Concerns are growing in India, with warnings that Muslim militants are plotting attacks against the Hindu-led state. According to recent reports, the US government warned India of possible militant attacks in the capital New Delhi and the restive regions of Jammu and Kashmir. The regions are amidst a phased election period, the latest round taking place on December 14. Moreover, the warnings from Washington come ahead of President Obama’s planned visit to New Delhi next month. On January 26, President Obama is PM Modi’s chief guest at Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi.
In this context, India has already bolstered security nationwide, particularly following a series of cross-border attacks earlier this month in Jammu and Kashmir. Those attacks, which Indian military officials say emanated from Pakistan, killed 13. But Washington’s latest warning was not isolated. Days earlier, the US told India of possible attacks. Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba was reportedly the focus of the report. This prompted Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi to discuss security measures taken in Delhi.
Also, on December 8, India went on alert after intelligence indicated that six members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) were in the process of conducting attacks, most likely in Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan states. Five of the militants suspects escaped from Khandwa Prison last year. Authorities suspect they were behind the recent bombings at the Chennai Railway station, Pune’s Dadguseth Temple, and at a Bijnore house. India is operating under the premise that the militants are acting on orders from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
The reported warnings from Washington underscore the continued threat of militancy in India. Overall, this threat stems from two primary elements, Islamists and communist Naxalites. Concerning the Islamist threat, Indian security forces are aware of possible attacks from several fronts. This includes Indian Islamists, jihadists in Pakistan, and transnational Islamists based in Southeast Asia. This is underscored by concerns of SIMI attacks, infiltrations into Jammu and Kashmir from Pakistan, along with Pakistani militants launching attacks in major India cities. The latter was evident from attacks in Mumbai in 2008.
The reports of pending attacks have received widespread attention in India. Now, there are increasing concerns that the country is facing a serious threat. Indian security forces have reportedly been operating under the assumption that Pakistan and Islamist militants seek to disrupt the ongoing elections in Jammu and Kashmir. Those elections, which have been highly publicized in the Indian press, are perceived as being a referendum on Indian rule. Pakistan claims the regions as its own. Security has been bolstered for the elections. In addition to attacking targets in the restive Jammu and Kashmir regions, India is likely wary of attempts to retaliate for the elections by launching attacks in major Indian urban centers. Additionally, it is possible that militants seek attacks ahead of or during President Obama’s planned visit to garner increased recognition, undermine India’s new Hindu nationalist government, and further exacerbate tensions between Pakistan and India. Bolstering the last goal, Pakistan-based militants may seek to relieve pressure on their forces in the northwest tribal areas of Pakistan by instigating conflict with India. The Pakistani military is now engaged in two major and sustained operations, Zarb-e-Azb and Khyber 1, against militants in the tribal regions.
As a result of the increased threat, especially ahead of President Obama’s planned visit to the capital, increased security measures are likely to be undertaken in major cities, particularly in New Delhi. This is in addition to the continuation of bolstered defenses along the India-Pakistan border. Cooperation between authorities in various states is likely to be enhanced, to track suspected militants and prevent their exit to other districts. Furthermore, major cities and New Delhi are liable to undergo more reviews of security procedures.