Almost ten years into a full-on war on terrorism in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda has been dispersed. Indeed, the United States is now confident enough that it has dealt a significant enough blow to militants that it has shifted its focus to transferring the burden of confrontation and development into local hands under an Af-Pak policy expected to pave the way for a NATO pull-out from active conflict.
However, although in disarray, al-Qaeda and the Taliban are far from destroyed—a fact that raises troubling questions about Afghanistan’s ability to meet its objectives. And if Pakistan is, as some have charged, continuing its dalliances with terrorist groups, Jihadism will continue to pose a clear and grave danger not just to South Asia, but to the rest of the world.
For regional neighbour India, the risk of terrorism comes from a peculiar concoction of politico-religious Islamic radicalism riding on the back of an already powerful crime syndicate. D-Company is led by one of the world’s most-wanted men, Dawood Ibrahim, who is now believed to be safely nestled in Pakistan (although Pakistan denies any knowledge of him).Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
India may not yet face a direct threat from al-Qaeda, but it is still forced to contend with Lashkar-e-Taiba( Army of the Righteous) and its syndicates, which currently operate in India. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has been accused of backing the group as a way of targeting Kashmir and particularly India. But many experts, including in the United States, now feel that even if there were a resolution to the Kashmir dispute, it would no longer satisfy the group’s aspirations. Indeed, with operations in an estimated 21 countries, Lashkar-e-Taiba is bound to look for a larger role in efforts to create a Pan-Islamic world order.
With Muslims comprising more than 13 percent of the country’s population, the government in India (at the central and state levels) can ill-afford action that’s seen as alienating this politically important sector. Communalism is still a volatile issue, with the potential to drive the country toward carnage. But it’s the spectre of such carnage that has meant that all counter-terrorism efforts in India tend to get stuck in a quagmire, with policymakers caught between accusations of appeasement on the one hand, and fear of estranging the country’s Muslim populace on the other.
The terrorist threat in Southeast Asia, meanwhile, is quite different. Here, al-Qaeda has been the mentor, including to outfits such as Jemaah Islamiyah (Islamic Society), another force that has a presence beyond the borders of the country it is most associated with. JI was created and launched in an effort to create an Islamic community or brotherhood, with the ultimate aim of creating an Islamic caliphate of Southeast Asian countries.