Event ReportsPublished on Aug 16, 2014
Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, which is threatened by the formation of the Narendra Modi government in Delhi, have been reactivating networks of LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammad in Kashmir since May/June 2013.
Incubation space for terror groups in Bangladesh a worry for the world
Bangladesh has for the last 40 years offered a fertile environment for the rise of intolerant politics and Islamic militancy in the Northeastern South Asia, said Thomas F. Lynch III, Distinguished Fellow for South Asia and Near East, Center for Strategic Research, Institute of National Security Studies, National Defense University, Washington D.C. USA.

Dr. Lynch, speaking on the topic "Militancy and Terrorism in Northeastern South Asia" at Kolkata Chapter of ORF on August 16, 2014, said Bangladesh has been an incubatory space for terrorist activities, weapon-smuggling, drug-trade, militancy and insurgency. Hence, it has become a focal point of concern for terrorist activity for not just the region but the world.

He referred to activities of two major terrorist outfits -- Harkut-ul-Jihad al-Islami (Bangladesh) (HuJI-B) and Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (Bangladesh) (JMB) operating on Bangladesh’s soil and having ties with Bangladeshi groups in U.K. Dr. Lynch said that despite a crackdown on terrorist outfits in the recent past, the terrorist groups continue to operate.

The last decade has been a real incubation period for terrorist outfits in Bangladesh and yet the Bangladesh government could not get to the root of the problem, said Dr. Lynch. He believed that the stepping in of the military has also not helped root out Islamic militancy from Bangladesh either; it only temporarily put pressure, letting it off thereafter

According to Dr. Lynch, though the activities of the Islamic militant outfits operating out of Bangladesh has been less dramatic since 2011, the wider dimensions of the issue of Islamism, endemic problems of intolerance, corruption and violence continue unabated.

A multifaceted interaction exists between North-east India, Nepal and Burma when it comes to militancy and terrorism in North-eastern South Asia, Dr. Lynch argued. He found an ever-evolving Jihadist interaction with ethnic insurgencies and criminal networks in the region.

Dr. Lynch argued that militant outfits like the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) have clearly benefitted from weapons smuggling in and through Bangladesh in Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) networks also helping HuJI- B, JMB and Indian Mujahideen (IM). He however thought that the North-east militant groups run a criminal enterprise and are not tuned towards Jihad.

Dr. Lynch further argued that the Rohingya Solidarity Organization having links with JMB and HuJI (B) is an anti-Burma insurgency outfit and not a Jihadist group. Dr. Lynch also mentioned how Nepal had become a safe-haven for Islamic militants of LeT and IM to build their networks.

Dr. Lynch highlighted the significance of the post-2014 adaptation in Afghanistan. In which direction the militant groups in Afghanistan under their managers in Pakistan reorient themselves, would be something to be looked in the time to come, Dr. Lynch said.

Signs of escalated activities in India’s Jammu and Kashmir are a fall-out of the changing realities in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) which is threatened by the formation of the BJP government of Narendra Modi in New Delhi are reactivating networks of LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in Kashmir since May/June 2013.

Dr. Lynch said that an important aspect of the evolution of the Global Jihadist landscape is the Shia-Sunni Struggle. Its recent manifestations have been through organizations like ISIS. Such organizations are casting a wide recruitment net via social media and internet and have messages delivered in Indian languages like Hindi, something India has to watch out for.

He said, India remains greatly exposed for the want of tools in her kit. Dr. Lynch suggested that India must have an intelligence sharing arrangement with Sunni Muslim governments to fight organizations like ISIS. Dr. Lynch also recommended India to upgrade its monitoring of cyberspace, as there have been instances in the past when the Indian intelligence failed to understand how IM was using dead-boxes and how to bust such networks.

As a discussant on Dr. Lynch’s presentation, Dr. Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury, Vice-chancellor of Rabindra Bharati University (RBU), said that Islam has different colours, for example, Islam in India is not the same as the one practised in the African continent.

Dr. Basu Ray Chaudhury said that urgent attention needs to be devoted to the problems of Rohingya community, about whom even Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi has maintained her silence. He argued that the eviction of Rohingyas from Myanmar is forcing the Rohingyas to take shelter in Teknaf border with Bangladesh.

Dr. Basu Ray Chaudhury also highlighted that there needs to be multi-level dialogue in a plural society. He argued for a dialogic space for mitigating the risks presented by militancy and terrorism in the region. The lecture-discussion was attended by consular staff, senior academics, defence personnel and media-persons, who also shared their views on the topic and gave suggestions on the way ahead.

(The report was prepared by Mihir Bhonsale, Research Assistant, ORF, Kolkata).

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