The arrest of Syed Abdul Karim alias Tunda on August 16 followed now by that of Yasin Bhatkal are significant achievements of the our security agencies in their efforts to combat terror. Tunda, who was arrested near the Nepal border in Uttarakhand, was responsible for a series of blasts in Delhi and other cities in the 1990s, while Bhatkal, who was nabbed in Pokhara, Nepal, is one of the masterminds of the Indian Mujahideen (IM).
The arrests show that our security agencies, given the necessary latitude and motivation, are capable of producing outstanding results. The Intelligence Bureau, which faced flak from the Central Bureau of Investigation, has produced fantastic results despite low morale.
The arrests also show how Nepal’s territory is being exploited by anti-India elements. The Khalistani terrorists used the Nepal route for movements to and from Pakistan. The Indian Airlines IC-814 was hijacked after it had taken off from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu on December 24, 1999. Nepal is also a hub for pushing counterfeit currency into India. We may be getting good help from the government of Nepal, but it would be necessary to institutionalise this cooperation and review the security arrangements along the Indo-Nepal border.
The IM was formed at the instance of Pakistan’s ISI so that the latter could deny its involvement in acts of terrorism perpetrated in India and yet spread the jihadi ideology in the country and, in the process, indigenise the movement. The outfit is believed to have received generous financial assistance from, apart from its mentors in Pakistan, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Riyadh, and maintained close links with the International Islamic Federation of Students’ Organisation in Kuwait.
Stringent action taken by the Indian government disrupted the IM network. Its modules were busted and, in 2010, the outfit was banned. The US also placed it on its list of terrorist organisations with the State Department acknowledging that the group had not only perpetrated terrorist violence in India but also aimed at creating an Islamic Caliphate across South Asia. Britain has also banned the outfit.
Though terrorist incidents have registered a drop, the country remains vulnerable to attacks essentially because of the half-hearted approach of the government towards tackling terrorism and the inherent weakness of the law enforcement apparatus.
Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) have all been threatening to escalate terrorist violence in India. Al-Qaeda ideologue, Maulana Aasim Umar, in an appeal to the Indian Muslims early this year, asked: “Why is there no storm in your ocean?” Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the LeT chief, while speaking from a mosque in Lahore, said that “Jihad (against India) has been ordained by Allah”. JeM leader, Asmatullah Muawiya, said in March that India will become a major target of terrorist assaults once the US withdraws from Afghanistan.
Now that Tunda has thrown light on Pakistan’s involvement in terrorist activities in India, New Delhi should confront Islamabad with these facts and insist that it should nip in the bud terrorism emanating from its soil.
Bhatkal’s interrogation should lead to many more arrests within the country. It should be possible, by way of a follow-up action, to dismantle much of the IM’s infrastructure. It is going to be a grim battle, a long haul and there is no scope for lowering our guard. The government will also have to seriously undertake a programme of de-radicalisation to wean the youth away from the pernicious ideology of the fundamentalists. And, above all, the counter-terrorism apparatus of the country would need to be strengthened further.
Prakash Singh is a former Director General, BSF
The views expressed by the author are personal