here that white-collared terrorists in the garb of intellectualism are orchestrating the splintering of India by subversion of the students. Even the progenitor of jihadi terror, Pakistan, has banned preaching activity on university campuses and hostels in Punjab province by the Tableegh-i-Jamaat, even as there is no direct evidence of links of terrorism with this group. The Tableegh-i-Jamaat is a loose organization. Many religious outfits in Pakistan blame this organization for pushing people away from jihad and politics. However in university campuses in India such as JNU, jihadi outfits of all shades in the name of ‘Freedom’ are allowed to flourish, even if they be engaged in anti-national activity.

Further, Syed Abdul Karim Tunda, who was arrested in August 2013, revealed and reconfirmed the linkage between the ISI and LeT with the Maoists in India.

The entire background that has been portrayed by virtue of various inputs and suggest a pattern:

  • There is nexus between the ISI, the Maoists, the Kashmiri militants and the LeT
  • The centrality of this multi-pronged attack is Kashmir
  • The jihadi assault on India is being backed by Pakistan and the Maoist assault is being backed by China and other powers
  • The objective is to make India capitulate on Kashmir.

The Kashmir Agenda

The Pakistani media has been agog with the inputs attributed to government sources about Pakistan establishment’s decision to upgrade the Constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan because of the Chinese pressure. Reportedly, the Chinese have been insisting that they cannot invest the envisaged $46 billion in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project in a territory, whose legality even as per Pakistan is doubtful.

The CPEC, China maintains is essentially a strategic project with long-term implications of Chinese thrust into the Persian Gulf region. It also is a key to the Chinese project of ‘One Road One Belt’. The people of Pakistan having suffered all these years economically are perceiving the CPEC as a panacea of all their economic woes. Hence, the Pakistani establishment may not find it difficult to mobilize the masses in favour of absorption of Gilgit-Baltistan, even if it means forgoing or diluting their claim on the Indian part of J&K.

Pakistan - China Railway

The spokesperson of the Chief Minister of Gilgit-Baltistan, Sajadul Haq said: “A high level committee formed by the Prime Minister is working on the issue and you will hear good news soon”.

Pakistan strategic analyst Ayesha Siddiqa is of the opinion that this historic constitutional shift may also reflect Islamabad’s imperative to end Kashmir dispute it would tacitly result in recognition of India’s claim in Indian held Kashmir.

A statement attributed to Hafeezur Rehman, the Chief Minister of Gilgit-Baltistan is to the effect “Gilgit-Baltistan and Astore are disputed districts since they were part of Dogra State of J&K, however, Ghizer, Diamer, Hunza and Nagar districts are not disputed and therefore integral part of Pakistan”. This statement is significant but there is nothing surprising about it, as the Chief Minister is known to be a lackey of the Pakistani establishment and has found a way to legitimize CPEC.

Referring to media reports about a meeting chaired by Nawaz Sharif on 14 January 2016 to discuss the merger of Gilgit-Baltistan with Pakistan, the JKLF Chief Yasin Malik wrote a letter to him that the move to merge the region with Pakistan will give India a political and moral right to the retention of Indian part of J&K.

Compelled by the Chinese strategic thrust through the length of the country to the Persian Gulf by way of CPEC, the Pakistani establishment hurriedly introduced ‘Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009’ to legalize annexation of this area.


Geopolitical imperatives impelled US to treat Pakistan and Afghanistan as intertwined entity and gave it the nomenclature of Af-Pak region, which will acquire the stature of China-Pak region in years to come. Pakistan may end-up being a semi-autonomous region of China, thus exposing India to a two-front threat in perpetuity.

The meeting of the Maoists and the Jihadis, orchestrated by China and the Pakistan’s ISI should therefore be seen with this geopolitical prism. Its ultimate objective is to absorb Gilgit-Baltistan to begin with, which is not possible without an unstable India. What therefore happened in the university campuses in Hyderabad and JNU is the part of that script. Deciphering and unraveling this entire script is beyond a police job and therefore needs the intervention of the National Investigative Agency.

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)

Kingpin of Pakistan’s narco-terrorism nails his country


The deposition of David Headley in an Indian Court is a significant development in the context of construction of future narrative of jihadi terror orchestrated by Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment.

