A widely read US publication has made some hair-raising claims about the changing contours of global jihad. Foreign Policy magazine in a recent reportage has lifted the lid on emerging international jihadist movements with networks based in India and Central Asia and notes that terrorists from India, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan were now at the forefront of global jihad. The dynamism that the Islamic State group injected into the international jihadist movement, and the long-term repercussions of the networks it built — in particular, the Indian and Central Asian linkages that the group fostered — are already having repercussions beyond the region, the magazine writes.
It points to the threat that emerged most recently with the attack by the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) on Jalalabad prison in early August and says the attack shows the level of ambition that distinguishes the group from many other regional affiliates of the IS. The presence of Central Asians and Indians in transnational attacks, described in the write-up as a relatively new phenomenon, reflects a shifting pattern in jihadism linked to the IS. Some of the deadliest attacks in recent years — the 2019 Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, the attack on a Turkish nightclub on New Year’s Eve 2017 and the 2017 truck attacks in New York City and Stockholm — have links to IS terrorists based in India.
As also pointed out in the FP write-up, India’s history of jihadism goes back even further as the country is the birthplace of a particular sect that is a source of ideas for the Taliban. However, Indian jihadism — as also the Central Asian one — is a story that has historically received too little attention. Emerging from domestic environments that are creating more opportunities for disenfranchisement and radicalisation to take place, they are exactly the sort of threats which may slip under the radar until it is too late.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2020.