From the Viewsroom

IS terror at India’s door

Venky Vembu | Updated on April 23, 2019 Published on April 23, 2019

The Sri Lanka blasts hold ominous portents for regional security

The serial blasts targeting churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, for which the Islamic State has claimed responsibility, mark a grim return of benighted terror to the island. The blasts, in which over 300 people have been killed, come barely a few years after the end of a three-decade-long civil war spawned by a bloody Tamil separatist campaign; over one lakh people were killed in that war, which also wrecked the island economy. For a few intermediate years, Sri Lanka enjoyed a ‘peace dividend’, but last Sunday’s attacks have brutally ended that. The horror hasn’t ended: more explosives have since been defused across the capital city, and the traumatised country is bracing for yet more terror, with intelligence reports suggesting that vehicular bombs are on the loose in Colombo.

Before the Islamic State went public with its claim, Sri Lanka authorities had blamed the National Thawheed Jamaat, a jihadi group with Wahabi influence and operating with international support. An intelligence alert warning of just such an attack had surfaced a few days earlier, which the authorities had fatally failed to heed. Indian security officials too had tipped off Colombo to the growing jihadi footprint in Sri Lanka, evidently with support from the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The IS-ISI-sponsored attacks hold ominous portents for regional security, particularly given India’s benighted record on this front. Motivated by a felt need to counter Sinhala chauvinism in Sri Lanka, Indian leaders, at the Centre and in Tamil Nadu, had earlier provided moral and material support to the armed Tamil separatist campaign in Sri Lanka, which eventually had disastrous consequences, culminating in former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination by the LTTE. Similar reports are now emerging of local support in Tamil Nadu for the Thawheed Jamaat, and the patronage that the group enjoys among both Central- and State-level leaders. As a victim of the horrors of cross-border terrorism, India has a particular responsibility to ensure that it does not become the breeding ground for jihadi mayhem in Sri Lanka.

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Published on April 23, 2019
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