US Embassy Warns of ‘Increased’ Terror Threat in India

Akash Vashishtha
2016.11.03
New Delhi
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161103-IN-embassy-620.jpg Indian police patrol Baga Beach in Goa, a tourism spot that attracts Westerners.
AFP

A warning by the American embassy against an “increased” terrorist threat in India possibly linked to Islamic State (IS) is not unfounded and based on substantial inputs from intelligence agencies, according to Indian security analysts.

The security advisory from the embassy came in the face of prevailing tensions between India and Pakistan along their common border, particularly over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, observers said.

On its website the embassy earlier this week warned of “an increased threat to places frequented by Westerners such as religious sites, markets and festival venues.”

In its “Security Message for U.S. Citizens,” the travel wing of the State Department said recent Indian media reports had indicated the IS’s “desire to attack targets in India.” The advisory referred to the Middle East extremist group by another acronym, ISIL.

“All U.S. citizens are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness as detailed in the State Department’s Worldwide Caution of Sept. 9, 2016,” the message added.

The state department had issued the September warning just nine days before a pre-dawn attack by Kashmiri militants left 18 soldiers dead at an Indian army base in Uri, located near the Line of Control (LoC), a de factor border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, according to The Times of India.

The warning then stated, “India continues to experience terrorist and insurgent activities which may affect U.S. citizens directly or indirectly. Anti-western terrorist groups active in India include Islamist extremist groups Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Indian Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba.”

In response, the government of Hindu majority India said it was aware of the most recent message.

“The government is taking all security precautions necessary to protect its citizens. Appropriate advisories are also issued from time to time by the center to the state governments,” Ministry of Home Affairs spokesman K.S. Dhatwalia told BenarNews.

Although Indian government officials have denied that IS has made any significant inroads in India, domestic intelligence agencies claimed in August that about 50 Indian Muslims had left for Iraq and Syria to fight alongside the extremist group. Among them, six had died in battle.

At least another 30 Indians have been prevented from leaving India to join IS and scores are under surveillance for showing sympathy toward the organization, according to sources in Indian intelligence.

‘Not out of place’

The most recent warning from the U.S. embassy is not exaggerated, according to diplomat and security analyst Rajiv Dogra.

“India has been a victim of terror strikes for the last 30 years. This warning is not out of place. There have been strikes from Kashmir in the north to Hyderabad and Bangalore in the deep south. The place could be anywhere. That’s why there’s an advisory for caution,” Dogra told BenarNews.

“There must be some reasonable information with U.S. authorities and the embassy. The only doubt remains whether it’s the IS itself or one of the organizations supported by the IS. If IS does not attack itself, any group supported by it could attack,” he said.

Moushumi Basu, associate professor at the School of International Studies at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), told BenarNews that the warning could create problems in India.

“The problem, however, is that by this warning, how will Indians be secure? Countries will pass such alarms, but the host country has to deal with the whole issue. It could be a credible threat. The challenge exists,” Basu said.

Given past lapses in security, the Indian government has to be ready for such emergencies. “The issue is not only about the security of foreigners, but that of the Indians as well who have been bearing the brunt of attacks,” she said.

As tensions along the LoC remain high, infiltrators from militant groups, particularly those supported by IS, could cross into India at a time when the attention of the whole country is diverted toward the India-Pakistan issue, the leader of a right-wing social group said.

Amit Aryan, national president of right-wing political and civil group Jai Shiv Sena, said the American warning was “110 percent real” and based on well-founded information.

“About six to seven years back, the IS was in its planning stage, but now it is well into the execution stage. The Islamic war has begun. There is sloganeering anywhere and everywhere in favor of Pakistan and terror groups,” Aryan said.

“IS has pocketed deep into Jaipur, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Bihar and Kerala, apart from West Bengal. The money from crimes is funding the terrorist activities. Continuous anti-India sloganeering takes place in the heart of the capital at JNU,” he added.

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