Al Qaeda Setting up New Cell in India

30 September 2014 |

The recent announcement from Al Qaeda that it is setting up a new cell, or wing, in India has worried security forces in India as well as governments around the world. Al Qaeda has been concerned, according to experts, that it is losing ground and prominence to extremist groups like ISIS. The new cell in India is designed to tell the world that the group is still powerful and relevant, particularly in Asia. But what does Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent really mean to the world and to foreigners traveling to India?

What is the Recent News from Al Qaeda in India?

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri recently released a video telling the world about the launch of a new cell in the Indian subcontinent. He said that the group would aim to return Islam “to the Indian subcontinent, which was part of the Muslim world before it was invaded.” In the video he mentions four Indian States as well as the countries of Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Why is Al Qaeda Setting up a New Center in India?

Experts believe that Al Qaeda wants to show people that it is still relevant in the South Asia region. Al Qaeda’s center of gravity has shifted in recent months to the Middle East and North Africa – Asia may have been seen as a weak spot for the group. Also, Al Qaeda has been losing support to operatives from ISIS and may want to boost its reputation in Asia in the face of this.

Does Al Qaeda in India Threaten Global Security?

Al Qaeda has attempted to increase its presence in India before but commentators believe that Al Qaeda will have limited success with a new cell in India at this time. While militant groups in India have links to Al Qaeda and may be able to be mobilized, the countries where Al Qaeda has built a strong following have been failed states, or countries where the stability has completely broken down (like Afghanistan and Pakistan.) India is not like this. India also has robust anti-terrorist plans and capabilities that could prevent groups like Al Qaeda gaining a strong following. Ultimately, it seems an Al Qaeda Indian franchise may be doomed to failure.

What Does the US Think about Al Qaeda’s Plans?

Many believe that the US is so concerned with the activities of  ISIS that Al Qaeda has largely fallen off its radar. However, this news from the group may serve to remind the US government that Al Qaeda is still around. Al Qaeda remains an organization that the US needs to watch, and one which threatens its citizens as well as civilians around the world.

Is It Safe To Travel To India?

There is no reason to change travel plans to Indian because of this announcement. The US Department of State issued a Worldwide Caution for terrorist activities, including in India, but this is not directly linked to Al Qaeda. In the caution it states that India has experienced terrorist activities that could affect foreigners and that terrorists have targeted places where tourists and foreigners visit, including hotels, train stations, cinemas, mosques, markets and restaurants. There is no travel advisory in place against travel to India, however, so it is safe to travel there providing visitors exercise sensible precautions.

How Can I Stay Safe During Travel to India?

Wherever you go, always make sure you take steps to keep yourself safe. Be aware of your surroundings and if something or someone makes you feel uncomfortable, get away from the area. Keep an eye on local news reports for any problems or demonstrations you should avoid – it is advisable to steer clear of large gatherings where trouble could start and where foreigners may be targeted by extremists (this advice is the same for many countries in the world). Register with your embassy before travel so they know where you are and can contact you should any serious issues arise. And make sure that you have good quality travel medical insurance that covers your entire trip and the activities you will be taking part in. Include emergency medical evacuation insurance in the package, as well as comprehensive medical cover.