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Introduction

To set the scene for understanding the current and continued political and religious conflict within India, this report begins with a brief historical overview of the impact upon India with which centuries of invading forces have shaped her current political, religious, and demographic landscape. The report will review political and geopolitical issues, primarily focusing on crime, political instability, and terrorism. India is forever young and playful and her people warm and engaging. India has an incredible history, a testament to which highlights the determination, resilience, and strength of character of her people.  India and her people have and still are underestimated with regards to their professional competencies, ingenuity, and personal and professional development.

A brief history

The British Empire (British Raj) ruled over the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947 (replacing the East India Company, EIC between 1600 – 1858). The Indian rebellion in May 1857 was the first large scale rebellion against the EIC rule. Indian soldiers under the EIC had suffered years of personal and professional discrimination; poor pay and pensions and were often treated with contempt as lower-class citizens by the EIC and their British counterparts.  However, the emergence and transformation of an independent Indian Army became one of the most important and well-respected allies to the British crown. Over one million Indian soldiers fought alongside the British during World War I on every front and by the end of World War II, the Indian army formed the largest force of volunteers in history amounting to over 2.5 million men who fought alongside their allies.

Following the second world war, Britain could no longer afford to administer the region and wanted a quick exit back to her own shores. British India gained her independence in August of 1947 but was left with a great thorn in her side – ever present and embedded deeply ‘til this day. British barrister Sir Cyril Radcliffe was tasked with partitioning the Indian subcontinent to cater for religious affiliations of the indigenous peoples. Muhammad Ali Jinnah was the leader of the All-India Muslim League (known as Muslim League) in India between 1913 – 1947 until the inception of Pakistan where he ruled as governor-general there until he died. Muslim League politics in the Indian subcontinent felt that Hindu’s and Muslims were two different nations with different belief systems and therefore could not remain living in the same region. It is argued Jinnah’s politics were the brainchild behind the partition of the Indian Subcontinent. The creation of two independent nations was born – India, with a majority nation of Hindu and Sikh’s, and Pakistan (West and East Pakistan – now Bangladesh) with a majority Muslim nation.

The greatest migration in human history had begun almost instantly following the partition, millions of Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians living in Pakistan set out to migrate to India, and Muslims living in India set out to migrate to Pakistan. Thousands of people from both regions never made it to their destination. Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus who had lived alongside each other for decades – albeit politically strained, had suddenly turned on each other. Sectarian violence was widespread but was most intense along India’s borders with West and East Pakistan in the Punjab and Bengal regions. Thousands lost their lives in the massacres. Many suffered forced conversions, mass abductions and barbaric violent sexual assault committed against nearly 80,000 women and girls who were either kept as slaves or brutally killed. 

Prior to the British Empire

The Moghuls, a powerful Muslim family descended from Afghanistan conquered most of south Asia during the 16th Century. The Moghul’s ruled India between 1526 – 1858. India’s population during that time predominantly practiced Hinduism with a large minority community of Buddhists. The Moghuls spread the religion of Islam throughout South Asia and were purportedly seeking a unified rule of coexistence. India, according to history, flourished for a time under their rule. Shah Jahan, the fifth ruling emperor in India, lost his wife in childbirth of their 14th son. He commissioned the Taj Mahal in honour of his wife Mumtaz Mahal in 1631 which took 22 years to complete. Prior to the Moghul family takeover, India’s strength waned, her cities and villages plundered, and natural resources ravaged by invading Turkish Muslim Timur during the latter half of the 13th century. When he was done, he left her with disease and starvation, leaving her vulnerable to further conquest. During the early 17th Century, India was raided again by the Persian’s leaving her vulnerable once again.

The last Moghul Emperor, Bahadur Shah II in India was toppled in 1858 by the British Raj who replaced him. Prior to centuries of invading foreign entities, the region of the Punjab was heavily populated by Hindu’s and Buddhists. Arab General Muhammad Bin Qasim conquered Sindh in 712AD. Scholarly discourse about the way with which the indigenous populations were treated in terms of class is disputed. Some argue the powerful Moghuls and other Islamic invaders decimated the region and treated the locals as slaves, creating famine and pestilence, and forced conversions suffered by the lower classes. Others cite the Indian Subcontinent was already in a state of poverty, depression and disease following previous invasions.

Several different religious (and political) doctrines were introduced in the Indian subcontinent throughout her occupation over the centuries by different countries, including Christianity and Islam. India’s Kashmiri peoples were predominantly Hindu. Today, 68.31 percent of the total population of Jammu and Kashmir are Muslims, the demographics of which have shifted through forced conversions in medieval times. There is a large minority of Hindu’s throughout the Eastern region of Jammu making up 28.44 percent of the population.