Notwithstanding the popular opinion that the revelations by David Headley have yielded no new facts, the details that have emerged from the deposition have major international ramifications.

As far as opinion of Indian people is concerned, it is decidedly based on the culpability and hopelessness of a state called ‘Pakistan’.

Most Indians barring some vested interests like the ‘candle brigade’, consider Pakistan’s military-establishment as the progenitor of jihad, and therefore a rogue organization of a failed state. So, this whole issue of ‘proofs’ and ‘evidences’ on terrorists attacks perpetrated by Pakistan is not for the consumption of Pakistan – it is primarily to corner the international community dominated by the US and its Western allies. In that respect the deposition of David Headley in an Indian Court is a diplomatic achievement. This is an occasion to convey emphatic signals to the US or the Western World that it can no longer expect India to blindly accept only those villains as terrorists, who affect Western interests. This can longer be without reciprocity and mutual concern.

The earlier proof which India had about Pakistan’s involvement in 26/11, was in flesh and blood, in form of Ajmal Kasab. This time the evidence that is being provided by the ‘key planner’ is from the American soil. The Western World can therefore ignore this at the cost of their credibility with regard to international cooperation in the ‘war against terrorism’. As it stands today their said credibility is seriously under question. India therefore expects the international community to circumscribe and penalize Pakistan to the extent, if not more, that it did to Iraq, Iran, Syria or Myanmar. This selective use of sanctions hurt India’s interests and security for a long time. What probably prevented India so far to act unilaterally against Pakistan were appeals from the ‘Western Community’ to exercise restraint in deference to the ongoing war against terrorism in Afghanistan. India can no longer be shackled by such considerations and imperatives at the cost of its security.

Headley’s deposition, and the legal recourse therein, for this role in 26/11, is testimony to India’s stature as a civilized and responsible country. If the world community fails to respect or reward this stature, the international cooperation on ‘war against terrorism’ would be dead, in effect.

Headley’s deposition, has revealed many other facets of terror-infrastructure of Pakistan. It has highlighted the three clear phases of terrorist attacks, i.e. conceptualization, planning and execution with respect to Pakistan. The conceptualization of 26/11 was at the highest level, no less than Musharraf, who as a military dictator was in full command of the military-intelligence establishment. It would be he who would have decided to give 26/11 the veneer of Hindu-terror. But for the providential apprehension of Ajmal Kasab, the Pakistani establishment had almost succeeded in creating this diabolical narrative. Assisting Pakistan in creation of this narrative were some journalists, politicians and possibly some police personnel.

Earlier, to the NIA, Headley had disclosed that during his many visits to India in 2007, he had also carried out reconnaissance of the Vice-President’s House, India Gate and CBI Headquarters. Interestingly, during the same period, one English television channel in India ran a story based on a ‘fudged’ sting operation that certain so called ‘Hindu terrorists’ were planning to target the Vice President because of his religious denomination. The story died its natural death within 24 hours. The moot question therefore David Headley can explain is why Pakistan and certain elements within India were so desperate to carry out an attack to create the bogey of ‘Hindu terror’.

Headley’s deposition is a commentary on the sociology of the jihadi terror dynamics in Pakistan, in that, while operatives with modern education are utilized for detailed planning, the actual execution is done by the indoctrinated madrasas educated cadres. These are the ones who act as suicide bombers, while others like Musharraf, Headley and Hafiz Saeed live to prosper. For 26/11 the detailed ground planning was done by David Headley during his seven visits to India before 26/11, while the cannon fodder was provided by Hafiz Saeed and his LeT.

There are very slim chances that Headley would share the strategic objective of the attack even if he has the knowledge, because that may cause embarrassment to not only to Pakistan but many other quarters as well.

Nevertheless, it must be said that David Headley is no ordinary terrorist. He epitomizes the narco-terrorism network and feature of the military-intelligence establishment of Pakistan.

Nawaz Sharif is on record to say that in 1992, the Pakistan Army Chief and DG – ISI had proposed to him ‘a detailed blueprint for selling heroin to pay for country’s covert military operations’.

