South Asia and Beyond

‘Hamas Not Direct Threat To India But Is Linked To Lashkar-e-Toiba’

NEW DELHI: “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is an adage which has held true for decades, thwarting efforts to build a consensus on fighting terrorism, says Ramanathan Kumar, former Special Secretary, R&AW. In an interview recorded the day after Israel designated the Lashkar-e-Toiba as a terrorist entity (now playing on YouTube), StratNews Global asked the question whether the pressure was now on India to declare Hamas a terrorist entity.

As Kumar pointed out, designating a group as a terrorist is an intensely political effort. In the case of Hamas, the United Nations Security Council, for whatever reason, has not designated Hamas as a terror group. This helps India as it has generally followed what the UN does in these cases. So, until the UN officially designates Hamas, India is likely to keep quiet.

Not that intelligence and anti-terrorism agencies in India do not know what Hamas is all about, Kumar said. They have no doubt it is knee-deep in terror activities supported by the Iranian state, but Hamas is not known to have ever targeted India or for that matter referred to India in public statements.

But it is still culpable as Hamas and the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba were born within scant years of each other, Kumar pointed out. They see the Markaz-Dawa-Wal-Irshad as their parent body and at one point, Hamas and the Lashkar even shared a website!

Kumar believes on the basis of his long experience in intelligence, whether it is Hamas or the Lashkar, they all maintain ties, communicate and share ideas. They are even likely to help each other materially, in terms of weapons and also in terms of tactics, although that is difficult to detect.

While India and Israel do share intelligence, the latter does not have much of a handle on Pakistan-based groups like the Lashkar or for that matter the Hizbul Mujahideen and others. India too does not have Hamas directly on its radar and any queries in that direction will be forwarded to the Israelis.

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This again underscores the point made earlier, that intelligence agencies tend to focus on threats to their national security and these threats tend to be in the neighbourhood or even inside national borders. Hamas (also Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad) poses a direct existential threat to Israel, so the latter’s focus on them.

India has the luxury of not having to deal with Hamas but the Lashkar and other groups holed up in Pakistan are engaged in terrorism in India. Yet India has not used the kind of kinetic force against them and the state of Pakistan that Israel uses, Kumar said.

This may well be due to lack of capacity and even lack of political intent. But whether the use of such force has made Israel safer is the question to ask. And the answer is out there for all to see.

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