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Modi-Putin Further Cement India-Russia Ties; 15 MoUs Signed In Vladivostok

The Russian President said that the relations between the two countries are unique and mutually beneficial.



VLADIVOSTOK (Russia): India and Russia signed 15 agreements taking bilateral cooperation to a new high at the 20th annual summit in Vladivostok today. The agreements were exchanged in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin after the restricted and delegation-level talks.

The agreements include four in the area of oil and gas, LNG and coking coal, five in trade and investments, two in infrastructure and one each in defence and audiovisual production.

Later, in a joint statement, both leaders expressed satisfaction over the outcome of summit-level talks and affirmed that they are resolved to expand the bilateral relations to new areas of cooperation.

Prime Minister Modi on the occasion described Russia as a reliable partner and special friend. The Prime Minister said that the relations between the two countries are not only quantitative but also qualitative.

The Russian President said that the relations between the two countries are unique and mutually beneficial.

President Putin said that Russia welcomes the intent of the Indian Side to expand its economic and investment presence in the Far Eastern region and Siberia. He expressed readiness to participate in major infrastructural and other projects in India.

The MoU on defence is about the production of spare parts for Russian origin arms under Make-in-India program through joint ventures. In his statement, PM said, through this agreement, the relationship between both countries will be enhanced from buyer-seller to co-producers.

The MoUs in infrastructure relate to the establishment of maritime links between Vladivostok and Chennai to improve connectivity.  Other MoUs relate to the exploration of cooking coal in the Arctic region, sourcing LNG from Russia. An agreement has also been exchanged for combating customs violations during 2019-22.

An agreement between Invest India and the Russian Direct Investment Fund has been signed for Investment Collaboration.

PM Modi said, both countries have decided to roll out a five-year road map in the area of exploration and exploitation of oil and gas fields in both countries.

The Prime Minister said, a new chapter has begun in the strategic partnership Russia through military exercises like ‘Indra”. He has come forward to provide assistance in Gaganyaan space flight program.

PM Modi said, cybersecurity and environment protection also came for discussion during the delegation-level talks and they decided to hold a bilateral forum on tiger conservation next year.

The Prime Minister said that both India and Russia are looking forward for peace in Afghanistan. He said, both countries are against any intervention from outside in the internal issues of any country. He said, both countries are working together for a multipolar world through organisations like SCO, BRICS.

Later addressing media persons, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said, the four agreements signed in the field of energy will be a breakthrough in the bilateral relations. He said, both countries decided to promote mutual settlements of payments in national currencies. They also discussed manpower export from India in view of the dearth of labour in the Far East of the Russian region.

The Foreign Secretary said the Russian President invited the Prime Minister to attend the 75th Victory Day to celebrate the victory of the USSR in the second world war, to be held in Moscow in May next year.

The complete list of MoUs/Agreements exchanged during the visit of Prime Minister to Vladivostok:

1. Joint Statement “Reaching New Heights of Cooperation through Trust and Partnership”.

2. Joint Strategy for the Enhancement of India- Russia Trade and Investments.

3. Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and Government of the Russian Federation and on the cooperation in the production of spare parts for Russian/Soviet military equipment.

4. Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the Russian Federation on Cooperation in Audiovisual Co-production.

5. Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation on bilateral cooperation in the road transport and road industry.

6. Memorandum of Intent between the Ministry of Shipping of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation on the Development of Maritime Communications between the Port of Chennai, Republic of India and the Port of Vladivostok, Russian Federation.

7. Plan for cooperation between the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs, Ministry of Finance, Republic of India and the Federal Customs Service (Russian Federation), for combating customs violations in 2019-2022.

8. Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas of the Republic of India on the use of Natural Gas for Transportation.

9. Program between the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation on expansion of cooperation in oil and gas sector.

10. Memorandum of Understanding between Coal India Limited and Far East Investment and Export Agency to cooperate in coking coal mining projects implementation in the Russian Far East.

11. Cooperation Agreement between Invest India and the Russian Direct Investment Fund for Investment Collaboration.

12. Cooperation agreement between the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry the Roscongress Foundation.

13. Memorandum of Understanding between the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Autonomous Non-profit Organization Agency for Strategic Initiatives to promote New Projects.

14. Memorandum of understanding between the Joint Stock Company NOVATEK and PETRONET LNG Limited on cooperation with respect to the joint development of downstream LNG Business and LNG supplies.