David Headley belonged to the upper echelons of narcotic-terror network or dirty tricks department of Pakistan. He changed his current name from Daood Syed Gilani to facilitate his narcotics and terrorist operations. Later, as is the case with most such high level international operators, Headley ended up being a double agent. Headley was therefore utilized by the US Drug Enforcement Agency as well, after he was arrested on charges of smuggling of heroin. Reportedly, he contributed very liberally to the coffers of the ISI.

The reach and influence of Headley in Pakistan was phenomenal. He studied in Pakistan’s prestigious Cadet College at Hassan Abdal. His classmates at the time of 26/11 were at the rank of Brigadiers and Generals. He enjoyed formidable influence in the military. His half-brother Danyal Gilani was the spokesman for the Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. His father too was a well known diplomat and broadcaster.

The deposition of David Headley, under the circumstances is no ordinary development. It could not have happened without strategic nod of the US. What geopolitical scenario it forebodes is to be seen, but it has nailed Pakistan decisively. Will it shame Pakistan to now to act against the likes of Hafiz Saeed and Maulana Masood Azhar? Not likely! Even as the Pakistan military pursues Zarb-e-Ajab against the tribal Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Punjabi networks like the LeT, JeM and Lal Masjid under Maulana Aziz continue to flourish. One scary reason, as per some reports, for Pakistan’s inaction, is that a large number of personnel owing allegiance to Hafeez Saeed and Maulana Aziz have infiltrated Pakistan’s nuclear establishment.

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)

The launch that WAS for “1962: A War that WASN’T”


Few books dealing with matters military have in the recent past had such an impact. David Davidar, the publisher of Aleph Book Company proudly told the packed audience last night at the India International Centre in New Delhi that the first print of the book had sold out within three weeks of it hitting the stands, something that was quite unprecedented in the genre of non-fiction.

“Not at all surprising,” said Dr Subramanian Swamy, a keen China watcher himself and a member of the panel that had come together to discuss the book. Barkha Dutt had dashed back from Pakistan to moderate the conversation that included General VK Singh and the author. “I have been waiting for a long long time for someone to come along and steal a march over Neville Maxwell. Shiv Kunal Verma, I am delighted to say, has done that with this book which surpasses everything else on the 1962 conflict,” said Swamy.

“The book is not only meticulously researched and superbly brought out, Kunal’s style of writing makes it a fluid read. Just a historian couldn’t have written a book like this,” said General VK Singh, the former Army Chief who also went on to command 2 Rajput, the battalion that took the brunt of the first Chinese attack at Nam Ka Chu. “Forget about the Henderson Brooks report which by its very mandate was a limited study,” the General would say later in the discussion, “after this book, you can throw it out.”

Tongue-in-cheek, when asked about leadership in war, the General said, “If you have a lion at the top, everyone will behave like a lion. If your promotion policies ensure that only sheep get to the top, then you will have a flock of sheep.” Goes to show that even though the General is now a politician, his heart will always be that of a blue-blood soldier!

Shiv Kunal Verma Book - 2

Barkha Dutt was almost perfect in her handling of the three speakers. General VK Singh, forthright and honest, rarely bothering with what was ‘politically correct’; Swamy clinical and precise in his analysis of China and Verma, who in his manner speaks just as he writes – holding back no punches, painting the picture with words supported by facts that few can argue against.

“Why was the IAF not used,” someone from the audience asked the inevitable question. “Because we were scared,” replied Verma, going on to tear not just the IB’s assessment to Nehru apart but also the senior leadership in Air Headquarters for having gone along with an appreciation which was so obviously flawed. “In Korea, when the Chinese fought the US Army, air power was the key. In our case, we had the run of the skies – IAF Canberras were crossing over from the area around the Karakoram Pass, then flying east keeping the Great Himalayan Range to their south, before crossing back into India near the trijunction with Tibet and Burma in the east. They photographed everything, and not once could the Chinese intercept them.”

