By Subhajit Chandra, New Delhi, Sept. 2 ANI | 29 days ago

Describing West Asia and the North African (WANA) region as turning into a "shatterbelt" , former foreign secretary and chairman of the National Security Advisory Board, Shyam Saran, expressed concern over the grave threat posed by The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which he said has rapidly acquired the attributes of a functioning state.


He said that he was visibly worried about the recent developments in the West Asia and North Africa (WANA), adding that it could have far reaching consequences for the global order, and in particular for the Indian subcontinent. Today, the WANA zone, which has served as a geopolitical and a geo-economic pivot, at least since the oil crisis of the early nineteen seventies, is beginning to look like a geopolitical "shatterbelt" instead.

Delivering the inaugural lecture on the theme of Changing Asia, initiated by the Society for Policy Studies in collaboration with the India Habitat Centre here yesterday evening, Saran said: "The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) which has already declared an Islamic Caliphate over one third of the territory of Iraq and one third of Syria that it controls, is not the typical non-state actor or jihadi movement. It is different in the sense that it has rapidly acquired the attributes of a functioning state, with a governing structure, revenue raising machinery and well-equipped armed forces."

He gave a shocking account of how the terrorist group was self-financing through various ways and means.

Saran said, "It has mobilized a thriving black economy, using the oil assets it has seized from both Iraq and Syria. It is estimated that it is able to raise two million US dollars a day from oil sales, supplemented by extortion, kidnapping for ransom and sale of antiques. It has, therefore, pioneered a form of what one analyst has called "self financed terrorism", which may be difficult to stall let alone eradicate."

The former foreign secretary further stressed, "The success of ISIL has attracted Muslim youth from across the world, including from India .The continuing spread of this virus in both Islamic countries and non-Islamic countries which have significant Muslim minorities, such as India, constitutes a new and unfamiliar challenge to which there are no easy answers."

Saran said that the Arab Spring added generated further political strains without delivering the liberal promise that the mass movements conjured up for the people.

He was critical of the United States and some of its Western and regional allies in the Gulf, in particular, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, who he said have been guilty of encouraging Sunni fundamentalism in order to isolate Shia Iran.

In the process, he said they have been complicit in destroying the only functioning secular states in the region like Syria. In other cases like Libya, intervening to bring about regime change with little thought to its consequences, has spawned violence and unrest far worse than any seen under Gaddhafi. Saran brought to light about US President Barrack Obama appears to have acknowledged this in a recent interview where he said that before intervening one should reflect on what may happen "the day after."

He further added that any conflict among or involving the three zones of concentration of Islamic countries, the WANA including the Gulf, the Central Asian region including the former Soviet republics and South East Asia Islamic states could disrupt critical sea lines of communication.

Saran however expressed hope that amidst the pall of gloom surrounding India's neighbourhood, the inclusiveness and vision of a plural society that lies at the heart of our Constitution and which celebrates the diversity of India will act as a powerful antidote to the virus of extremism.

(Posted on 02-09-2014)

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