15. Agreement on Cooperation between Joint-Stock Company Rosgeologia and Srei Infrastructure Finance Limited;

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Helmand, Afghanistan: Hell, Out, Slipping Again?

Pakistan’s stakes in the narcotics trade of Afghanistan add to the greater significance of Helmand.



Several parts of Nawa and Nad Ali Districts of Helmand Province were cleared of the Taliban in the ongoing operation by Afghan Security Forces (SFs), the Ministry of Defense said on October 28, 2020.

The operation was launched on October 26, in these two districts as well as in Lashkargah city, the capital of Helmand, to retake the areas that had fallen to the Taliban two weeks ago, a statement by Ministry of Defense read, adding, “More than 100 Taliban fighters were killed and wounded in the operation.”

Earlier, on October 19, Khalil-ur-Rahman, the Helmand Police Chief, stated, “There is the issue of public benefit. The enemy has damaged it. Therefore, we don’t want to harm civilians and we move forward slowly.”

The Taliban attack started on October 10, 2020, in various places of Helmand Province, in a bid to capture Lashkargah, the provincial capital. The militants overran security checkpoints, while a number of Districts including Nad Ali and Nawa also came under attack. Following the Taliban’s push on Lashkargah and the seizure of security checkpoints, the US launched air attacks against the group’s fighters in support of the Afghan SFs.

The U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A), Spokesman Colonel Sonny Leggett tweeted on October 12, “Over the past two days USFOR-A has conducted several targeted strikes in Helmand to defend ANDSF forces under attack by Taliban fighters, consistent with the U.S.-Taliban agreement. USFOR-A has & will continue to provide support in defence of the ANDSF under attack by the Taliban”.

Within 24 hours of the attack, the Afghan National Security Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) claimed to have neutralised around 126 terrorists and injured another over 100. Later, on October 18, Colonel Leggett, added on Twitter that “the entire world has witnessed the Taliban’s offensive operations in Helmand – attacks which injured and displaced thousands of innocent Afghan civilians.”

Taliban ‘spokesman’ Mohammad Naeem, however, asserted that the group’s fighters were recapturing districts that were previously under their control but were retaken by Afghan SFs a few months ago. The Taliban controls most of Helmand Province and in recent years has conducted several attacks to capture Lashkargah, but its fighters have been repeatedly pushed back by Afghan SFs.

10 years ago, more than 15,000 Afghan, US, British, Canadian, and Estonian troops made one of the biggest pushes of the war to dislodge the Taliban from the town of Marjah, then the Taliban’s last big stronghold in Helmand. Taliban launched a major offensive following the departure of most of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops at the end of 2014 and by summer 2016, the Taliban controlled or contested 12 of Helmand’s 14 districts. The report also suggests that the Taliban has gained control of roughly 80 per cent of Helmand, mainly the rural areas, while the district centres are still under government control.

Unfortunately, as the fighting intensified and the security situation around Lashkargah deteriorated, tens of thousands of people fled to Kabul city. Afghan authorities estimate that 35,000 people (some 5,000 families) have been displaced by the current fighting.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Afghanistan, however, disclosed that assessment teams were still verifying these figures, with 5,000 people confirmed so far. On October 19, OCHA stated, “Yesterday [October 18], around 300 families or approximately 2,100 people from Nawa-e-Barakzaiy have been newly displaced within Nawa District.”

Meanwhile, as reported on October 22, the State Ministry on Disaster Management said that it has allocated 20 million of Afghan currency to address the needs of those affected by the fighting in Helmand. “This (funds) should be distributed among those affected from the war,” said Ghulam Bahauddin Jailani, State Minister on Natural Disaster Management.

Pakistan’s blatant involvement in the escalating violence is an inescapable reality. As reported on October 16, Haqqani Network ‘chief’ Sirajuddin Haqqani is believed to have reached Helmand from Quetta (Balochistan) in Pakistan. Haqqani was sent to Afghanistan on the directions of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for multiple objectives.

First, to assess the situation in Helmand after the coordinated Taliban attack and ensure safe passage to Pakistani terrorists involved in the attack. Another major reason for sending Haqqani is to contact Taliban leaders and negotiate with them about the representation of Pakistan’s interests in the peace process. Sirajuddin Haqqani is also scheduled to meet Taliban ‘commander’ Mullah Yaqoub in Helmand. Interestingly, all heads of Commissions of Taliban are presently camping in Helmand itself.

