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Dead or alive, Ilyas Kashmiri continues to haunt India

March 09, 2012 16:38 IST

Al Qaeda terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri's role in India would largely depend on how Pakistan's ISI plans to use him, say Intelligence Bureau sources. Vicky Nanjappa reports.

A couple of months ago there was confusion surrounding the death of the dreaded Al Qaeda-linked terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri. However, The Long War Journal quoting The Daily Times has reported that the 313 Brigade leader is very much alive and was spotted at a meeting of the Taliban in Pakistan.

It was claimed that Kashmiri was killed around 20 days after the death of Osama Bin Laden in a drone strike. However, the United States or Pakistan never confirmed this news, which led everyone to believe that it was a plan by the Brigade 313 leader's followers to lower the heat on the man.

From an Indian perspective, Indian agencies wish he were dead. Kashmiri staying alive is of no consequence to India because there is no way India would get access to him even if he was arrested. Kashmiri figures in the dossier sent to Pakistan and also in the chargesheet filed by the National Investigating Agency. The NIA names him in the chargesheet saying that he had helped 26/11 accused David Headley during his stint in India.

Kashmiri, being alive is not good news for India, as in the recent past he has shown an inclination to make India his primary target. Kashmiri had claimed earlier that the entire 26/11 plot was his baby, which was later hijacked by the Inter-Services Intelligence. Moreover, during David Headley's interrogation by Indian agencies, it was revealed how Kashmiri closely cooperated with Headley in the run up to the attack.

There was also information that Kashmiri had decided to hire a set of youngsters from India and train them to undertake ISI's pet venture known as the 'Karachi Project'. These developments show that since the past four years Kashmiri has shown a great deal of interest in India.

Kashmiri's relationship with the ISI has been a love-hate affair. Earlier he was a pawn of the ISI and had conducted himself according to their orders. However, he had a falling out when the ISI decided to pull him out of Afghanistan as they wanted him to fight in Kashmir. Kashmiri he fell out with the ISI and fought his battle on his own.

However, today there is a clear patch up and both Kashmiri and the ISI work hand in hand according to intelligence available in India. Kashmiri has shown clear signs of aggression towards India in the past couple of years. He does not speak of Kashmir alone, but has been thinking of targeting key cities in the country through a programme called as Ghazb-e-Hind.

In the past six months, however, there has not been much information about Kashmiri's motives. It has been a time for the Al Qaeda and the Taliban to regroup after the death of Osama bin Laden. However, Kashmiri's role in India would largely depend on how the ISI plans to use him.

The 313 Brigade although part of the Al Qaeda had an independent jurisdiction and most of the decisions were taken independently by Kashmiri himself.

However, there is a likelihood of Kashmiri being given a bigger role and made the head of the Al Qaeda. He is most likely to take up the role of operations chief of the Al Qaeda. If that were to happen, Kashmiri would have to continue to focus on the US in Afghanistan and also Pakistan, which would mean that his menace would not be a big worry for India per se.

If he is made head of the Al Qaeda he would be more involved in the affairs of the Taliban, which is structure-less today.

The Intelligence Bureau says that the ISI would surely be expecting a bigger role from Kashmiri. Groups such as the Al Qaeda, Taliban and also the Tehrik-e-Taliban are in doldrums today as they face a leadership crisis. Under such circumstances, Kashmiri looks like an ideal candidate. He possesses a lot of qualities which have been luring the youth from different parts of the world to take up arms.

India will keenly watch the developments regarding Kashmiri since a lot would depend on the way the ISI handles him.

Vicky Nanjappa in Bangalore