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From Kandahar To Kashmir – Al-Qaeda’s Hints At Shifting Terror Base To J&K, India

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In its latest edition of Nawai Afghan Jihad, the online publication of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), the terror outfit has outlined plans to rename the magazine as “Nawai Ghazwa-e-Hind” – a move as per experts points out to al-Qaeda’s decision to focus on India, especially Kashmir.

Ever since the “peace deal” between the United States and Taliban was signed, Indian security forces have warned the Indian establishment of an increase in the level of insurgency especially in the new Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

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On the backdrop of the US-Taliban deal of February 29, which was referred to as a “magnificent victory” by the al-Qaeda affiliate in the Indian subcontinent AQIS, an organization which has struggled to gain a foothold in the region, comes the plan of the organization to focus on Kashmir and India in a special edition of its magazine.

The latest edition of Nawai Afghan Jihad, the online publication AQIS, outlined plans to rename the magazine as “Nawai Ghazwa-e-Hind” – a move that experts said pointed to the terrorist group’s decision to focus on India, especially Kashmir. The formation of AQIS was announced by al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2014.

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The 135-page magazine also included an article titled “Kandahar to Doda: The season of hopes, purportedly written by a Kashmiri man named Mohammed Shakir Trali, that spoke of AQIS’ efforts to strengthen its presence in Kashmir and made tacit references to last year’s revocation of the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir.

In its latest issue, the magazine says it would rename itself as Nawai Ghazwa-e-Hind from the next edition and includes alleged “atrocities” in Kashmir and the killing of terrorists Zakir Musa, the founder of the Indian edition of al-Qaeda called Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind by Indian security forces in May 2019.

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The article has also claimed that in spite of the internet shutdown, imposed last August, AQIS leaders and cadres had overcome difficulties to regroup and mobilize and outlines the group’s efforts to propagate Islam in the subcontinent and wage jihad for “suppressed Muslims”. It also spoke of the need to retain the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan for the success of jihad in the subcontinent.

But why would al-Qaeda focus on Kashmir now and will the outfit gain foothold in Kashmir? The answer is not simple.

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An agreement between the US and Taliban means hundreds of jihadi mercenaries are jobless. This bunch of jobless Taliban mercenaries, controlled practically by Pakistan, may find their new destination in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India.

The reason behind Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind’s entry in Kashmir was because of Al-Qaeda global’s weakening and a theological difference of opinion among the militants over the larger rationale of their willingness to die for a cause.

Slain Al-Qaeda terrorist Zakir Musa who was formerly associated Hizbul Mujahideen was one of the disenchanted terrorists to raise his dissatisfaction with the goal of his former outfit. He questioned the motive behind fighting for the freedom to establish a secular state and refused to fight for such a cause.

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He also threatened to chop off the heads of the leading separatist politicians and hang them in the city square should they continue to call Kashmir a political struggle. Pakistan-based terror groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed often invoke the concept of Ghazwa-e-Hind, or holy war against India, that they claim is derived from the “hadith” or sayings of Prophet Mohammed. However, some Islamic scholars have disputed the interpretation.

But on July 27, 2017, al-Qaeda formally announced it was establishing an affiliate in Jammu and Kashmir called Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind headed by the 23-year-old former Kashmir commander of the pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen, Zakir Musa who was gunned down by Indian security forces in May 2019.

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In a press release issued then both in English and Urdu, titled “Statement No 1,” al-Qaeda said that “the jihad in Kashmir has entered a stage of awakening.” It said that the “Muslim nation of Kashmir” had committed to carry the flag of jihad to repel the aggression of tyrant Indian invaders and to liberate Kashmir with the aid of Allah only.  However, for almost all of its troubled existence, Jammu and Kashmir has never found takers for a pan-Islamist religious ideology.

But history has shown that turf wars are common everywhere and are no exception for terrorist groups who fight tooth and nail for a greater share of not just ideological space but also for territorial space. Al-Qaeda’s announcement was promptly rejected by the longstanding militant outfits in the state, like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and Hizbul Mujahideen who although espouse an Islamist outlook, are not global and were founded primarily to take on India in Kashmir – to liberate the state from India and merge it with Pakistan.

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It is here that the fault lines are deeper because barring Al-Qaeda all the three terror outfits thrive in large part because of the struggle between Pakistan and India over Kashmir. They have taken a position against al-Qaeda and the self-proclaimed Islamic State, accusing them of being takfiris, or of unjustly declaring fellow Muslims to be apostates in order to justify their slaughter.

