The fiercest and the most sinister terrorist organisation of our times, namely Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), previously known as Islamic State of Iraq, Syria and the Levant (ISIL), stands reduced in its name to Islamic State (IS). Its terror import has, however, only grown more and more along its bloody course of increasing notoriety as its marauding troops go about committing the most heinous crimes on humanity in the name of God and religion. A ragtag outfit of mercenary foot soldiers from Central Asia, Western and Eastern Europe, the US, Australia, and let us say, practically from all over the world, most of its inductees, estimated to be 80,000-100,000 strong, are wayward youngsters who have gone astray and symbolize the flotsam of the churning of conflicting cultures and contemporary liberal lifestyles in the face of a procrustean value system; the rest of the motley crowd is constituted by hardcore fundamentalist elements. There is also a miniscule minority of wide-eyed greenhorns who have stumbled upon the concept of an apocryphal political, religious and cultural system, a throwback in time and a far cry from today’s realities and have pledged their lives to rediscovering the buried and forgotten theological high.
The Ugly Face of Terror
IS believes in striking terror at the heart of humanity which it has managed to do rather successfully thus far by indiscriminately committing dastardly acts on its hapless victims. No respecter of religions (big or small, ancient or modern) other than the faith it espouses, or gender or age, its war machine mercilessly mows down all that comes its way, young or old, men or women. It has no qualms whatsoever about slaying those who resist its attempt to convert, or giving away women prisoners regardless of their age or marital status to its men as slaves or desecrating or razing down places of worship of those who dare challenge its concept of faith. Non-believers whose lives are spared are levied a penalty in the form of a tax. Every family in the occupied territories of Iraq and Syria is mandated to give away a daughter to serve its men. There have been reports of local commanders of IS ordering genital mutilation of the female population in strict conformity with the organization’s interpretation of a moth-eaten religious mandate of a bygone era. It executes people by beheading, stoning and crucifying. The list of its cruel and inhuman diktat is endless. The UN and Amnesty International have accused it of human rights abuses. The UN has warned that the commanders of IS would be held responsible for war crimes.
Amnesty International has found it guilty of ethnic cleansing on a “historic scale.”
Source of Strength
With vast swathes of territories in northern and western Iraq and eastern and central parts of Syria under its control, IS has managed to seize and hold on to oil wells and drilling fields. It is thus sitting pretty on humongous oil revenues. In Syria, it has garnered huge sums of money by selling oil from oil wells in the occupied territories to none other than the Syrian government itself to which the oil wells legitimately belong. According to an Iraqi government estimate, IS has assets worth $2 billion, including $429 million looted from the central bank of Mosul, and millions of dollars and gold bullion stolen from other banks in Mosul. By raising vast amounts of money by pillage, it has become the richest jihadist group in the world. It has not only been able to recruit more and more ill-informed youth of low self esteem from across the world but has also been successful in bleeding the already-in-a-shambles economies of the war ravaged Iraq and Syria.
There has, of late, been a worrying trend in the evolution of IS which has declared its ambition of bringing Afghanistan, Pakistan, northern and western parts of India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and lands beyond under its sway. With the impending pull out of its troops by the US from Afghanistan and the perennial political instability prevailing in Pakistan, prospects of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and other jihadist outfits in the region joining forces with IS, flush with hordes of ill-gotten wealth and vast swathes of territories, constitute a distinctly probable threat factor for India and the entire region of South Asia. There have already been indications of Islamic State making forays into Pakistan to garner the support of mercenary and indigenous jihadist elements and homegrown terror outfits. It would be pertinent to bear in mind the fact that Pakistan has turned out, over a period of time, to be a failed state and a veritable wasteland where only rabid fundamentalist and warmongering elements could play an active role in the political process, and people are led to believe that the neighboring India is a threat to its unity and territorial integrity. Such a sorry state of affairs of Pakistan makes it an ideal platform for IS to mount its onslaught against other countries of the region. Besides, there have been reports of a negotiated settlement of differences between IS and the Syrian outfit of Al Qaeda. The prospects of the two powers coming together portend an ill omen and cast an evil shadow on the region’s political and economic stability.
Test of Time for India
India should hammer out a well-calibrated foreign policy to counter the threat of the hydra-headed Islamic State and its umpteen homegrown decoy outfits. To this end, it should forge an alliance with its eastern neighbors like Bangladesh and Myanmar. Notwithstanding its border dispute with China, it should be able to factor in at least a limited understanding and cooperation, passive if not active, from that country in the war against the jihadist juggernaut as China has been facing trouble from its own Muslim-majority people of the Xinjiang Uyghur region. The US, with the support of its allies, is already active in pounding the IS troops in Syria and Iraq into oblivion. India, on its part, has to play its rightful role as a regional big power by mobilizing its defense strength to neatly dovetail with its war of diplomacy against global terrorism. PM Modi has already made a flying start by declaring on international fora that terrorism should be delinked from religion with a view to strip off any theological mandate that terrorism claims for its inhuman activities. If any government could successfully rally the people of India in the war and turn the country into a bulwark against terrorism, it is the current nationalist one which enjoys the adulation of the people like never before in the recent past.
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