Scholarly discourse surrounding who invaded India in the beginning is conflicting. It is argued the Aryans first infiltrated India in 1500BC. Among the first written and spoken language was Sanskrit – a language still spoken in India today. The Greeks had also invaded India on more than one occasion (Alexander the Great) between 327BC and 325BC and the Hellenistic era in India was ruled by the Indo-Greeks in the North and Northwest of India between 180BC – 10AD.

The Britain-India relationship however, developed throughout the years to one of mutual respect and over two world wars, relations were galvanised, and Britain and India became close allies. Throughout the second world war, the British Indian Army as were known at that time, became the largest volunteer army in the history of the world amounting to more than 2.5m men by mid nineteen forty-five. India’s contribution to World WW1 saw over 1.3m servicemen. Many Kashmiris, at the end of WW2 who were stationed in the UK, remained in the UK. Thousands more emigrated to the UK over the years throughout India’s conflict. Many emigrated to London (East and West), Bristol, Manchester, and Nottingham. Today, according to the 2021 Census, 1,864,318 people in England and Wales were recorded as having Indian ethnicity, accounting for 3.1% of the UK’s population.

Political overview

Territorial conflict between India and Pakistan (and China) over Kashmir continues to divide the peoples. As well as the wars between India and Pakistan in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999, skirmishes, othering infiltration, and terroristic mischief continue to plague India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. India’s decision in 2019 to unilaterally rescind the special autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, introducing the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, further strained relations between India and Pakistan. The act of the parliament of India contains provisions to reconstitute the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Indian-administered union territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. China’s claim to the Aksai Chin and the Shaksgam Valley regions of Kashmir between their adjoining borders has a long history of territorial dispute between China and India and political infiltration through poor decision-making of the Pakistan government brought about at a time of vulnerability.

During May of this year, civil unrest in the state capital of Imphal, Manipur region, saw over 35,000 people displaced and several people lost their lives during the conflict between the hill tribal groups (Kuki and Naga) who clashed with the ethnic majority Meitei over economic benefits and quotas pertaining to employment and education.

Terrorism

Pakistan (with growing insurgencies in India) is suffering pervasive terrorist activity, of which of the many groups, the most destructive terror groups include the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – based in South Waziristan and currently led by Noor Wali Mehsud (also known as Amir Abu Mansoor Asim), the ethnic Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and ISIS (Islamic State of Khorasan Province) (ISKP). The TTP in their January 2023 statement consisting of threats disguised as political dialogue, inferred their intention to eliminate Pakistan’s current president Shehbaz Sharif (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) (PML-N) and foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. Most recently, the TTP, on the 2nd of July 2023 attacked a police outpost at a highway checkpoint in the Zhob district. Four officers including a high-ranking paramilitary official were killed. Just one of dozens of attacks killing hundreds of civilians and security personnel. The TTP aim to emulate the takeover of Afghanistan, but in Pakistan.

The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) have been active since the 1940’s but officially ‘founded’ in the 1970’s. Last year, party leader Mohammed Yasin Malik, was arrested and charged with terroristic activity including the illegal financing of terrorism in an Indian court under their terrorist law’s. The party’s current charman Farooq Siddiqui currently acts as leader. The JKLF purports to advocate independence for Kashmir from both India and Pakistan. The party is popular, continues to grow, has sects in both India and Pakistan administered regions, a large party in the UK and a following worldwide in other regions, but like most political parties, agenda within the ranks are conflicted. The JKLF has an active social media presence with a large and growing community amounting in their thousands.

The Taliban in Afghanistan have a following of almost thirty-five thousand – on just one of their social media channels. Women’s rights (and lives) in Afghanistan are being suffocated, controlled, and violated. Women are banned from travel (unless chaperoned and agreed upon by the Taliban), child marriage is back and prolific with girls as young as ten and women are losing their lives and freedoms protesting the violation of their civil liberties. Of the several more militant groups, the Tehrik-ul-Mujahideen (TuM) is yet another. Their objectives are to unify Kashmir and Jammu with Pakistan and implement a pan-Islamic identity.

The Militant group, the Kuki National Army (KNA) are an armed wing of the Kuki National Organisation (KNO) – are an active insurgent group in Northeast India and Northwest Myanmar. The Kuki people form one of many hill tribes within India and Bangladesh – within the states of Manipur, Nagaland, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura. Their main objective is to unify these areas under one administrative unit called ‘Zalengam’. Other Kuki groups include the Kuki National Front (KNF). Terrorist activity perpetrated by the KNF include targeted attacks on the Indian government, infrastructure, and businesses.