It was a fantastic event, where every spoken word was lapped up by an informed and discerning audience. I reproduce below the text of Verma’s speech, which set the tone for the subsequent discussion. For those who were not there, and for those who are yet to read the book that is being described by critics as a masterpiece, the author’s speech itself will give you an idea of what this entire book is about:

Shiv Kunal Verma Book - 3

Exactly one week ago, ten soldiers from 19 Madras were trapped just below Bana Post on the icy heights of the Saltoro ridge that separates the Siachen Glacier from Pakistan’s Northern Areas… This morning, the country awoke to a miracle for one of the men, Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad was dug out alive by his comrades who just refused to give up. The sheer doggedness and resilience of not just the man who was buried under 25 feet of packed ice, but the courage and persistence of his fellow soldiers needs to be saluted by all of us, for to dig relentlessly at 19000 feet in temperatures close to minus 40 degrees is actually beyond human comprehension…. I’m sure every person in this hall tonight sends out his and her silent prayer for the soldiers recovery, just as we also mourn the loss of the other nine soldiers who died doing their duty…

Fifty-three years ago, we also lost a whole lot of men… soldiers and young officers who were the cream of our Army… Just like the countless men who have constructed and manned the defences at Siachen over the last twenty-five years to protect our country, the troops in the early 1960s did whatever was asked of them… pushing forward along the Lohit in the extreme east to build defences at Walong and Kibithu… along the Siang River to get to Mechuka, Tuting, and Gelling… and across the formidable heights of Se-la to defend the McMahon Line beyond Tawang at Bum-la and on the Nam Ka Chu.

Others in the middle and western sectors did much the same… Daulat Beg Oldi, the Qara Qash and Galwan Valley regions, the Chushul and demchok sectors… men and animals pushed themselves to the limits of human endurance to man the thin red line that on maps demarcated our border. In conditions that were almost barbaric, they scratched out sangars and bunkers amidst the rocks and river valleys, and in small little groups of sections, platoons and companies, they prepared to defend themselves and their country against an enemy who until a decade ago had nothing to do with the region.

However, on 20 October 1962, when the Chinese attacked – and let us never for one minute forget that they were the aggressors, all the propaganda about the Forward Policy having triggered the conflict notwithstanding – they literally went through our defences like a hot knife through butter… At Nam Ka Chu, 2 Rajput and certain elements of 1/9 GR fought and died there, but there can be no getting away from the fact that from our point of view it was a complete disaster.

Nam Ka Chu unfortunately was just the tip of the iceberg… At Bum-la, the fight was perfunctory for the Assam Rifles and 1 SIKH never had any back up, with Eastern Army Command throwing in the towel at Tawang. The same thing happened in Kibithu in the extreme east while in the west the fighting was isolated and extremely brief in northern Ladakh, culminating with the Chinese attacks at Srijap and Yula posts.

Then, despite a lull in the fighting, when nothing happened for the next three weeks, we again collapsed like a house of cards first at Se-la, then at Dirang and Bomdi-la. Walong had already imploded while in Ladakh, the two affected positions – Gurung Hill and Rezang-la were left to fight their own battles.

Why did this happen? How could things go so wrong? And then for years and years, we just refused to look at the reality of what had happened… History, they say is always written by the victor, but unless the vanquished are willing to look into a mirror, they are doomed to make the same mistake over and over again. Forget the reality, we were not even willing to look at the real problem, which was to a great extent, the civilian side of our defence set up.

This Indian army, which prides itself for never leaving a man behind, who for six days have dug in the ice at Bana Post with their bare hands to pull out their comrades, was not allowed to fight… nor was it allowed to bring back its dead and wounded. Not only did our boys die in the most horrible conditions, few were afforded the decency of a funeral, their bodies just being kicked into bunkers which then had a few stones put on them.

My book tries to not just document what happened but it also tries to understand why it happened… I looked at the history not only on the southern side of the watershed of the great Himalayas, but also on the northern side, especially the relationship between Tibet and China. Unlike other works in the past, perhaps not burdened by having worn a rank on my shoulders, I could look at the larger picture which involved the civilian decision making process and the political dramas that was unfolding in the background. What emerges is a horrifying story where it is not just the senior military leadership – completely compromised by the fact that most of them were political appointments – but also the other decision makers and politicians who failed to do their duty by their country…

If this book, half a century after the events, can even now make us pause long enough and look at ourselves in the mirror, it would have achieved its objective. At the end of the day it is not the Nehrus and the Menons and the Thapars and the Kauls and the Bogey Sens who are the losers – it is the country as a whole.

