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Bangladesh terror attacks: India next?

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  • July 22, 2016

    Increased terror strikes in Bangladesh would bring political instability, which isn't in the interest of India.

    The terror attack in Dhaka café caused concern not only in Bangladesh but all over the world. This concern was for several reasons. To begin with, this attack was seen similar to attacks that had taken place in Paris, Brussels and Ankara. Moreover, these attacks were claimed by the dreaded terror organisation Islamic State (IS) in which a number of westerners were killed.

    However, this attack is also concerning for India which is already facing regular onslaught of terror from its western frontier. The organisational presence of the IS and al-Qaeda is still not confirmed in Bangladesh and the Sheikh Hasina government vehemently to denies it, but what can’t be denied is the presence of local groups who claim allegiance to these international terror organisations.

    At present, prominent Islamist groups in Bangladesh are Jama’at ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) and Hizb-ut-Tahrir. The JMB claims allegiance to IS while ABT is loyal to al-Qaeda. Hizb-ut-Tahrir itself is an international Islamist organisation, hence it does not need to claim allegiance to any such group. Reports indicate that sometime back, there has been a meeting of these groups where they decided to work together as their ultimate objective is same and that is implementation of Sharia law.

    The concern for India arises from the fact that groups like the JMB are active on both sides of the India-Bangladesh border. It is greatly helped in its operation by the porous nature of this border. Though JMB has been active on the Indian side of the border for many years, its activities became public after the Burdwan blast.

    A number of suspects of Burdwan blast were arrested in Bangladesh as intelligence and investigative agencies of both sides worked in close cooperation with each other. But the arrests also indicated the seamless fashion in which this group was operating on both sides of the border.

    The JMB on several occasions has been prominently mentioned by the IS in its Dabiq magazine. It is also appreciative of JMB for its terror activities in Bangladesh and for working to establish Sharia law in the country. It also praises JMB for willing to be part of the Caliphate established by the IS. What is most interesting is the fact that IS refers this area as Bengal and not Bangladesh.

    This means that when it talks about JMB and its activities it means both sides of the border. Even in the past, Bangladeshi terror groups have been talking of Greater Bangladesh, but for the first time, an international terror outfit seems to be referring to this.

    Here, it is interesting to note that another Islamist group Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) has also been warning that attack to India and Myanmar would come from Bangladesh using local recruits in respective countries.

    Its India-born chief, Asim Umar has been recently designated as a “global terrorist” by the USA. Umar has received extensive training by the ISI in Pakistan. An increased terror activity in Bangladesh would mean that the country could also be subsequently used as spring board for attacks on India.

    More attacks?

    Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expects further increase in terror activities in her country in the coming days. She suspects that relatives of those Jamaat leaders who have been hanged may organise these attacks as they have vast resources.

    The government has also shared a list of 10 Jamaat-Ul-Mujahideen (JMB) Bangladesh cadres with the Government of India along with their images – they are suspected to have sneaked into the Indian territory. These JMB cadres are suspected to have played a role in the Dhaka café attack and have fled the country to avoid arrests. They are believed to be hiding in north Bengal.

    Increased terrorist attacks in Bangladesh would also bring political instability in that country. Once again that would not be in the interest of India. A politically unstable neighbour has always been a security risk to us. This can be very well seen in Pakistan, Afghanistan and to some extent in Nepal.

    On the other hand, a politically stable Bangladesh with Sheikh Hasina at the helm of affairs has enhanced security on India’s eastern border. Moreover, it has been extremely beneficial for the Bangladeshi population as its economy has grown continuously at 6-7%.

    A politically stable Bang-ladesh is also important for regional cooperation as sometime back India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan launched their BBIN initiative. This initiative would bear fruit only in a peaceful situation.

    Clearly, increased terrorist violence in Bangladesh is also going to create problems for India. There is a need for security agencies of both countries to work together in close cooperation so that vicious design of these terror groups can be defeated and the region can continue to move on the path of progress.

    (The writer is Associate Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses, New Delhi)