In a statement in July, LeT’s Valley chief Mehmood Shah laid out these charges against al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. He said, “All they have done has just greatly affected the Muslims and brought upon them the injustice, brutality and oppression.”

For its part, Hizbul Mujahideen took an even harder line, saying al-Qaeda’s entry into Kashmir was “an Indian intelligence operation.”

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Analysts have questioned AQIS’ capabilities. “Al-Qaeda first mentioned India as a target in 1996, when Osama bin Laden made a reference to Jammu and Kashmir and Assam,” said Ajai Sahni of the Institute for Conflict Management. “Since then, it has not been able to achieve anything significant in both these states.”

In 2019 the Ministry of Home Affairs told Parliament that compared to infiltration in 2018, the number had come down by 43%, recruitment of local Kashmiris by terror groups is down by 40% and there is a hike in the number of terrorists killed by 22%.

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Pondering over the above facts it is unlikely that the Al-Qaeda affiliate will gain a foothold in Kashmir as there is nothing in common between the organisation and its nature of movement vis a vis Kashmir. But still, it will be important for security agencies in India to watch how the organization pans out.

Inputs from the Hindustan Times

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Chinese Ambassador ‘Honey-Trapped’ Nepal PM KP Sharma Oli – Indian Reports

On Thursday, displeased with Indian reports, Nepal government spokesman Yubaraj Khatiwada announced that some Indian media outlets made baseless and shameful allegations against PM Oli and  Kathmandu will take legal and political action against the Indian media.

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Nepal recently banned all India media channel except Doordarshan over what experts called ‘fictitious claims and concerted stories’ aimed to derail Nepal-China ties and see the ouster of PM KP Sharma Oli.

Instigated by China, Sri Lanka could end port deal with India?

The Indian media is taking a keen interest in the ongoing uprising within Nepal Communist Party against PM KP Sharma Oli. The way in which the entire matter has been covered in the Indian media, there is a massive outrage within the ruling communist part of Nepal.

A story was run on a Hindi news channel in India about China’s Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi and PM KP Sharma Oli hinting at ‘honey-trapping’ attempts by Beijing. Nepal’s government says that sensational claims that were made about a foreign diplomat and PM Oli has no connection with the reality.

On Thursday, displeased with Indian reports, Nepal government spokesman Yubaraj Khatiwada announced that some Indian media outlets made baseless and shameful allegations against PM Oli and  Kathmandu will take legal and political action against the Indian media.

He said, “The government has every right to take action against the Indian media who are trying to hurt Nepal’s image, national sovereignty and the dignity of Nepalis.” We have asked to stop such broadcasting. ”

The ruling party, PM Oli’s advisor and the Federation of Nepalese Journalists have also expressed concern about this. The Nepalese government said that its embassy in New Delhi has raised strong objections to unruly coverage in India’s print and electronic media.

Nepal’s Ambassador to New Delhi Nilambar Acharya told the Kathmandu Post that some media houses of India are determined to derail the Nepal-India ties. Acharya said that such report is sad and objectionable.

Surya Thapa, the press advisor to Prime Minister Oli, said that the PM himself has taken notice on this matter. Thapa also said that the cable operators will stop broadcasting the Indian news channel as their responsibility towards the country. Nepal TV Association has confirmed that some Indian news channels have been banned.

According to Article 9 of Nepal’s National Broadcasting Rules 1995, the government can ban such broadcasts which hurts the security, peace, dignity and morality of Nepal.

In this interview, the anchor asked Upendra Yadav – the former deputy prime minister of Nepal that PM Oli is being accused of being ‘Honey Trapped’. Do you agree with this? On this, Yadav said that this cannot be denied and it needs to be analyzed. However, later Upendra Yadav told Nepali media that his interview could have tampered.

However, questions were also raised in Nepal about why the Chinese ambassador is taking so much interest in Nepal’s domestic politics? According to Nepali media, this interview of Upendra Yadav was aired when the Chinese Ambassador was meeting several leaders of the ruling party and PM Oli.

The Kathmandu Post commented on this matter and wrote  –  Ever since Nepal updated its political map, new stories are being created in the Indian media about ties between PM Oli and China. Every day new propaganda appears in the Indian media. Journalists sitting in Delhi and Mumbai tell the date and time of Oli’s resignation. Some people have even started demanding his resignation. Oli has become a means of collecting TRPs for the Indian media. ”

Former Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal – Kamal Thapa tweeted a cartoon of Times of India and wrote – We have serious differences with PM Oil on many issues, including his conduct of international relations. But deliberate/sustained campaign of mudslinging against PM Oli by some Indian media cannot be acceptable. That doesn’t do Nepal-India relations any good.

