October 21, 2014 / 12:22 PM / 5 years ago

India says Islamic State not yet a threat

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The Islamic State and al Qaeda do not yet pose a threat to India, the national security adviser said on Tuesday, despite attempts by the ultra-radical groups to enlist support from among India’s huge Muslim population.

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, June 23, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

Flags of the Islamic State have appeared in Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim majority state, setting off concern that the insurgent group is drawing support in a region where Indian forces are trying to end a 25-year revolt.

An announcement by al Qaeda in September that it had set up a South Asia branch further added to fears that global jihadi groups were turning their attention to the country, as foreign forces in nearby Afghanistan leave.

A.K. Doval, a former head of the Intelligence Bureau and a specialist in covert operations, said the government was watching the two groups closely.

“I don’t think there are threats of magnitude from either one of them which we are not in a position to cope with,” he told a security conference.

India has long faced militant attacks but these are mostly Pakistan-based groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba which was blamed for orchestrating the 2008 assault on Mumbai.

The Indian Mujahideen group has also emerged in recent years with its home-grown fighters carrying out low-level bomb blasts in towns across India.

But India’s 160 million Muslim population Muslim has largely stayed away from waging holy wars in foreign battlefields which Indian security officials say underlines the strength of the country’s democracy where people don’t have to turn to guns to fight for their rights.

Doval said the government would be watching closely signs of foreign groups trying to tie up with Indian militant organisations.

“But we have to watch it very, very closely in case any of these relationships develop and in case they start targeting India or interests of India, we will have to take a very serious view.”

Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Nick Macfie

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