For years we have ridden on the shoulders of the soldier who asks us for very little, and who has time and again proved that he will dig even with his bare hands if there is even one Indian alive in the rubble… In my opinion, the only way for us to bury the ghosts of 1962 was to try and get as close to the truth as possible. Even now, I do not claim to have all the answers, but in my own way I have tried to present as comprehensive a picture as possible. So ladies and gentlemen, this book – 1962: The War That Wasn’t – has been written for the ashes of our fathers and the temples of our gods!

To quote from a comment posted by a literary critic on the social media who commented on the book:

“The only heroes are the dead, and the few who stood and fought. As a memorial to the fallen, and as posthumous justice there could be nothing greater, nothing more moving than this.”

I thank you all for being here in such numbers today. To me, this is testimony itself of the fact that today in India we have a discerning audience who is willing to look at what happened… History, they say, says that man never learns from history… well, ladies and gentlemen, let us as a people, prove that wrong!!!

(Photos for this post by: Kapil Syal)

Islamic State in India


On the eve of the visit of French President François Hollande to India as Chief Guest of the 67th Republic Day, there has been a massive flow of intelligence from Western sources regarding the spread, reach and activities of the Islamic State (IS) cadres in India. Press reports suggest that substantial chunk of the information has been provided by the CIA, which tipped off the Indian intelligence agencies about IS activities in India by tracking IS computers and phones in West Asia as also their IP addresses in Syria and Iraq.

While the promptness and alacrity in sharing intelligence by the Western countries is appreciated, the fact is that the same level of urgency was not displayed hitherto-fore the Republic Day.

A pertinent question does cross the Indian minds whether the same seriousness would have been evinced by Western intelligence agencies if a non-Western dignitary visited India for the Republic Day?

Islamic State pan-Indian network

Reportedly, the ISIS has released an e-book titled “Black Flags from Islamic State”, which makes direct reference to India, particularly the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In that it has described Mr Modi as a right wing Hindu who worships weapons and is preparing his people for a future war against Muslims. The IS in-roads in India therefore has strong political overtones. Another Intelligence input warned about the threat of IS suicide bombers aged between 12 and 15 years targeting the Prime Minister. The IS footprints in India were increasing even as we pretended otherwise.

About 150 individuals were put under surveillance and 30 have so far been intercepted on their way to Syria. As per ATS Chief of Maharashtra nearly a dozen states in India are under the influence of IS.

It is ironical that it took the French President’s visit to unravel the extent and reach of IS network in India. It clearly indicates that the activities of the IS recruits acquired a frenzied level during the visit. Some 14 people from different parts of the country have been arrested in the last few days following a pan-India crackdown.

Batla House connection

The main recruiter Shafi Armar (alias Yusuf-al-Hindi) based in Syria has been identified. The Chief or the Amir of the IS in India Mudabbir Mushtaq Sheikh (30) and the Deputy Chief Khalid Ahmed Ali Khalid alias Rizwan were arrested from Mumbai. It may be mentioned that Arman heads the Indian offshoot of the IS i.e. Ansar-ut-Tawhid (AuT). This outfit was formed by rebels of Indian Mujahideen (IM) and SIMI. The recruitment process is rather effortless as it does not require recruiters or ideologues and solely relies on internet, hyper and sophisticated social network sites and well-made feature length movies. The key or the founding members of AuT originally belonged to the IM. Some of the key members, apart from Shafi Armar, were Dr Shah Nawaz Alam and Mirza Shadab Beg. These key figures had crossed over to Pakistan after the Batla House Encounter and joined the Al Qaeda, and then formed the AuT to eventually become part of the IS. Two original members of AuT, Mohammad Sajid alias Bada Sajid and Maulana Abdul Kadir Sultan Armar (alias Sultan), were killed in Syria.

The AuT first attracted attention of Indian intelligence agencies when it declared the terrorist killed in Batla House Encounter as ‘Martyr’; however it gained global prominence after the killing of Armar and Bada Sajid in Syria. Significantly Bada Sajid had escaped from Batla House. Both of them were declared martyrs by the IS.

