Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India speaks Sept. 22, 2019, at NRG Stadium in Houston. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

PERSPECTIVE: Modi’s Indian Government Is Creating the Conditions for More Terrorism

India has faced its fair share of terrorist attacks dating back to its creation in 1947. The former British Raj was a complex region with large Hindu and Muslim populations. The eventual division into a ‘Muslim’ Pakistan (West and East – the latter becoming Bangladesh in 1971) and a ‘Hindu’ India may have seemed like a good idea at the time but tensions have remained high for the most part ever since.

Terrorist incidents, many of which were planned by violent extremists in Pakistan, are legion, far too many to list. Perhaps the best, and most lethal, was the 2008 Mumbai attacks, a series of assaults that were carried out by members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist organization based in Pakistan. Twelve coordinated shooting and bombing attacks lasting four days across Mumbai led to the deaths of 164 people.

In light of this atmosphere of extremism, India, like any other nation, has both the right and the duty to defend itself. That Pakistan has played a role in many attacks does complicate matters since that country, and India, both have nuclear weapons: fears that an armed conflict between the two neighbors could escalate to an exchange of nukes keep many national security officials awake at nights, I’d wager.

But at the same time, not all of its terrorism comes from Pakistan. And not all of it is Islamist in nature. A growing number of attacks originate in the majority Hindu community and it appears that the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not too concerned. This apathy may stem in part because those behind the attacks are amongst his greatest supporters, including many in the ruling BJP Party.

There are many acts of religious/nationalist violence attributed to these players. Most recently, extremists have been behind riots at an Indian University that were linked to a controversial new citizenship law, one that shows the Modi government is beholden to extremists.

This piece of legislation allows New Delhi to grant expedited citizenship to minorities from three neighboring Islamic countries who entered India by Dec. 31, 2014: critics say it marginalizes Muslims in the country as part of Modi’s larger Hindu nationalist agenda. The flashpoint of all this is Assam State in India’s northeast, where in 2018 the president of the BJP compared what he called ‘Bangladeshis’ living there to ‘termites’ and threatened to deport anyone who could prove residence dating back to 1971. On Jan. 21, India’s top court deferred a hearing on cases challenging the constitutional validity of the law.

Wait, there’s more.

The Modi government has also changed the status of Muslim-majority Kashmir, revoking its special status, including the right to its own constitution and autonomy to make laws on all matters except defense, communications and foreign affairs. Not surprisingly, this has not gone down well with those living there.

Last week, India’s newly recruited Chief of Defence Staff claimed that so-called “deradicalization” camps are operating in India, aimed at Kashmiris. These have evoked alarming comparisons with the internment of Uyghurs in China, where more than one million Muslims are confined to ‘vocational centers’ and mosques are razed on a weekly basis.

Some are even starting to talk of whether India is planning to create a ‘Hindu Pakistan’: by this I assume that much as Pakistan is a Muslim nation so will India become a solely Hindu one. Given that there are expected to be 300 million Muslims in the country by 2050, according to Pew, this policy would lead inexorably to violence.

On Jan. 23 The Economist wrote, “Narendra Modi’s sectarianism is eroding India’s secular democracy.” There is little doubt that narrow policies driven by Hindu nationalism/extremism will lead to more violence, including terrorism, not less. Political pandering aside, it is unclear why PM Modi would want to do this.

The great American humorist Will Rogers famously said “if you find yourself in a hole the first thing to do is to stop digging.” Mr. Modi needs to put down the shovel.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by Homeland Security Today, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints in support of securing our homeland. To submit a piece for consideration, email HSTodayMag@gtscoalition.com. Our editorial guidelines can be found here.

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Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. (www.borealisthreatandrisk.com) and Programme Director for the Security, Economics and Technology (SET) hub at the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute (PDI). He worked as a senior strategic analyst at CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) from 2001-2015, specializing in violent Islamist-inspired homegrown terrorism and radicalisation. From 1983 to 2001 he was employed as a senior multilingual analyst at Communications Security Establishment (CSE – Canada’s signals intelligence agency), specialising in the Middle East. He also served as senior special advisor in the National Security Directorate at Public Safety Canada from 2013, focusing on community outreach and training on radicalisation to violence, until his retirement from the civil service in May 2015, and as consultant for the Ontario Provincial Police’s Anti-Terrorism Section (PATS) from May to October 2015. He was the Director of Security and Intelligence at the SecDev Group from June 2018 to July 2019. Mr. Gurski has presented on violent Islamist-inspired and other forms of terrorism and radicalisation across Canada and around the world. He is the author of “The Threat from Within: Recognizing Al Qaeda-inspired Radicalization and Terrorism in the West” (Rowman and Littlefield 2015) “Western Foreign Fighters: the threat to homeland and international security” (Rowman and Littlefield 2017), The Lesser Jihads: taking the Islamist fight to the world (Rowman and Littlefield 2017), An end to the ‘war on terrorism ’ and When religion kills: how extremist justify violence through faith (Lynne Rienner 2019). He regularly blogs and podcasts (An Intelligent Look at Terrorism – available on his Web site), and tweets (@borealissaves) on terrorism. He is an associate fellow at the International Centre for Counter Terrorism (ICCT) in the Netherlands, a digital fellow at the Montreal Institute for Genocide Studies at Concordia University, a member of the board at the National Capital Branch of the CIC (Canadian International Council) and an affiliate of the Canadian network for research on Terrorism Security and Society (TSAS). Mr. Gurski is a regular commentator on terrorism and radicalisation for a wide variety of Canadian and international media. He writes at www.borealisthreatandrisk.com.

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