Jeevan Vipinachandran: Counterterrorism key area for India-UK co-operation

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the UK in November this year, Counterterrorism will be one of the most important points on the agenda, says Jeevan Vipinachandran. Jeevan graduated from the London School of Economics with a Masters in Comparative Politics: Conflict Studies, specialising in terrorism and political violence. Regular tweets can be found @jeevanvc.


On 12 November 2015, India’s charismatic and compelling Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, lands in the UK to begin an exciting programme of engagements that will end with a public speech in front of a crowd of about 80,000 at Wembley Stadium. His rise to power — from humble beginnings to awe-inspiring leadership of the second most populous country in the world — is a truly heart-warming tale that epitomises the Conservative values of hard work, ambition and determination. With his passion for change, and his determination to take India truly into the 21st century, Mr Modi is the ideal strategic partner for an equally dynamic British Conservative government. Great Britain and India have much in common in our values and opportunities, and just as importantly, the common threats that need to be addressed. The upcoming state visit is a great opportunity to develop a potent joint counter-terrorism focus that can tackle a wide range of threats, from IS in the Middle East to al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

Defence and security have always been a strong area of focus for both our great nations, with the UK long being a reliable arms supplier to India. As recently as last year, Chancellor Osborne was able to sell British made missiles to India, thus highlighting the numerous opportunities of the burgeoning Indian defence market. This is supplemented by a common emphasis on counter-terrorism and insurgency which is increasingly being realised in joint exercises between the two powers. The Indian experience in Kashmir and its North-Eastern states can be pooled with British learning from the Middle East to develop a comprehensive and rigorous counterinsurgency paradigm. The most likely outcome of ongoing military action against groups such as the so-called Islamic State will be that the group will melt back into the background as an insurgency. The UK can draw on Indian experience to combat this nascent and steadily growing threat to our security. It is notable that India has faced many insurgencies and managed to tame nearly all of them — an impressive record.

India under Narendra Modi has also begun to engage with the Middle East in a substantial way, establishing a greater Indian diplomatic footprint from Israel to Iran and the Gulf states. Having a resurgent India on board would be a very welcome boost to Britain and the West as they continue to grapple with the ongoing fallout from continued instability in the Middle East. The issue of terrorism emanating from Afghanistan and Pakistan has receded somewhat in the face of sustained military pressure from NATO, and the slow but steady development of the Afghan security forces is encouraging. Nonetheless the fact remains that the region will continue to be destabilised by a continually active Taliban, backed by elements of the Pakistani Army. Furthermore, al-Qaeda is down — but not out. Its leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, continues to propagate and recruit from the region, most likely a base in Pakistan. India and the UK have much to gain from co-operating on eliminating the threat posed by al-Qaeda once and for all, through sustained intelligence-led co-operation and action in Central Asia and Afghanistan.  This kind of intelligence-led counter-terrorist co-operation will go a long way toward strengthening the security of both our nations — as liberal democracies both India and the UK are targets of the jihadi worldview which feeds the vision of groups such as the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the so-called IS.

Indian competence and knowledge in this field is also considerable. Mr Modi’s National Security Advisor, Mr Ajit Doval, is widely praised as the Indian James Bond — an apt description indeed.  A real life action figure with extensive personal experience of going undercover among Islamist and separatist extremist groups, Mr Doval combines considerable intelligence experience with strong police skills. His wealth of experience and no-nonsense approach to terrorism is a demonstration of the layers of experience and capability that are coming to the fore as the Indian giant awakes under Modi. Sharing concepts and ideas with Mr Doval and his team will certainly be very beneficial for the British security establishment in further sharpening our own counter-terror norms, as well as developing stronger human intelligence-led foothold in the South and Central Asian region, which will better enable the UK to combat terrorism emanating from there.

As Prime Minister, David Cameron has superior oversight of the scale of the threat to the UK. He may also realise that in addition to the positive global norms of trade and investment, there can be no greater strategic ally in the field of counter-terrorism and security than the Republic of India.  With its large and experienced military, competent counter-terror establishment and visionary Prime Minister, India presents Great Britain with a strong opportunity to develop and implement  a joint  comprehensive counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency paradigm spanning the most problematic areas of the world today.

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