Sunday 26 May 2019, 08:46 PM
The Fundamentalist Challenge
By IANS | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 4/13/2011 12:00:00 AM

The growing collaboration between pirates of Somalia and the fundamentalists and their surrogates in the western Indian Ocean pose a threat not only to the commercial Sea Lanes but also to the Islands in this region which have sizeable prospects as recruiting base for al-Qaeda and its associates operating from Pakistan. Hijacking ships are no longer just isolated incidents in the vicinity of the Lakshadweep Islands, where several acts of piracy and attempts to influence the local population by fundamentalist groups have been witnessed for quite some time. In early December, the Indian Navy apprehended a dhow with foreigners including 15 Pakistani nationals off Bitra Islands in the Lakshadweep archipelago.1

The vulnerability of the Indian coastal areas and Islands to the activities of AL-Qaeda became apparent following the Mumbai attack in November 2008 and now it is well known that the Lashkar-e-Tyabba (LeT) has been making forays to establish bases here as a convenient springboard for furthering their influence and launching attacks on the Indian mainland. The increasing infiltration of fundamentalist forces has added a new dangerous dimension to the threat to the entire western ocean region. The area of al-Qaeda’s expansion in the Minicoy Island in close vicinity of the Maldives is causing concern to the Indian security establishment.

The strategic importance and location of the Lakshadweep Islands, situated about 200-400 km away from the state of Kerala in the western Indian Ocean is apparent, the archipelago comprises 36 islands with a total area of only 32 sq. km. and these islands cover almost 20,000 sq. km. of India’s territorial waters, approximately 400,000 sq. km. of EEZ. Of the 36 islands only ten are inhabited. According to the 2001 census, Lakshadweep has a population of 60,000 persons, 93 per cent of whom are indigenous, a majority of Sunni Muslims, prone to Wahabi influences. In the Lakshadweep archipelago out of 36 islands only ten are inhabited, it provides ample space for establishment of hidden bases of the terrorist groups. Proximity of Lakshadweep to Sri Lanka and Maldives, and busy shipping lanes, wide geographical spread, and a predominantly Muslim population all make the archipelago attractive to al-Qaeda and Pakistan based terrorist groups.2

The fact that these islands could be used as safe havens or platforms for launching attacks by non-state actors cannot be denied. Somali pirates are gradually expanding their area of operations from the Somali coast to the coasts of Mauritius, Seychelles and Maldives and the incessant efforts of jihadis to establish bases in the island nations of the Indian Ocean can aggravated the danger of fundamentalists expansion in this region situation. (Contd...part-2&3)

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The Fundamentalist Challenge

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