In a way therefore, the Batla House Encounter heralded the origin of the AuT. The SIMI and IM are the main manpower suppliers to the AuT, an affiliate of IS. The IM or SIMI cadres were in a hunt for a more potent Islamic group and therefore initially gravitated towards the Al Qaeda. If the dots with regard to the presence of IS were to be joined, it would appear that the western and southern parts of India were being consumed by this pan-Islamic phenomenon. Western Uttar Pradesh, which includes Haridwar, Roorkee and Sambal is also witnessing the trend. Probably this could be because of the radiating influence of the Deoband seminary. The riots in Western Uttar Pradesh could have well been triggered by external forces to reap the harvest of recruits for pan-Islamic organizations like the IS, for the simple reason that recruits cannot be found amongst the populace living in harmony.

India ISIS footprints

IS footprints

The picture that emerges from joining the dots with regards to inputs on terrorists activities suggests that the Western half of India (areas west of vertical imaginary line from Allahabad southwards) i.e. Ratlam, Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Mangaluru; and Haridwar, Roorkee, Jaipur have been the main centers of recruitment and activity of the IS. So far six youth have been killed while fighting for the ISIS in Syria, i.e. three from Hyderabad, one from Telangana, one from Maharashtra and one from Azamgarh in UP. The Eastern half (areas east of vertical imaginary line from Allahabad southwards) i.e. Kolkatta, Cuttack, Burdwan, Malda and Assam are being buffeted by the Al Qaeda.

IS, Al Qaeda and Pan-Islamism

The recruiting pattern suggests that the IS is looking for urban educated youth. Globally, this is the phenomenon as the IS attracts urban educated class as opposed to Taliban, which is tribal and parochial in orientation and appeal. The IS has more than 3000 fighters from Western countries, which reflects its global jihadist appeal. It may also be mentioned that the Al Qaeda does not differ much with the IS as far as ideology is concerned, in fact the IS is an offshoot of Al Qaeda. There is however one big difference and that is the rabid enmity that IS harbours vis-à-vis the Shias. It has gone to the extent of destruction of Shrines of Shias as well as other rival sects. Though Al Qaeda, Afghan and Pak-Taliban, also are not Shia loving, they have consciously avoided any overt enmity as a tactical imperative. Also, as opposed to the local agendas of Taliban, the Al Qaeda and the IS have global agendas. Nevertheless, the common strand amongst these groups is the use of terrorism as the chief weapon to achieve their objectives.

Now that the Chief and Deputy Chief of the IS organization India ‘AuT’ have been arrested and their handler identified, will the organization be obliterated. Not really. Mumbai, Bengaluru, Mangaluru and other parts as indicated have gone too far in the path of radicalization. Many Indian Muslims, like elsewhere in the world, have constantly been fed spurious ideas about the imminent triumph of Islam. Because the idea is specious, it is elusive. That is why Muslims in India or the Indian Subcontinent become victims of LeT, Al Qaeda, JeM, JeI and IS. This explains the T-shirts of Khomeni, Saddam or Osama bin Laden through successive decades of recent history.

It is journey for Muslim youth to nowhere.

Radicalization of Women and Children

What is serious this time about the IS phenomenon in India is the involvement of girls (16-year-old Pune girl), women (deported from Abu Dhabi), students, teachers, technocrats, IT professional (Google employee), journalist, Indian Oil executive and children who are being prepared to become suicide bombers to target the Prime Minister.

The radicalization or brutalization of souls of women and children for a violent cause is an alarming indicator. The IS recently released a video of a child beheading another person. Seen together with the fact that 30 percent of the Maoist attacks are staged by women cadres, the overall security environment in India is increasingly becoming vitiated and dangerous.

In India the attraction to the idea of Caliphate is not new. Even Mahatma Gandhi had succumbed to the idea by his support of the Khilafat Movement in early 1920s, even be it for political reasons. Basically, all jihadi organizations are pan-Islamists in nature, be it Taliban, LeT, JeM or LeJ, but most of them suspended this agenda in favour of more immediate exigencies, thus thwarting expansion of ISIS territory. It is here that the IS is finding a problem in expanding its territory.

