Indian PM Central Asia Visit Will Focus On Fighting Islamic State Menace

July 1, 2015 – Countering the spread of Islamic State (IS) terror will be a key part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s eight-day visit to five Central Asian states: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, next week (July 6-13), as those states gear up to battle the Islamic State’s rising influence.

Mr Modi will also travel to the Russian city of Ufa to attend the BRICS and SCO summits affording him two opportunities to meet the Central Asian leaders and discuss counter-terrorism cooperation.

The Prime Minister will discuss counter-terror technology, training forces and also countering radicalism. Significantly, the government had also appointed former IB chief Asif Ibrahim as a special envoy recently, with a mandate to discuss the spread of IS and terrorism, and liaise with governments abroad on the issue.

The countries in the Central Asian region, all of whom have sizeable Muslim majority populations have been particularly worried recently about the growing numbers of their youth attracted to the IS terror group. In particular the announcement this week of Colonel Gulmurod Khalimov, commander of Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry Special Forces, joining the IS forces in Syria has sent shockwaves through these states that are known for practising a moderate, multi-ethnic version of Islam.

In IS recruitment videos, Kazakh fighters have featured prominently, and both Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan’s intelligence agencies have claimed to have thwarted IS plots in their countries in the past few months. India has also been supportive of the efforts in these countries to curb radicalism.

In June, the U.S. State Department’s report on terrorism criticised many of the Central Asian countries for a crackdown on extremism, including Tajikistan for “prohibiting children under 18 from attending mosques”, and accused Turkmenistan’s government of “viewing conservative Islam with suspicion and exercising strict controls over the population.”

The Hijab has also been banned in many of these states, while men are discouraged from wearing long beards. “Given India’s efforts to counter Islamic radicalism, these Central Asian states, are natural allies,” an Indian official said.

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