With a new phase of violence erupting after Hamas launched surprise attack on Israel, the world has entered into a new phase of polarisation. Soon after the attack Israel declared war on Hamas and since then the violence is getting intense and thousands of lives have been lost. Israel’s offensive in Gaza has employed use of drones and artillery strike and Human Rights Watch has raised concerns over the use of white phosphorous which violates the international humanitarian law. Both Isarael and Hamas are blaming each other for the violence happening, there are several hostages under Hamas right now and recently a short clip of Israeli hostage was released by Hamas. It is claimed that there are 199 hostages under Hamas but exact number is not known. Numerous Hamas associated group have taken Israelis as hostage making it difficult to get an exact number of persons in captivity.
The violence happening in Gaza amounts to war crimes, where people including children are being slaughtered, women hostage paraded naked by Hamas. The bombing of Al Ahli hospital has claimed more lives than any other attack in Gaza. Israel has denied its role in the bombing while Palestinian authorities have blamed Israel for this and there is an uproar across the globe on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Spillover in Europe!
Soon after Israel launched offensive on Hamas in Gaza, people across the globe were divided and pro-Palestine and pro-Israel protest were registered. However, a greater divide has been created leaving behind the Russian invasion and now religion has stepped in. Muslims population in different parts of the world are raising their voice in favour of Palestine and it has caused polarisation of population. Europe too witnessed similar protest and acts of aggression. In France, a school teacher was stabbed and in Brussels, two Swedish citizens were shot dead. In both the cases, the suspects were associated with ISIS. France houses largest Jewish and Muslim population in Europe and in such scenario, stakes are high of a possible clash in future. However, the French government has deployed soldiers but that can never ensure absolute security. Fringe radical elements and illegal immigrants have already been part of such violent activities and the nature of content shared on social media is further provoking the population. Heightened tension gives an opportunity to radical element like ISIS to revive and further deepen the divide among Muslims and Jews. Rise in antisemitic attacks in France is worrying, and in Germany pro-Hamas rally were banned as some people were seen celebration Hamas’s attack on Israel in Berlin. In China, a family member of Israeli diplomat was stabbed in broad daylight.
Is South Asia next in line?
South Asia houses largest Muslim population in the world, apart from other religions this region has existing issues rooted in colonial past. Being a post-colonial and post-partition region, South Asia has witnessed lot of violence emerging from traditional and non-traditional threats. As the radical Islamist ideology has a significant foothold in the member nations like Pakistan and Afghanistan, the region is prone to radical polarisation. With Taliban taking over Afghanistan, its associated groups like TTP have emboldened themselves. Pakistan has witnessed a new phase of violence as TTP fighters were released from Kabul prison and TTP leadership broke the ceasefire agreement with Pakistan. Since then, there is unprecedented rise in terror activities in Pakistan’s Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region.
The proliferation of violent nonstate actors in Pakistan and Afghanistan are motivated by the extremist ideology heading towards achieving pan-Islamism. Hence, with ongoing conflict in Gaza the radical groups like ISIS, LeT, TTP would try to influence masses and extending their support to Hamas. Since the conflict resumed, ISIS related elements resurfaced which were being dormant for a long time. The terror related incidents have gone up in Europe and with every passing day the effect of war is spreading across globe, in such a scenario, South Asia is prone to further radicalisation. Numerous protests were registered in favour of Palestine in Pakistan, even Islamic Emirate (Afghanistan) has raised voiced against violence in Gaza. However, Taliban denounced sending its fighters to Palestine, still Taliban regime cannot be trusted given the past history of its activities.
Considering the case of India, the population is divided as there are groups both in support of Isarel and Palestine. The official position of Indian government swings in both ways, supporting two state solution, PM Modi has been in contact with heads of both Israel and Palestine and extended support. Despite state’s stand the population stands divided and it is a matter of concern as there is some Jewish population from India who are in Israel, armed and ready to fight Hamas. The Jews who are in India can be a potential target for the extremist giving rise to a security situation in India. India has a long been victim to terrorist attacks and there is significant presence of such radical elements.
The existing situations in South Asia are not immune to Islamic radicalisation, so the impact of Israel Palestine conflict can be disturbing for South Asian regional stability. The proliferation of violent non-state actors in both Pakistan and Afghanistan can potential be weaponised for future activities. The current situation where Muslim Ummah stands united, these elements can gather both ideological and material support to strengthen themselves and use the violence in Gaza as an excuse to achieve their own nefarious objectives in the South Asian region.
When ISIS was at its peak, it had fighters from different parts of world including South Asia, and Hamas has similar modus operandi like ISIS, Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Toiba, or IS-KP employing extreme violence to achieve objectives and avoiding any dialogue. The Hamas charter advocates butchering Jews encountered by any Muslim, such radical dictums can be very dangerous for a multi-religion and multi-ethnic region like South Asia. The region itself is in crisis, Pakistan a nuclear power with no stable government facing socio-economic turmoil and Afghanistan under Taliban regime, there is a decline in democratic process that creates a vacuum for radical elements to step in and take control. The South Asian region is fragile and sensitive more than ever, and the spillover over of Gaza violence can penetrate South Asia. If such situation arises, it would be the worst nightmare that would involve different powers globally into a catastrophic conflict.