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Instigated by China, Sri Lanka could end port deal with India?

Sri Lanka recently announced that Colombo will review the port agreement signed between India and Sri Lanka at an estimated cost of $700 million.

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Amid India’s growing tensions with China, Pakistan and Nepal, there are signs that ties with Sri Lanka could also turn sour as Beijing could instigate the island country to terminate a port deal with New Delhi. 

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa recently announced that Colombo will review the port agreement signed between India and Sri Lanka at an estimated cost between $500 to $700 million.

Experts see this move as an effort to distance itself with ‘QUAD’ nations, especially India, which is trying to counter China’s growing geopolitical influence. The “QUAD” nations include the U.S., India, Japan and Australia who currently have turbulent ties with China.

“We heard that there is a lot of pressure from India over this project. But we are not a province of India, we are a sovereign nation and we do not need to dance to their tunes,” said Shyamal Sumanarathna, secretary of the Ports, Commerce Industries and Progressive Workers Union. “Following our strike, the prime minister assured [us] that he will sort this issue out,” he added.

The previous government of Sri Lanka signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with India and Japan to develop the new East Container Terminal (ECT). According to the terms, Sri Lanka holds 51% stake while India and Japan share the remaining stake.

However, the Trade Unions fear that it will cede the ownership of the ECT to India. They are demanding a guarantee that the project will be fully owned by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority, a government entity. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has assured them that there is “no final agreement” yet.

“About two-thirds of Sri Lanka’s international cargo traffic is with India. There are opportunities for win-win cooperation among India, Sri Lanka and Japan in developing the ECT to promote prosperity in our maritime region,” stated a representative of the Indian High Commission in Colombo.

Rajapaksa has formed a five-member committee to review and report on the concerns over the project in 45 days and also to recommend steps ensuring the terminal delivers the maximum benefit for Sri Lanka.

However, it is important to note that Sri Lanka has turned to China several times for bailouts when the country went down on lockdown for two months amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

As reported earlier by EurAsian Times, Sri Lanka had relied heavily on China to construct $1.5 billion port in Hambantota in the country’s south. After the port was operating at a loss and couldn’t generate enough revenue to repay the loan to Beijing, the port was leased to China for 99 years in return for $1.1 billion which eased its position.

Beijing further granted $500 million to Colombo to fight the pandemic to help the looming financial crisis.

Sri Lanka has also requested various foreign governments including India for a postponement of repayment of the debt as the island nation is reeling under major economic crisis. “The matter has progressed and technical level discussions are presently underway,” Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava said.

Rohan Masakorala, a maritime shipping expert and CEO of the Shippers Academy Colombo disputed the trade union’s claim calling them “nationalistic” and politically motivated with views, not in line with the global business strategies.

“South Asia Gateway Terminal has been running for over 20 years with a number of international partners, and similarly the Colombo International Container Terminal has been operating for seven years with a Chinese company,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s government has also recently halted the Japan-funded Colombo Light Railway project and a $480 million Millennium Challenge Corporation grant from the U.S. Harin Fernando, a Member of the Parliament of Sri Lanka, accused the current administration of turning Sri Lanka into a “banana republic” under Chinese rule.

“In 2014, before we toppled the government, this is what we highlighted. But now we see [the Chinese] doing this much more strategically,” he said. He is also of the view that China now has a complete monopoly on Sri Lanka’s development projects and that Sri Lanka is “under debt” of China.

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India-China Tensions: India launches solar power plant to stop China imports

China is a major exporting nation of solar equipment to India. However, border clashes last month which resulted in the killing of 20 Indian troops have triggered a trade war between the two Asian giants.

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As tensions between India and China grow, Indian PM Narendra Modi on Friday launched a solar power plant with the aim to stop reliance on imports from neighbours – China and Pakistan

The 750-megawatt power plant in the central state of Madhya Pradesh is being dubbed as the largest in Asia by local media. The project is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 million tons each year.

“Several steps are being taken to increase domestic manufacturing and it has been decided that government’s departments and institutions will only buy domestically manufactured solar cells and modules,” said Modi, in the wake of recent border tensions with China.

China is a major exporting nation of solar equipment to India. However, border clashes last month which resulted in the killing of 20 Indian troops have triggered a trade war between the two Asian giants.

In the virtual launch of the Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Power Project, Modi highlighted that India’s progress in the field of solar energy will garner international interest.

“Hopefully very soon India will be a major exporter of power. The International Solar Alliance was launched with the motive to unite the entire world in terms of solar energy.” The project is a step toward India’s ambitious target of installing 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by the year 2022.

Cheena Kapoor

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