Haqqani is scheduled to meet a number of top Taliban ‘commanders’, take them into confidence, and influence them to represent Pakistan’s interests during the ongoing peace talks in Doha (Qatar).

The most important objective, though, was to motivate Pakistani cadres deployed within terrorist outfits in Afghanistan not to move to Pakistan and to keep fighting from their respective Afghan bases until the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) proceedings are completed, to ensure that Pakistan doesn’t get blacklisted.

The propaganda machine of the Taliban, meanwhile, is busy portraying the Haqqani Network as a ‘reformer’. A new documentary tracing the life of Jalaluddin Haqqani (who died in 2018), the founder of the Network, depicts him as a “great reformer”, who fought heroically over four decades, first against the Soviets and then against the Americans. Taliban ‘spokesman’ Zabihullah Mujahid said the film aimed to “introduce” Haqqani as an “icon”.

However, in reality, the documentary seeks to rebrand the Haqqani Network, and present it as united with the broader Taliban movement.

Indeed, on October 27, Afghan Chief of Army Staff Yasin Zia stated, “They (the Taliban) have not cut ties with al-Qaeda. They have relations with other terrorist groups in the region and with Pakistanis, they clearly are working shoulder-to-shoulder in Helmand.” Earlier, as reported on October 18, the Governor of Helmand, Yasir Khan had stated, “There is the presence of Jaish-e-Mohammad [JeM], Lashkar-e-Taiba [LeT], al-Qaeda… They are collaborating with the Taliban now and in the past too.” Taliban have provided safe places to stay for foreign fighters from these three terrorist groups. In return, these foreign fighters provide training in bomb-making to Taliban fighters.

Interestingly, local sources in Pakistan have revealed that hospitals, especially in Quetta, Karachi, and Peshawar, have been filled with Taliban and JeM militants injured during gunfights with Afghan and US security forces since the Taliban offensive of October 10.

It is clear that the Taliban as well as Pakistan are in aggressive mode and are expected to increase violence in Afghanistan. The release of Taliban prisoners and subsequent return to the battlefield by some of them and the infiltration of rising numbers of Pakistani cadres into Afghan terrorist formations, have added to the ongoing violence.

Pakistan’s stakes in the narcotics trade of Afghanistan add to the greater significance of Helmand, which is one of the main poppy-growing areas in Afghanistan.

Opium poppies and heroin are among the main sources of income for the Taliban, which controls 80 per cent of the drug production areas in Afghanistan. Pakistan acts as a facilitator in transporting the drugs out of Afghanistan, in processing, and in further distribution to other countries. The drug consignments, in connivance with Pakistan’s authorities, are smuggled through the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and thereafter, head for Pakistan’s air and seaports and to further destinations in China, South and Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe.

Apart from its determination to retain and extend territorial control, the Taliban assault in Helmand seeks to exert added pressure on Kabul to accept the Taliban’s demands during ongoing negotiations in Doha.

Moreover, Pakistan wants to ensure that the terrorist groups supporting its cause make deep inroads into Afghanistan so that, if the Taliban returns to political power, Islamabad will retain its ‘strategic depth’ to ensure that the regime serves Islamabad’s interests in the long run.

Clearly, with the progressive withdrawal of Western forces, circumstances in Afghanistan are developing towards a continuous escalation of violence, and the negotiations in Doha are little more than a charade that provides the Taliban with an unacceptable degree of international legitimacy, even as its violence worsens dramatically.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Dr. Sanchita Bhattacharya

Dr Sanchita is a Research Fellow at Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi. Assistant Editor: Faultlines Area of Interest: Political Islam in South Asia, Pakistan, Terrorism Education: PhD from JNU, Delhi M.A. in International Relations from Jadavpur University, Kolkata.

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Rohingya Slugfest At Bangladesh-Myanmar Border?

Bangladesh is currently hosting 1.1 million Rohingya refugees, who have fled from their native Rakhine State of Myanmar, in different batches.



On October 6, 2020, four people were killed in clashes between two groups of Rohingyas over establishing supremacy at the Lombasia Camp in the Kutupalang area of Cox’s Bazar District. 20 persons were injured in those violent clashes.

On October 4, 2020, two Rohingyas were killed in a gunfight between two rival groups at a refugee camp in the Ukhia area of Cox’s Bazar District. The gunfight erupted between two groups of Rohingya criminals asserting dominance.

