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Terror groups could be using social media to launch attacks on India, warns US expert

Dr Peter Chalk delivered the second KPS Gill Memorial lecture at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Mohali.

By: Express News Service | Mohali |
December 12, 2019 7:15:56 pm
Terror groups could be using social media to launch attacks on India, warns US expert Dr Peter Chalk with Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh in Mohali on Wednesday. (Express photo)

A noted American expert on terror and internal security from RAND Corporation Dr. Peter Chalk on Wednesday said the United States had played a “double game” with Pakistan due to its strategic interests in Afghanistan and has not been effective on Pakistan’s blatant use of terrorism.

He also said that Pakistan could be harnessing the power of social media to launch attacks on the Indian economy.

Dr. Chalk was responding to queries during an interactive session after delivering the second KPS Gill Memorial lecture at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Mohali.

The lecture was based on ‘Digitized Hate: Online Radicalism, Violent Extremism, and Terrorism’.

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“The US I do agree has played a double game with Pakistan. The US has seen the strategic value of Pakistan when it comes to efforts in Afghanistan What Pakistan can provide It has not been particularly effective on Pakistan’s blatant use of terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” said Dr. Chalk.

When it comes to national security, he said most countries adopt a double-edged swords approach owing to the real polity.

The expert warned that the ISI “may well leverage encrypted social media sites, secure telecommunication platforms and online mapping technology to covertly facilitate jihadist recruitment drives or directly support terrorist strikes” in Kashmir, where it has a long history of backing anti-Indian outfits.

He said that in 2017, proscribed Jamaat ud Dawa (JuD) had organized online workshops on social media at Rawalpindi and Lahore to radicalize youth for carrying out terror strikes in Jammu and Kashmir.

Referring to a report by The National Dawn newspaper, Dr. Chalk said that in 2017, 41 out of 64 proscribed outfits in Pakistan were active on social media platforms.

He said the penetration of the internet in Pakistan increased from 15 percent in 2017 to 22 percent in 2018 and 33 percent in 2019. The Taliban, he disclosed, currently possesses several internet domains.

‘Grave concern for India’

These developments, said Dr. Chalk, were of grave concern for India, in the light of the direct implications, on the country’s national security, of the use of the internet and online platforms by terrorists and violent extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“As noted, Twitter is already being used to promote riots and protests in Kashmir, and now that the province has been stripped of its special autonomous status, groups such as LeT (acting through JuD), will doubtless seek to escalate the tempo of this unrest through other online mediums,” he added.

Dr. Chalk also said the IS has also leveraged the internet and social media platforms to inspire, direct and authorize autonomous-cell and lone-wolf attacks in the United States and the West.

“Working from its enclaves in Afghanistan, IS has been doing this for some time with regards to attacking the US and there is no reason why similar action could not be undertaken that targets prominent cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, and Ludhiana,” he added, pointing out that sniper attacks carried out by lone wolfs were difficult to counter.

‘Work with partner countries to pressure Islamabad’

The best offensive mechanism to deal with Pakistan, he suggested, was to work with friends and partner countries to put pressure on Islamabad, and also to convince these nations that they could also not escape the wrath of terror outfits operating from Pakistani soil.

In the context of the growing use of drones and lone wolves to launch attacks, the American expert called for compulsory registration of such technology and legislations to counter the threat.

To ensure credibility in such counter-attacks, it was important to involve NGOs, human rights organizations and the community at large, he added, noting, in response to a question, that 100 percent radicalization could not take place online and human contact was a part of the process.

Radicalising of young Sikhs

In an apparent reference to Referendum 2020, Dr. Chalk observed that an intensive social media effort aimed at radicalizing young Sikhs was currently being waged by pro-Khalistani militants based in Pakistan and diaspora groups operating out of the US, UK, and Canada.

“There are growing indications that the ISI is orchestrating much of this activity as part of a wider campaign to co-join instability in Punjab with unrest in Kashmir,” he warned.

Dr. Chalk suggested that the state government identify vulnerable groups and engage with the community to counter the narrative and fight Pakistan’s proxy war. Calling timing very crucial, Dr. Chalk pointed out that once a person was radicalized, it was very difficult to convince that person to join the mainstream.

He called for direct intervention in the process of radicalization by bringing communication experts and civil society groups together to develop and execute alternative messaging campaigns.

The US expert noted that all the social media groups, such as Google, WhatsApp, etc, were now realizing that the use of their platforms for subversive activities was affecting their credibility, in response to questions.

Cannot ever allow the state to relive those horrible days: Amarinder

Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Wednesday said that in today’s globalized world, terror could easily straddle international geographical boundaries with the use of the internet and social media, further contributing to promoting terror and terror ideology for luring youth, spreading hatred and propaganda.

Delivering the keynote address during the second K P S Gill Memorial lecture, Amarinder spoke about the sensitive location of Punjab as a border state with a “hostile” neighbor, and the growing challenge of narco-terrorism with linkages in Jammu and Kashmir.

Amarinder stressed on the need for modern-day policing to remain technologically updated and professional in its approach. “We cannot ever allow the state to relive those horrible days it went through…we all know what is happening again now,” said the chief minister.

He lauded the leadership of K P S Gill in Punjab Police and his contribution to bringing peace and normalcy to the state, calling upon the police force to let the late former DGP become a beacon of light to inspire them to become good leaders. Gill’s leadership had been acknowledged throughout India, he observed, telling the officers in the audience that “leadership begins with you.”

Earlier, in his welcome address, DGP Dinkar Gupta had outlined the current security scenario and the use of internet and online social media platforms. Gupta assured that the Punjab Police was continuously building its capacity to meet the twin challenges of radicalism and terrorism.

The Punjab Police had launched the annual lecture series last year, in commemoration of the memory of former DGP late KPS Gill, who had led the Punjab Police into its comprehensive victory over state-sponsored terrorism.

The first KPS Gill Memorial Lecture was delivered by N N Vohra, the then Governor of Jammu and Kashmir.

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