With the spotting of Islamic State (ISIS) flags in the state of Assam, which shares a border with Bangladesh, security agencies are on high alert and are thoroughly investigating the incident. ISIS is already present in India’s Kashmir and Kerala, according to India’s intelligence agencies.
Naga Republic News & Analysis
A risk to watch out for is the emergence of new forms of militancy along India’s eastern frontier inspired by the Islamic State (ISIS), especially given the Rohingya crisis that is bringing the region around Myanmar and Bangladesh to a flash point.
With India’s North-East region sharing long international boundaries with both Myanmar and Bangladesh, the risk of both the influx of Muslim Rohingya refugees and also violent armed reprisal into the region cannot be ruled out.
The Naga Republic has access to a report prepared by the International Crisis Group that has identified up to ten countries and regions at risk of conflict or escalation of violence. The Watch List 2018 includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh/Myanmar, Cameroon, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Sahel, Tunisia, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.
According to the International Crisis Group, Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis has entered a dangerous new phase, threatening Myanmar’s hard-won democratic transition, its stability, and that of Bangladesh and the region as a whole.
Violent operations by the military, border police and vigilante groups in Myanmar have forced some 750,000 Rohingya to flee northern Rakhine for Bangladesh over the last twelve months. The U.N. called the operation a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing.
The fear is that the presence of a large population of stateless refugees could create enormous dangers for Bangladesh. The potential for influx of these refugees to the North-East India region is also strong given that border security is largely ineffective as seen from past experiences. As happened in the past, conflict between refugees and the host community poses risk of violence.
Armed militants exploiting the Rohingya cause or recruiting among the displaced is the other worry. The International Crisis Group report states that these might be inspired by the Islamic State (ISIS), though whether that movement will survive the loss of its self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria and, if so, in what form, remains uncertain.
The report gives the examples in southern Philippines where a local militant group declaring affiliation with ISIS and bolstered by foreign fighters captured the city of Marawi in May 2017 and held it for five months, before being ousted by Filipino forces.
So too could the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh: while little suggests that ISIS or al-Qaeda will find ready recruits among Rohingya refugees, both movements have attempted to exploit the Rohingya’s plight to enlist followers and inspire attacks, the report states.
Against the backdrop of this ominous warning from the International Crisis Group risk assessment, media reports of spotting Islamic State (ISIS) flags in the state of Assam, which shares a border with Bangladesh has put security agencies on high alert and are thoroughly investigating the incident. ISIS is already present in India’s Kashmir and Kerala, according to India’s intelligence agencies.
After the southern state of Kerala and Kashmir in the north, the international terror outfit ISIS is apparently trying to influence Indian youths in the northeast of the country. Flags and posters, bearing the inscription “Join ISIS,” were recovered from two different locations in Assam during the last two days.
On Friday, black posters with inscriptions in Arabic and the words “Join ISIS” written in English were found pinned to a tree in the Koihati area of Lower Assam’s Nalbari district.
Earlier on Thursday, six black flags which had ‘IS NE’ (Islamic State North East) inscribed on them were found in Goalpara district of Assam. The flags were spotted by the morning walkers who then informed the police.
India’s Intelligence Bureau has recently alerted Assam and other north-eastern Indian states about the possibility of terror groups planning to make the region their base, as it feared several missing local youths had left home to join terror outfits.
Growing influence of ISIS is a concern for Indian security agencies after Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police S. P. Vaid last year admitted the presence of the terror outfit in the Kashmir valley.
The southern Indian state of Kerala is another hotbed of ISIS ideology, where India’s premier investigating agency, the NIA (National Investigation Agency), is investigating several cases of ISIS recruitment, funding, and people going to Syria and Afghanistan to join ISIS. The NIA suspects that more than 100 people from Kerala have joined ISIS so far.
Coming back to the report accessed by The Naga Republic, Bangladesh, according to International Crisis Group, is facing the consequences of the fastest refugee movement across an international border since the Rwanda genocide in 1994.
More than one million Muslim Rohingya – a figure that includes refugees from previous exodus – now live in camps near Cox’s Bazar in the south-eastern corner of the country, close to the border with Myanmar.
The conflict situation in Myanmar and Bangladesh has created a risky new dynamics for the North-East India region.
Last year, in view of the Rohingya imbroglio in Myanmar, border security had been further intensified to foil any attempt by the Rohingyas, fleeing the Rakhine state in Myanmar, to enter India through Bangladesh.
Senior Union Home Ministry officials had also visited the north eastern states and they studied the India-Bangladesh and India-Myanmar border issues, including the free movement of Indian and Myanmarese citizens within 16 kilometres of the border.
Four states in the North-East together share 1,643 km of mountainous and unfenced border with Myanmar.
Counter-insurgency-trained Assam Rifles personnel are guarding the India-Myanmar border.