By Shreyas Deshmukh
In August 2014 Ahrur-ul-Hind, a faction Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), became the first terrorist organization to join hands with the Islamic State (IS) in South Asia. This affiliation initiated a debate amongst concerned policy makers and analysts alike on what this alliance represented. The threat is not only if militants from the region are joining IS in the Middle East, as they are from other parts of the world, but also how IS will influence the politics of South Asia.
The past six months have been difficult for IS; it has failed so far to replicate its successes in Iraq and Syria. There are a number of reasons for this. The socio-political environment and the ideological characteristics of the extremist organizations that flourish in the South Asia region are different from that of the Middle East. However, Al Qaeda (AQ) has in the past been able to operate and expand successfully to many other theaters, and thus the differences alone do not minimize the future risks posed by IS to the region.
Then there is the alarm of if IS and affiliates will fight against AQ and associates in South Asia, as it has in the Middle East. Equally critical is to examine the chances of IS and AQ uniting at some point. Both these possibilities pose dangerous ramifications for the region.
How the political leadership of the region interprets the arrival of IS also provides clues on their likely response. From what can be gathered at this point, the assessment of the leadership of Afghanistan and Pakistan diverges, while India has been particularly cautious. In this connection, two significant variations are emerging: should the IS threat be considered in the context of South Asia alone, or as a broader trend impacting other adjacent regions as well.
Both Afghanistan and India see the IS threat as a broader trend, while Pakistan wants to confine it with in the local and regional underpinnings. The country is hesitant to take on another campaign against extremists when it is hardly done with the groups already nurturing in the region and as Saudi Arabia seeks its assistance.
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