On October 2, 2020, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) discovered and neutralized a firearms-making factory at Madhurchhara, adjacent to the Kutupalang Rohingya Camp in Cox’s Bazar District. Two persons identified as Abu Majid and Robi Alam were arrested. RAB recovered two guns, two bullets and several pieces of equipment used for manufacturing firearms from a hut set up by the arrestees. According to RAB officials, the duo had been making and supplying firearms to Rohingya criminals for a long time.

Available data shows that at least 178 cases have been filed against the Rohingyas between January and July 2020, in which 442 Rohingyas have been arrested. 263 cases were registered through 2019 and 649 Rohingyas were arrested. In 2018, the numbers stood at 208 cases and 414 arrests.

The crimes these displaced people are involved in include possession of illegal arms and drugs, robbery, abduction, smuggling, murder, and human trafficking.

Media reports indicate that extremist groups are trying to take over these camps. Deutsche Welle, a German news agency, reported on February 13, 2020, that 40 Rohingyas in a Cox’s Bazar camp were trained by the Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) in January 2020. The JMB trained these Rohingyas with help from Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, from where USD 117,000 was received by JMB for this purpose. The report also revealed that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was among those behind the training.

Siegfried O. Wolf, an analyst at the South Asia Democratic Forum, a Belgian-based group based in Brussels, later confirmed the possible involvement of ISI. He said the ISI’s main goal was to destabilize some countries in the region, with Afghanistan and India at the top of their list.

Reports also indicate that the Myanmar-based Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) has made deep inroads in these camps. The International Crisis Group (ICG) report “Building a Better Future for Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh” released on April 25, 2019, claimed ARSA militants and gangs mostly controlled the camps and often committed violence against the residents.

Separately, the Deutsche Welle on September 24, 2019, reported that a man claiming to be an ARSA cadre told Deutsche Welle that some 3,500 fighters were sheltering in the refugee camps in Bangladesh and that groups of several hundred fighters secretly crossed to neighbouring Myanmar for military training.

There are apprehensions that these terrorist groups may take advantage of the rising tension between the host community and the refugees, which has reportedly reached an alarming level. Overcrowding in refugee camps has led to encroachment of forests and decreasing opportunities for the host community.

Bangladesh is currently hosting 1.1 million Rohingya refugees, who have fled from their native Rakhine State of Myanmar, in different batches.

The first batch of Rohingyas came in 1977 when an estimated 300,000 Rohingya fled persecution by the Myanmarese Army in the Rakhine region. More recently, an estimated 730,000 Rohingyas came to Bangladesh in 2017. The exodus followed massive clearance operation by Myanmar’s State Forces subsequent to ARSA’s attacks against Police posts in the northern Rakhine State. According to Ontario International Development Agency, nearly 24,000 Rohingya were killed, more than 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down while 113,000 others were vandalised by Myanmar’s state forces.

According to the UN Report of the Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar released on September 12, 2018, the “clearance operations” constituted a human rights catastrophe. Mass killings were perpetrated in Min Gyi (Tula Toli), Maung Nu, Chut Pyin and Gudar Pyin, and in villages in the Koe Tan Kauk village tract. In some cases, hundreds of people died.

The Rohingya crisis is no longer just a humanitarian calamity but has transformed into a potential threat to Bangladesh’s internal stability. On November 11, 2019, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, addressing the three-day ‘Dhaka Global Dialogue-2019’ in Dhaka city, observed:

“In terms of regional security, I would like to say that more than 1.1 million Rohingya citizens of Myanmar fled to Bangladesh in the face of persecution and they are a threat to the security not only for Bangladesh but also for the region. I urge the world community to take appropriate action realising the gravity of the threat. It will not be possible to ensure development and prosperity of any country without having peace and safety.”

On September 12, 2020, raising fears that if the Rohingya problem is not solved quickly, it may lead to radicalism and terrorism, Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Momen noted, “Our fear is that, if this problem is not solved quickly, it may lead to pockets of radicalism and since terrorists have no borders, no faith, there’s a high possibility of creation of uncertainty in the region which may frustrate our hope for a peaceful, secure and stable region.”

Not surprisingly, Bangladesh has, for long, been trying to repatriate these Rohingyas. According to a bilateral instrument signed by Bangladesh and Myanmar on November 23, 2017, the repatriation of the Rohingya was supposed to begin from January 22, 2018, and to be complete by January 22, 2020. But, not a single Rohingya has yet been repatriated.

