Jamaat ul-Ahrar (JuA), the Pakistan-based group responsible for the Wagah attack (see today’s Pakistan Report), has warned that it could strike inside India. Similarly, al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent (AQIS), which was launched in September in part to increase militants’ focus on India, has released a message criticising Delhi’s control of J&K and the behaviour of Indian security forces in the State.
Neither JuA nor AQIS has demonstrated any capabilities inside India, although they have both carried out attacks inside Pakistan. The Indian Mujahideen (IM) is the most active domestic militant group and has sought to engage with jihadists in the Middle East but there is little evidence of it currently having links to Pakistani groups. Moreover, the Indian authorities have been effective in disrupting and reducing IM activities in recent years. Also, AQIS’s statement made clear that it currently remains focused on targeting US-linked interests ahead of the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan. This means that it will take some time for Pakistan-based groups like JuA and AQIS to build ties and develop capabilities inside India......
That said, there is a pool of potential volunteers in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), where many local Muslims already had longstanding grievances against Delhi. They will also have been further angered by increased security measures ahead of State elections there (due to conclude on 20 December) and after the Army shot dead two unarmed youths near Srinagar on 4 November. The risk of a jihadist attack is therefore greatest in J&K, where the polls will be an immediate target for low-level militancy. However, it will still likely take some months for Pakistan-based militants to build more significant capabilities there.
In the longer term, however, jihadists will exploit Muslim anger at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s Hindu nationalist policies to win support for their agenda reinforcing their chances of winning over Indian recruits. In addition, there is a limited but ongoing threat that militant sympathisers might seek to strike American interests in retaliation for the US-led air campaign against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
Finally, attacks by Maoist rebels have begun to increase in recent weeks as the monsoon recedes, increasing their freedom of movement in the rural areas where they chiefly operate. Incidents have so far been largely confined to Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh and are unlikely to spread to urban centres, reducing the risk of business travellers being affected, although the rebels do target the rail network and have kidnapped foreigners visiting remote areas. The security forces and local pro-Government militias will remain their principal targets although officials and locations linked to the Jharkhand polls may also be hit over the coming weeks.