New Delhi (Sputnik) — With Daesh* claiming responsibility for the recent bombings in Sri Lanka's churches and hotels on Easter Sunday, which left 359 people killed and hundreds of others injured, it will have grave implications for South Asia, Indian strategic and security experts have told Sputnik.
"Let us be very clear on this. Sri Lanka was just the geographical territory used for the terror attack by ISIS (Daesh). The terror strike must not be seen as a religious conflict in Sri Lanka, but more as a message sent out to the rest of the world, particularly to the West. Sri Lanka, which has been relatively peaceful for the past 10 years, after the end of the civil war, could never have imagined that an attack of this magnitude could take place on its soil", Major General Dhruv Katoch, director of the India Foundation, a Delhi-based think tank, told Sputnik.
"My experience of two years in Sri Lanka as part of the Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF) operations tells me that the government of Sri Lanka was absolutely not alert and very lax in responding to the intelligence inputs provided to it by India and the United States about the possibility of these terror attacks taking place on specific destinations", Major General Katoch told Sputnik further.
"These attacks on Easter Sunday had all the markings of Daesh involvement, like the use of localised 'Lone Ranger' Islamic fundamental modules, relying heavily and pointedly on outside intelligence and coordination. I am totally horrified that no action was taken, especially when it was well-known that the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leadership had been making vitriolic statements. This clearly was a response to the complacency that has set in Sri Lanka", Major General Katoch added.
In a conversation with Sputnik, Brigadier Rahul Bhonsle, an Indian security and strategy expert, described it "a major lapse by Sri Lanka".
"We all know that the Daesh presence had been looming large over South Asia. The 1 July 2016 terror attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery in Bangladesh, which left 29 people killed, is an example of Daesh involvement in the region. Countries in the region need to adopt the Indian model of actively and accurately monitoring all the activities of these terror outfits; every platform that they use, be it social media or any other media. India has been very successful since 2014 in doing this. It has at least 200 people dedicated for this task", Brigadier Bhonsle told Sputnik.
Asked whether the Easter Sunday terror strikes would have an impact on South Asia in the long-term, Major General Katoch opined, "Most definitely yes. This incident will have a huge psychological impact on the region. As far Sri Lanka is concerned, I anticipate a polarisation of the society and nation there like nothing else. Muslims in Sri Lanka are certainly not going to have an easy time".
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has acknowledged the involvement of foreign terrorists in the Easter Sunday attacks in three churches and three luxury hotels in the capital city of Colombo, and the other cities of Negombo and Batticaloa.
"All that we knew earlier is that there were foreign links and that this could not have been done just locally. There has been training done and a coordination which we [have] not seen earlier", Wickremesinghe told media in Colombo on Tuesday.
Experts, by and large, here believe that the challenge for South Asia is to prevent Daesh from establishing a major presence in the region, similar to what they had in Syria and Iraq.
On the likely security implications, Brigadier Bhonsle said: "Every country in South Asia will have to be very careful. ISIS is not known to establish a major presence anywhere across the globe, with the exception of Syria and Iraq".
"They are adept at creating or operating through small fringe groups or people whom they can indoctrinate to their Islamic fundamentalist way of thinking. That is the challenge that the political leadership across South Asia faces", Brigadier Bhonsle added.
*Daesh (ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State) is a terrorist group banned in Russia.
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