The illegal arms trade (including manufacturing of arms in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh) is pervasive throughout India and Pakistan further fuelling and facilitating armed conflict in the region. Between 2022 – 2023 alone, police shut down several black-market gun factories in Purnia, Rohtas, Banka, Saran, Gopalganj and Patna. More recently in June 2023, near the Kartahan Jagdishpur village in the Vaishali district of Bihar, a “respected” member of the community was engaged in gun production. The police continue to disrupt the illegal manufacturing of firearms, however, the lines are blurred between licenced but corrupt manufactures and the black-market firearms trade. War is exploited by many and where there is demand, there will be an abundance of supply.

Meanwhile, The People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) are a separatist group fighting for a separate independent socialist state of Manipur. The PLGA and Hindu extremists (who fight for a Hindu only nation in India) have persecuted their Muslim community for years – upscaling their propensity for violence and harassment since Modi’s ascension as Prime Minister in 2014. Human Rights Watch reports: “Authorities in India have adopted laws and policies that systematically discriminate against Muslims and stigmatise critics of the government. Prejudices embedded in the government of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have infiltrated independent institutions, such as the police and the courts, empowering nationalist groups to threaten, harass, and attack religious minorities with impunity”. India is home to over 200m Muslims but who are a minority in a predominantly Hindu country. Anti-Muslim sentiment is palpable.

The terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) continues to use violence throughout the Indian administered territory of Jammu and Kashmir with its purported goal of placing Jammu and Kashmir under the control of Pakistan. The Indian government still hunt its leader Maulana Masood Azhar, who was released from an Indian prison in 1999 in exchange for 155 hostages hijacked by terrorists on an Indian airliner. Asghar Abdul Rauf Asghar (Azhar’s brother) has stepped into leadership due to the purported ill health of Azhar, although Asghar reports to Azhar. Azhar formed the group with the support of the Afghan Taliban along with OBL in 2000. JeM is strongly affiliated with Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Al-Qaida and the Taliban throughout Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The JeM in February of 2019 killed 40 police officers on the Jammu Srinagar National Highway – a suicide attack using a vehicle borne improvised explosive device. In August of that year, they kidnapped and killed two members of the Gujjar community they had abducted from a temporary shelter. Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, on the 26th of November 2008 launched a deadly and complex attack lasting over 60 hours against India’s commercial capital, Mumbai.

Using ten gunmen, they targeted one of India’s busiest railway stations, two luxury hotels, a café, and a Jewish community centre. Over 166 people lost their lives and 300 more were injured. The Global Terrorism Index in 2020 listed Lashkar-e-Tayyiba as one of the most active extremist groups in Pakistan. Their goals and objectives include control over Jammu and Kashmir for Pakistan and to implement a radical form of the caliphate but not just in Pakistan, the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba intentions are to invade, subjugate and control the whole of India implementing their radical version of the caliphate. During 2022 and 2023, twenty-three individuals were designated as terrorists under India’s law – Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. These individuals are [redacted].

Maritime Terrorism

India’s rivers and waterways have a much darker element of exploitation – that of terroristic and criminal activity. Lashkar-e-Tayyiba infiltrated the city of Mumbai via the sea. In 2018, intelligence sources learned both Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed had been training to execute another strike on Indian ports, cargo ships and oil tankers. These sources reported militant groups had been training volunteers using small waterways and canals in Lahore and Faisalabad for “Samundari Jihad”, to deploy trained Jihadi divers to target Indian or coastal assets.

Maritime terrorism in India (and worldwide) is not a new phenomenon. Maritime security, however, has slowly developed better strategies to counter crime and terroristic activities on the open ocean and waterways of the world. Maritime security is faced with a monumental task policing the high seas and the waterways, less-known rivers and water alleys used by terrorists and organised crime groups to conduct their illicit activities and infiltrate regions of the world. India has eight major rivers in addition to over 400 rivers. Each with their own winding lakes, canals, and alleys. It is an impossible task to police all ports and all entrance/egress of these waterways simultaneously and consistently at present.

Between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, the Strait of Malacca is a major shipping lane into and out of Asia connecting three of Asia’s biggest economies, India, China and Japan. Moreover, the route services Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan, and South Korea. It is one of the most important shipping routes in the world. In 2017, the US Information Administration recorded handling of trade of more than 50,000 vessels per year. Nearly 61% of global petroleum production moving on maritime routes travel through the second-largest oil checkpoint in the world – the Strait of Malacca.

Of the vast routes used by terrorists, cartels, organised crime groups and human traffickers and smugglers, is the Bay of Bengal. Drugs, contraband, and people are trafficked via the Strait of Malacca – the Bay of Bengal and through the Andaman Sea. Available data on seizures and major trafficking cases reported in 2020 from countries in East and Southeast Asia point to “continuous large-scale manufacturing of methamphetamine in Shan state, Myanmar, situated in the three-country border area known as the Golden Triangle” (Global SMART Programme, 2021).