So far, two repatriation attempts, on November 15, 2018, and August 22, 2019, did not materialize due to Myanmar’s failure to create the necessary conditions for the return of its own people.

Indeed, urging the global community to play a more ‘effective role’ in finding a solution for the Rohingya problem, Prime Minister Hasina, in a pre-recorded speech to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on September 26, 2020, stated:

“More than three years have elapsed. Regrettably, not a single Rohingya could be repatriated. The problem was created by Myanmar, and its solution must be found in Myanmar. I request the international community to play a more effective role for a solution to the crisis.”

Meanwhile, there are reports of rising tension at the International Border between Bangladesh and Myanmar, directly linked to the Rohingya issue. Bangladeshi has deployed Army troops in Cox’s Bazar District in southeastern Bangladesh along Myanmar’s border. Similarly, Myanmar’s military has recently beefed up security along the border, citing increased activities by ARSA and the Arakan Army.

The Rohingya crisis has created challenges for Bangladesh as the tension between the host communities and the Rohingyas increases. Moreover, the issue has created tensions between Bangladesh and Myanmar as well. While support from numerous humanitarian actors has so far kept the refugees alive, these tensions may soon translate into explicit conflict.

Unless the crisis is resolved, the ‘Rohingya problem’ may morph into an issue of global security at large, and a crisis for Bangladesh in particular.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

S. Binodkumar Singh

Dr S. Binodkumar is a Research Associate at the Institute for Conflict Management. He has done his PhD on "Indo-Bangladesh Relations: Their Impact on the Security of the North East" from the Department of Defence and National Security Studies at Punjab University, Chandigarh.

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Maldives’ DDC Struggling With Prosecutions

The capacities and capabilities of the Maldivian Security Forces need a boost.



On August 8, 2020, Maldives’ Disappearances and Death Commission (DDC) announced that it is going to hire a foreign expert to assist it in completing its investigations by September 2020.

Earlier, on December 8, 2019, the President of DDC, Uz. Husnu Al Suood, resigned from the Presidential Commission after his nomination to the Supreme Court as a Judge.

A December 12, 2019, report mentions President’s spokesperson Ibrahim Hood saying that President’s Office was working on a replacement for Uz. Husnu Al Suood. However, no further updates are available.

Another member, Adam Ibrahim, also resigned, citing ‘personal reasons’.  DDC has just three members left, Misbah Abbas, Ahmed Nashid and Fareesha Abdulla.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had announced the establishment of the DDC on November 18, 2018. The Commission commenced its work officially on November 21, 2018, with a two-year deadline to investigate 27 cases of Disappearances and Death. On September 1, 2019, DDC revealed that, of the 27 cases being investigated, only 4 or 5 were ‘currently pending’. Three of these were ‘interlinked’ cases, involving al Qaeda. These included:

Recovery of the dead body of Dr Afrasheem Ali bearing multiple stab wounds. The body was discovered in the stairwell of his home in Male in the early hours of October 1, 2012.
Status: Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office has ordered the DDC to resubmit the charges against the accused.

The disappearance of Journalist Ahmed Rilwan: Ahmed Rilwan (28), a journalist with now discontinued Maldives Independent, was last seen on August 8, 2014.
Status: The case has yet to reach trial phase. The DDC on December 3, 2019, said that the case was forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s Office, to press charges against Mohamed Mazeed and Smith Mohamed, suspected of masterminding Rilwan’s enforced disappearance. Subsequently, the Prosecutor General’s Office had rejected the case over procedural issues, and no charges were pressed against any suspects.

The killing of Blogger Yameen Rasheed: A local affiliate of al Qaeda killed blogger Yameen Rasheed, who had received repeated death threats for his ‘anti-Islamic views’, on April 23, 2017.
Status: PG office in January 2020, citing inadequate investigations, rejected the charges against the suspects. Further, the Prosecutor General sent the case back to DDC for further investigation, following which the commission stated they would resubmit the charges. DDC could not find any fresh leads in the case.

The Al Qaeda is a major threat to the Maldives. On September 19, 2019, the Maldives Government made public the details of 17 terror organisations placed under its Anti-Terrorism Act on the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Committee on National Security. Five of these were related al Qaeda: Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS).

