Rise of Taliban and Emerging Threat of Terrorism in India

In April 2021, the President Joe Biden had announced that US military forces would leave Afghanistan by September, 2021 and the twenty years long war, the longest one in the history of Unites States would come to an end. By the time, United States could completely withdraw its military forces from Afghanistan, the Islamic militant group Taliban had already started capturing major cities of Afghanistan bringing back the nightmares to the people of Afghanistan after two decades. Their nightmares had turned into reality when Taliban swiftly swept away the Afghan Government and captured Kabul on August 15, 2021. The sights at the Kabul airport with thousands of Afghan people rushing in panic, clinging on the wings of the aircrafts in desperation to escape the country and ultimately plunging to death have grieved the world. The growth and development which the country had witnessed in past two decades has come to a standstill and the country is searching for a ray of hope in darkness. It is not just that Afghans are at risk; the international community is also worried about the security in Central and South Asia. It is a well-known fact that during Taliban’s reign in Afghanistan twenty years back, major terrorists attacks were planned and executed from its soil.

The rise of Taliban has been a major source of concern for India. With its hostile neighbours, India has always struggled to keep its territory and people safe. The events that have taken place in Afghanistan one after another have brought back the unpleasant memories of hijack of Air India Flight 814 on December 24, 1999 wherein 189 people were on board. Though the hijack was planned by Pakistan based Islamic terrorists belonging to Harkat-ul-Mujahideen with the active support and assistance of the Pakistan army, the soil of Afghanistan was well used by the hijackers to achieve the purpose of the hijacking. The flight, which made stops at Amritsar and Lahore, ultimately stationed itself in Kandahar in Afghanistan which was under the control of Taliban at that time. The hijack left 17 people severely injured with 1 fatality. The motive for the hijack was to secure the release of 36 Islamist terrorists who were held imprisoned in India. The passengers and the crew members were held hostage for seven days and were released only when India had acceded to release three terrorists namely Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, and Masood Azhar. At the time of incident, Taliban armed fighters surrounded the aircraft and India was not allowed to initiate any military operation.

In an interview to Zee News in 2009 Mr. Ajit Doval, who was then Additional Director of Intelligence Bureau and was in Kandahar for six days from December 26, 1999 till December 31 trying to negotiate the safe release of the passengers, had revealed “The objective of the negotiation is to achieve three things. First and foremost is to stop the hijackers from harming any passengers or cabin crew members. The second objective is to give maximum time to the government to start preparing for rescue operations and the third objective is to keep talking with the hijackers in order to gain maximum information and intelligence from them like their morale, their physical fitness, the total number of hijackers and what are their demands. The hijacking negotiation is a tactical step aimed at saving the lives of people. After reaching Kandahar, I realised that we were very weak in all these three aspects. The primary issue was that the hijackers were not in a position where it was possible for us to tire them out because they were receiving food, medicines and they were able to move in and out. The most important thing was that they were not feeling insecure at all. They were fully confident that India will not attack them in Kandahar. The biggest trouble in negotiation is when the hijackers are not under any pressure. On the other hand, in this case, we were in a vulnerable position as we were surrounded by Taliban fighters and their tanks and anti-aircraft guns. Even the hijackers knew that negotiators were under pressure. We were trying our best to gather intelligence about the hijackers but they knew more than us about what was happening in India. They were getting all the information from ISI. We were receiving some intelligence about the hijackers but the Taliban government was not helping us to verify that intelligence. Taliban was neither willing to act themselves against the hijackers, nor did they allow the Indian government to take action against the hijackers. They told us clearly that they will not allow India to carry out any operation on their soil.”

India had paid a huge price for release of terrorist Masood Azhar. Soon after his release, he founded a terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed in March 2000 and announced its start at a large gathering at a stadium in Bahawalpur, a city in Pakistan. Since then, this group has led to a series of terrorist attacks in India. It initiated an attack on the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly on October 1, 2001 wherein a car loaded with explosives was hit into the gates of the Legislative Assembly. In the same year on December 13, Parliament of India in New Delhi came under a terrorist attack and the perpetrators belonged to Jaish-e-Mohammed. The group has also been accused for planning and executing the September 18, 2016 Uri attack which is considered to be one of the major attacks on Indian Army in 20 years. The scale of the Uri Terror attack was such that the Indian government had no option other than to retaliate with a strong and impactful ‘surgical strike’ on the terrorist camps on and near the Line of Control.

Even after the change in Indian government’s policy towards terrorism of not being defensive and to hit back firmly to those who work against the national interests, the Jaish-e-Mohammed had once again headed up and gathered courage to target Indian Army. On February 14, 2019, Jaish-e-Mohammed’s suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kg of explosives into a convoy of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir in which 40 soldiers were martyred and many were left critically wounded. Within an hour of the attack, the Pakistan based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed had claimed the responsibility for the attack. As a response to the attack, on February 26, 2019, at 0330 hours, a group of Mirage 2000 Indian Air Force’s Fighter jets destroyed the major terrorist camps of Jaish-e-Mohammed across the Line of Control.

The group projects Kashmir as a doorway to the entire India. It runs ‘Jihad’ movement in the valley under a presumption that the Muslims in Kashmir are in need of liberation. After liberating Kashmir, the ultimate aim of the group is to drive away Hindus and other non-Muslims from the Indian subcontinent by initiating ‘Jihad’ in other parts of the country.

In a major turn around and to curb the situation in Kashmir Valley, the Indian government on August 5, 2019 had passed a resolution in the Parliament of India according to which the special status given to the state of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 had been revoked and the state was divided into two Union Territories to be governed by a Lieutenant Governor and a Unicameral Legislature. This had resulted in extreme frustration and disappointment among Pakistan and the terrorist groups that are operating from its land. Although, Pakistan had tried to turn every stone in order to escalate Kashmir issue in international arena, all its efforts were in vain. Now, the changeover of power in Afghanistan and reinstatement of Taliban has fresh hopes to ISI and the terrorist groups it actively supports.

As reported by The Hindu on August 27, 2021 “About 100 members of banned terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), who were released from Afghan prisons by the Taliban, have joined back and the outfit is planning to carry out fresh attacks in India, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, according to information gathered by security agencies. The agencies have come across JeM-linked social media posts about the outfit chief, Masood Azhar, exhorting the cadres to prepare for attacks in Jammu and Kashmir following the Afghanistan victory. “At the institutions controlled by the terror outfit, sermons given to the followers last week revolved around the same theme,” said a security agency official. “Senior functionaries of the JeM and the Taliban have already held meetings. The JeM has been assured of all the support in carrying out its activities targeting India. The developments in Afghanistan will also embolden Pakistani forces, which facilitate infiltration of terrorists,” the official stated.

The above developments are a cause of major concern for India and hence, the Indian government is putting its best efforts to handle the drastically changed scenario while keeping a hawk eye to maintain the peace, calm and harmony in the nation.

– Neha Singhal

Picture Credits: ABC News

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