Crime

Much like every other country, India has her problems with crime. India’s undergrowth has a fast-flowing undercurrent of human trafficking of women and girls both domestic and transnational to Gulf countries for the purposes of forced labour and sexual exploitation. Kolkata and Mumbai are major destinations for underage girls lured into sexual exploitation.  Men are trafficked into Bangladesh, Nepal, and other regions for the purposes of forced labour and India serves as a source, destination, and transit country of human trafficking. Similarly, India has a thriving illicit drugs market of opioids. Again, the source, destination, and transit country. Cannabis and opioid drug variants as well as crystal methamphetamine have a large transnational market.

Although India does not dominate the market on human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal, (at least, post 1994 when the law outlawed the practice) the dark practice has existed in some regions of India for several decades, as far back as the early eighties and likely before then – pre-exposure and then outlawed. India’s law is very clear and punishment severe on the illicit harvesting of organs for profit. However, the black market for human trafficking for the purposes of organ harvesting is still prevalent. Most victims of this crime are young vulnerable men and women lured into undergoing the procedure with promises of financial assistance, lies about the type and severity of the procedure they would be undergoing and often, many victims would be lured to this fate under false pretences of employment opportunities.

During 2003, police uncovered a large-scale organ trafficking operation in the Punjab state of India. Several arrests were made including donors, traffickers, recipients, and high-profile doctors operating in surrounding hospitals including the Kakkar Hospital. The Indian police believe over £19M exchanged hands between 1997 – 2002. In January of this year, police rescued a fourteen-year-old boy from the hands of an organ trafficking ring in Pakistan. Several arrests were made. The boy was lured on false pretences of lucrative employment opportunities. Kidneys are the highest organ sort after, and the boy’s ‘recipient’ was a foreign national. Human trafficking for the purposes of organ harvesting happens worldwide. According to statistics, the Middle East, North America, and China are most pervasive in this practice. In India, is source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking for the purposes of organ harvesting.

Indo-Afghanistan relations

India’s most recent strategic negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan serve as an attempt to secure peaceful relations. Although India’s largest export partners are the US, UAE and the Netherlands, India’s import/export with Afghanistan is significant. Last year, India entered diplomatic talks in Kabul with the Taliban for the first time since their takeover. Indian companies can export heavy machineries, textile, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and fertilizers, while Afghanistan offers coal, precious and semi-precious stones, gems, copper, and rare earth minerals. The relationship between India and Afghanistan is an important one, not only in terms of business and trade but of reach. The Durand Line by land, forms the Afghanistan-Pakistan-India border. Conflict with the Taliban would result in significantly reduced trade and freedom of movement – to begin with. Nonetheless, India’s relationship with Afghanistan may ruffle the feathers of some extremist groups in Pakistan and their own indigenous population who may feel vulnerable anticipating a possible Taliban takeover.

Summary

Evidence suggests that India will continue to experience terrorist activity and is vulnerable to escalating insurgency arising from within Pakistan and spilling into her borders from both land and sea. Of the many extremist groups, although currently less imposing than some – Tehrik-e Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed form a significant threat to India. Lashkar-e-Tayyiba’s and the TTP have strong links with the Afghanistan Taliban and these groups are inter-linked. Moreover, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba’s main goal as discussed, is to implement an extreme form of the Caliphate throughout Asia.

India’s infrastructure is at risk. Both the Taliban and ISIS’ modus operandi include attacks on infrastructure, particularly utilities, government, and businesses. If lessons are to be learned from the takeover of Afghanistan, the Taliban operate an insidious, brutal, and swift unexpected takedown of their target. They form small cells, embed themselves within communities, build infrastructure from criminal proceeds including drugs, human trafficking, prostitution, and seemingly legitimate businesses used for money laundering. Cracking down on crime in India will significantly disrupt terroristic activity.

Once their numbers become significant, the small cells amalgamate to become a significantly numbered militia army. Both ISIS and the Taliban modus operandi include kidnap, show of strength using brutality and suicide attacks. ISIS is particularly brutal in maximising casualties with their tactical use of weaponry. ISIS and the Taliban have differing ideas about what an Islamic state should look like and compete and brutalise each other for power.

In terms of arms, both Pakistan and India are a significant source of firearms. China, accounts for 77% of the arms supplies to Pakistan. Ukraine supplied $1.6B of weapons to Pakistan up until 2020, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The arms relationship between Pakistan-Ukraine goes back over three decades. Between 2015 – 2018 Moscow supplied Pakistan with four Mi-35 attack helicopters and anti-tank systems, air defence weapons and small arms.

The next wave of terror attacks will target infrastructure via ports, bays and assets on the ocean, canal’s and waterways of which terrorist groups call – Water Jihad. Impacting trade, travel, tourism, water flow and scarcity, agriculture, fuel resources and waterborne assets.

Crime and Terrorism: India