April 22, 2021
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Looming threat
India may join US-led operation against ISIS

After the visit of Indian Prime Minister to US and subsequent talks about regional issues, India is now considering options to join US-led coalition to fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq as the situation is threatening peace in the whole region.

STRATEGIC AFFAIRS learns that India is looking for a small role in the fight against ISIS which has already threatened to attack India and designated two Yemeni and four Pakistani nationals to look after its interests in South Asia and carry out attacks in India.

Indeed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a detailed talk with US leaders including President Barack Obama who persuaded the former to play more active role in Asia and at a global stage if it wishes to emerge as a meaningful player.

On the other hand, Western intelligence agencies have shared a broad report in which it has been learnt that 14 countries are on the hit list of ISIS and the situation may go out of control if the outfit is able to consolidate before March next year.

Now, India may play some role in providing logistics to coalition forces who are fighting in Syria and Iraq which could be similar to what Japan often does when it joins coalition forces in a battle zone expressing its solidarity for peace.

But experts said that India may have to play a little more role as the West may expect more vigorous involvement of a prominent Asian country which has a bigger credibility to deal with such a sensitive situation where it needs a broader engagement with a large number of nations.

Another area where the West is asking India to contribute is carrying out reconnaissance and surveillance missions on both Iraq and Syria as it will help active coalition partners to focus on other issues involving combat.

The idea is to engage ISIS fighters in day and night battle so that they will have to disperse and lose their combat strength and that might help Iraqi forces to carry out ground offensive to corner them in a direct fight.

The ISIS is now consolidating for a bigger and sustained combat role in the region and the outfit is currently in negotiation with other Islamic outfits who can share their resources with the ISIS so that they can enhance their strength.

But the US-led coalition is not in a better position to take on ISIS in a direct battle which needs a huge number of logistics and surveillance missions to be flown to first identify the enemy positions and possible hide outs.

The US wants India to play more meaningful role in global stage so that New Delhi and Washington can have a true strategic partnership as both share similar values and outlook towards global peace and regional issues.

But India has been reluctant in the past for such a major role which involves combat and large scale military operations.

Since India is trying to look for a credible role at global stage, it has less options to deny for any involvement in regional flare ups.

In the past, the US and the West were also unhappy over India’s noncommittal attitude in sensitive issues which can affect Indian interests as well.

Thus, India is also thinking allowing foreign coalition fighters to refuel from India and access Indian bases when they come to the region to carry out military actions against ISIS formations.

The UK is already looking for such an access and it is experimenting with the idea whether it is convenient to operate from India in case of a lengthy military operations against ISIS.

Over all, India will have to play some bigger role this time in West Asia as it can affect India’s interests more directly.

One example was when its citizens were caught between Iraqi forces and ISIS fighters who were fighting street battles to control select strategically important villages, cities and Syrian border towns to assert their positions.