Jammu and Kashmir
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M K Bhadrakumar |

The announcement by the al-Qaeda’s media wing that the terror group has set up an affiliate called Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind in J&K came out of the blue. Whether the Indian establishment also was caught by surprise we do not know. Everyone is waiting for NSA Ajit Doval’s return from Beijing.

The fact that al-Qaeda attracted to its fold a ‘popular’ Kashmiri militant leader by name Zakir Musa to lead the newly-formed affiliate in the Valley is very significant. The conventional wisdom is that Kashmir’s Sufi culture and the harsh Salafi ideology are irreconcilable.

Al-Qaeda is neither Pakistan’s progeny nor its proxy. But the fact of the matter is that Pakistan has had dealings with this terror group. The experiences in other parts of the world show that when a more virile militant group appears, the ‘moderates’ get attracted to it.

Why would Indians get attracted to al-Qaeda? This was never the case so far – not even in the nineties when al-Qaeda was a towering presence in India’s neighborhood. We must sincerely probe why there are new stirrings.

This is important because conditions should not be allowed to arise in our society leading to alienation and/or a sense of persecution among the Muslim community. The responsibility to ensure this lies principally with the political elite and the security agencies. Unfortunately, the record of the present government leaves much to be desired.

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Al-Qaeda is neither Pakistan’s progeny nor its proxy. But the fact of the matter is that Pakistan has had dealings with this terror group. The experiences in other parts of the world show that when a more virile militant group appears, the ‘moderates’ get attracted to it. This happened in Syria in the recent years and it accounted for the failure of the US-led strategy to train and arm and support the ‘moderate’ rebel groups.

Time will tell whether the al-Qaeda can survive and thrive on Kashmiri soil. This is where the leadership of a charismatic young man can make big difference. All indications are that the youth, including students, are spearheading the mass upheaval in J&K. As a report in the Guardian newspaper noted, “Musa, 23, is the leading figure among a new generation of militants who have exploited social media and growing disillusionment among Kashmiris to revitalize the insurgency against Indian control of the region.”

Where the Americans go, al-Qaeda and ISIS follow. Therefore, there is a foreign-policy angle. To be sure, the foreign policy trajectory of the Modi government has created the impression that India is a surrogate power that serves US interests.

Suffice to say, it is important that al-Qaeda does not take over the ‘counter-narrative’ in J&K. But then, it is doubtful whether our one-dimensional policymakers have the imagination and intellectual acumen to realize this. On the contrary, the temptation will always be there to brand the separatist movement on the whole as an al-Qaeda phenomenon and to make a plea for understanding and support from the ‘international community’ (US) for India’s ‘war on terror’ in J&K. Of course, such a course caricaturing India as a frontline state in the US’ war on terror can only prove counter-productive.

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Where the Americans go, al-Qaeda and ISIS follow. Therefore, there is a foreign-policy angle. To be sure, the foreign policy trajectory of the Modi government has created the impression that India is a surrogate power that serves US interests. Worse still, the serial hugs that we give to Israel create negative vibes in the Muslim mind. The recent events relating to the revered Al-Aqsa mosque should be an eye-opener. Israel beat a hasty retreat in the face of the outpouring of Muslim anger.

The plain truth is that the blind trust in the Indian state’s coercive power is not taking the government very far in countering the mass unrest in the Valley. Clearly, the al-Qaeda senses that the situation in J&K is becoming conducive for their activities.

Such painful events underscore once again that it is not in India’s interest to romanticize the transactional relationship with Israel. Frankly, it is completely unnecessary to create a (mis)perception that the present Indian government takes vicarious pleasure in hurting the sentiments of the ‘Ummah’ by embracing Zionism.

What do we gain? Will Israel sell to us weapons at subsidized rates? We pay good money for Israeli weapons.

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The bottom line is that the prospects of al-Qaeda gaining habitation and a name in J&K will ultimately depend on the Indian political leadership’s approach to the emergent situation. History will not forgive if there is a failure on this score. The plain truth is that the blind trust in the Indian state’s coercive power is not taking the government very far in countering the mass unrest in the Valley. Clearly, the al-Qaeda senses that the situation in J&K is becoming conducive for their activities.

M. K. Bhadrakumar has served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for over 29 years, with postings as India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998) and to Turkey (1998-2001). He writes extensively in Indian newspapers, Asia Times and the “Indian Punchline”. This piece was first published in Indian Punchline. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

M. K. Bhadrakumar has served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for over 29 years, with postings as India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998) and to Turkey (1998-2001). He writes extensively in Indian newspapers, Asia Times and the “Indian Punchline”.

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