India has woken up to the threat of the ISIS and this is set to be an ongoing battle. The ISIS has not made any major announcement where its plans of setting up a base in India is concerned.
What we get to see day after day is youth being detained for trying to join the ISIS. Just today four youth from Kerala were detained upon being deported from the UAE [4 ISIS sympathizers deported to Kerala from UAE]. In all seven Indians including one lady have been detained in the past month for alleged links with the ISIS.
How serious is the ISIS threat in India? The Home Ministry which had dismissed the threat perception of the ISIS as negligible in December 2014 has today taken a host of measures to tackle the problem.
Animesh Roul, Executive Director of Research at the New Delhi-based Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict writing in the Jamestown Foundation says India is vulnerable to the threat of the ISIS. In this interview with OneIndia, Roul says India faces the threat of transnational jihadism.
What do you think are the plans of the ISIS for India?
The ISIS has seen sporadic success in recruiting some Indian Muslims. Despite the success in recruiting Indian Muslims, much remains unclear about the group's activities in the country, particularly in comparison to other neighboring countries like Pakistan, the Maldives or even Bangladesh.
How interested do you think the ISIS is in India?
The ISIS is very interested in India. India is very much within the operational ambition of the Islamic State for at least three reasons. The relative proximity of the Islamic State's most active South Asia branch (Wilayat Khurasan), which is centered around Afghanistan and Pakistan is gaining in strength.
Secondly the ISIS' links with the home-grown/indigenous Indian Mujahideen members. Third, the Islamic State's powerful social media channels that proved to the most enticing medium for aspiring jihadi volunteers.
The Indian government is building a counter narrative against Jihadi ideology. Will this help?
The government's recent endeavors included its novel effort to build a counter-narrative against the jihadist ideologies, and, most importantly, in contrast to the popular belief about India's composite culture and liberal minority Muslim populations.
Despite all this the fight against the ISIS will be an ongoing battle. India clearly remains vulnerable towards the Islamic State brand of transnational jihadism.
There have been several incidents of flag waving. Youth have been seen waving ISIS flags in Kashmir and other states. What is your view?
Yes there have been several instances of flag waving. This suggests that there is evidence of broader Islamic State influence among some Indian Muslims, as evidenced by the waving of Islamic State flags, the display of the group's banner or pictures of youths wearing fatigues with the Islamic State logo or insignia.
Similar flag waving took place in the state in July and October last year, prompting the security agencies to investigate the possible Islamic State influence in Kashmir and beyond.
These events indicate the potency of the Islamic State brand on at least some of the country's more impressionable Muslim youths, even if this trend is not widespread.
The government had claimed in December 2014 that the ISIS was not a threat. What has changed now?
Yes in December 2014, India's Minister of Home Affairs dismissed the potential Islamic State threat to India as "negligible" and showered credit on the country's Muslim community for discouraging their children from being influenced by the organization
However since then, the government has taken some major steps, notably imposing proscriptions on the Islamic State terror group, all its manifestations and affiliate organizations under Section 35 Of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 in late February this year.
It is the increasing evidence of recruitment and much talked about threat from "returnees" from the fighting in Iraq and Syria clearly prompted the government to take this strong measure.
In the month of June 2015, India banned all trade with the Islamic State and related terrorist organizations active in Middle East, specifically in oil, oil products and items of cultural, scientific and religious importance.
The Indian government has also sought to intercept young men suspected of leaving the country to join the Islamic State and to conduct follow-up counsel with them on the values of Islam and other religions.