Indians numbering between 100 and 150 – mostly engineers – have left the country to fight with the Islamic State, former national security advisor MK Narayanan said in a talk on India’s security challenges and strategic imperatives here on Tuesday.
The figure – between 100 and 150 – is significant, since so far the scale of involvement of Indian youth in ISIS was estimated to be in single digit. There had been a ‘slow and steady stream’ of Indian youth going to fight with ISIS, he said in the talk at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Narayanan, former director of Intelligence Bureau who recently stepped down as West Bengal governor, said he continued to be in touch with leaders of Muslim seminaries, but added that most of them were themselves out of touch with Muslim youth.
He said: “There is no real authorised figure, the figure could be more, but it clearly not less than 100 to 150. Almost all who have gone are professionals. They are not the oppressed, or the suppressed”.
Narayanan added: “The bulk of them are engineers. It’s not a question of exclusion, but of appeal (of the IS) and that is a real concern”.
Dwelling on various aspects of India’s security challenges – including cyber threats, maritime security and nuclear security – Narayanan said he did not foresee tensions with China and Pakistan spiralling into full-scale conflicts.
India’s response to security challenges needed a coordinated approach between the Centre and the states, but he admitted that in recent years the Centre-state relationship had been “frayed at the edges”, which needed to be mended.