The decision by the US State Department to add India’s home-grown terror outfit the Indian Mujahideen (IM) to its list of terrorist groups has come at least four years late. Although the IM has been active since 2005, it was from about 2007 onward that the outfit started playing havoc with Indian security, exploding bombs in public places with impunity and remarkable consistency.
India has rightly welcomed the US move, which is largely diplomatic and symbolic because the State Department has stated that IM has close ties with Pakistan-based terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba. This is what the Indian security and intelligence agencies have been saying for years, but the international community hardly ever paid attention. The belated American decision should therefore help the world understand better that terror outfits can’t survive without some kind of sustenance.
Still, the US ban won’t have much impact operationally. It won’t blunt the claws of IM, and won’t in any way reduce its capacity to unleash more terror attacks. Of course, entities banned by the United States can’t operate on US soil, and those associated with them can’t travel to the United States. But IM hasn’t been operating from the US anyway, and nor, it seems, does it have any bank accounts there.
Ultimately, although IM hasn’t been able to pull off any terrorist ‘spectaculars,’ the group provides a perfect alibi for those in the Pakistani establishment interested in implementing a policy of a thousand cuts to India. With luck, the US move will strengthen the hands of the Indian security agencies in getting to the IM’s top leadership – people like Amir Reza Khan, Riyaz Bhatkal, Yasin Bhatkal, Abdus Subhan and Asadullah Akthar – all of whom are overseas.