IS Khorasan Map

IS expansion

The expansion of IS territory as envisaged in the map released by Baghdadi is not manifestly possible. This territory can never be continuous and contiguous. The most formidable obstacle to this expansionism is the Shia state of Iran. Also while Afghanistan may not be militarily strong, it is no push over either. Moreover, it would have also to contend with the American or NATO presence in Afghanistan. Besides, the military intelligence establishment of Pakistan would not like the IS to occupy an area that geopolitically and strategically is vital to it. The military-intelligence establishment in Pakistan cannot brook an organization that unlike other jihadi groups wants to take control over Pakistan’s land and not work behind the scenes.

The IS is being seen as a challenge to the local agendas of Taliban and jihadi groups like LeT. In December 2015, a local militia force loyal to Haji Zahir, Deputy Speaker of Parliament, beheaded four IS fighters and placed their heads on the roadside in Achin district of Eastern province of Nangarhar. The IS has made inroads into several districts of the province. On 10 January 2015, the formation of Islamic State of Khorasan was announced, composed primarily of disaffected members of TTP and Afghan-Taliban. This year the group recruited large number of fighters, who fled to Afghanistan after military operations by Pakistan Army in FATA. The US has recently declared this Af-Pak wing of IS a foreign terrorist organization. Earlier this month, the Pakistan security forces arrested 60 suspected supporters of IS from various areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa. These arrests were based on information provided from supporters of IS earlier arrested from Punjab and Islamabad just before the attack on Pathankot air Base. It clearly indicated that the military-intelligence establishment is apprehensive about its proxy arms like LeT and JeM losing cadres to the IS.

Different countries are responding in different ways to the Islamic State threat. The Emomali Rakhmon dispensation in Tajikistan has forced 13000 men to shave off beards and shut down 160 shops selling hijab. Thousands of men have been arrested for adopting mannerisms “alien and inconsistent with Tajik culture”. The Taliban has already declared the IS as an apostate outfit. Hafiz Saeed, the Chief of LeT, has been pressurizing the military-intelligence establishment in Pakistan for purging the country of the IS in-roads. In an interview to the IS magazine Dabiq, the IS Khorasan Chief Hafiz Saeed Khan (namesake of the LeT chief) lambasted the LeT and Afghan-Taliban for being puppets of Pakistan’s ISI and abandoning the cause of Caliphate and the rule of Allah. He accused the ISI and LeT for exploiting the ‘zeal’ of people of Kashmir for the sake of their own interests and not out of concern for Muslims. He said: “the apostate factions and agents such as LeT, do not have control over any territory in the regions of Kashmir because they proceed in accordance with the orders of Pakistani intelligence”. He also said: “because of this many people of Kashmir and members of other organization has joined Islamic State… there is big opportunity for IS to expand in Kashmir … Muslims will soon hear pleasant news about Khilafat’s expansion to these lands”.


India cannot unquestionably rely on the Western countries, particularly US, to fight the growing IS threat. The Russians did not trust either and intervened in Syria. Ironically, Russia has deployed its troops on Tajikistan-Afghanistan border to prevent further IS ingress in to Central Asia. It accuses US of tacitly supporting the IS ingress. Despite more than 8000 sorties by American (coalition) fighters and 3338 sorties by Russia, the ISIS continue to hold sizable territory, and controls 60 percent and 10 percent of Syrian and Iraqi oil respectively. Undoubtedly, there is a larger global geopolitics, unleashed by powers that be, at work and has major territorial dimensions, of which India is a collateral victim. Since the Islamic State cannot expand its territory by any incremental or contiguous manner, it will rely on offshoots such as the AuT in India or the IS Khorasan in Afghanistan. The evidence of this method has been in Bangladesh wherein IS affiliates have targeted foreigners (Italian and Japanese) and a Shia mosque. This phenomenon is more worrisome for India rather than contiguous expansion of territory. Given the sway of the social media, indoctrinated and radicalized youth can easily be recruited no matter where they are.

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)

(Note: This article first appeared on the Indian Defence Review website on February 6, 2016)