Meanwhile, since the formation of the DDC on November 18, 2018, another five terrorism cases have taken place in the country (data till August 30, 2020), though these have not resulted in any fatalities. These include:

  • April 15, 2020, arson attack at Mahibadhoo Harbour: On April 15, 2020, five government speedboats were damaged in an arson attack at Mahibadhoo Harbour on Ariatholhu Dhekunuburi. According to reports, the attack was a retaliation against Government investigations into extremism and drug trafficking.
  • March 22, 2020, Police boat attack: Unidentified attackers set ablaze a Police boat docked at the Harbour of Gan Island in Laamu Atoll on March 22, 2020.
  • March 21, 2020, arson attack: An arson incident occurred at Villa number 47 in Cheval Blanc Randheli, a luxury hotel located in Noonu Atoll.
  • February 4, 2020, stabbing incidents: Extremists, suspected to be inspired by the Islamic State, stabbed and injured three foreign nationals – two Chinese and one Australian – near Hulhumale Red Bull Park Futsal Ground in the Hulhumale city of Kaffu Atoll on February 4, 2020.
  • Attack on Turkish national: Extremists stabbed a Turkish national in Hulhumale city in December 2019.

Though all these cases are still under investigation, it is suspected that the Islamic State is behind each of them. Indeed, IS has claimed two of these incidents (April 15) and (March 21).

Though none of the cases reported since November 18, 2018, the date of establishment of the DDC, are under the purview of the DDC, other agencies investigating the cases have also failed to prosecute a single person in these cases, with the exception of the March 22, 2020, arson incident.

On August 2, 2020, the Office of the Prosecutor General filed an additional terror charge against terror accused Moosa Inaas, for setting ablaze a Police surveillance speedboat on March 22. The speedboat was docked in the harbour of Thundi District of Gan in Laamu Atoll.

The Prosecutor General’s office disclosed that it has filed the charge of carrying out an act of terrorism under Article 6 (b) of the Counter-Terrorism Act, with reference to Article 6 (a) (i) of the Counter-Terrorism Act. Earlier, on July 29, 2020, the Prosecutor General’s Office had charged Moosa Inaas and Abdul Latheef Ibrahim for “possession of material implying support for a terrorist organization” under Article 6 (b) of the Counter-Terrorism Act.

The State continued failure to successfully prosecute those involved in violent acts could strengthen the resolve of terrorist and extremist formations. It will also help such elements to claim that the case filed against them were the vendetta of a secular’ government against the ‘faithful’.

In the meantime, there is a strong possibility of more arson attacks by the extremists, as evident from available online content. On July 30, 2020, the Australia-based scholar of Maldives, Azim Zahir, tweeted that the Maldivian IS group had released a video encouraging arson attacks.

Further, the SITE Intelligence Group, an organisation that monitors online activities of extremist groups, disclosed that the original 4-minute video version “Incite the Believers” was released in both English and Arabic by the IS-linked Al-Hayat Media Center on July 26, 2020. The SITE Intelligence group added further that the video asked supporters to use arson as a method to attack enemies across Africa, North and South America and Europe.

The outbreak of Novel Corona Virus-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to massive financial losses for the State; the full extent of this is yet to be fully assessed. According to data published by the Ministry of Economic Development, Government of Maldives, and the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), the best-case scenario for the island nation would be negative economic growth of -11.5 per cent, but at worst could go down to -29.7 per cent.

A lethal combination of economic meltdown and poverty-led marginalisation could lead to heightened radicalisation, greatly destabilising the island nation. Lieutenant Colonel Amanulla A. Rasheed in his article ‘Global Trends of Crime and Terror Nexus during COVID-19 Pandemic: Building Community Resilience to Prevent Violent Extremism’ published in National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) Newsletter Volume 37: April 2020 observes:

“…crime and terror would transform, changing its ways and means to exploit the situation and target the vulnerable communities in order to create chaos and misconceptions amongst the public and hate towards the State Governments. Extremist sympathizers are covertly playing their role in spreading the Jihadist beliefs in the vulnerable communities, which is part of terror tactics, and yet the spread of violent extremism has been managed…”

There is a need for greater synergy between various security agencies both at the level of intelligence sharing and investigation so that cases that are registered can be brought to their natural conclusion.

The capacities and capabilities of the Maldivian Security Forces need a boost, in order to effectively meet increasing challenges of terrorist groups and radical elements.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Giriraj Bhattacharjee

Giriraj Bhattacharjee is a Research Assistant at the Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi.

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