Center for Strategic Communication

[ by Charles Cameron — one of those longish posts that digests a number of other people’s longish posts ]

AQ India video
Screencap from al-Zawahiri’s video announcement


Yesterday I tweeted that Indian Brig (retd) Anil Gupta tied al-Zawahiri‘s newly announced subcontinental AQ with the concept of Ghazwa e-Hind, and had to take my words back on closer inspection.

Gupta does indeed write on the concept of Ghazwa e-Hind — a prophesied end times “raid” from Khorasan, parallel to that from Khorasan to Jerusalem and aiming to plant the flag on Islam atop the Red Fort in Delhi.. But Gupta’s point was not to suggest the Ghazwa was directly related to the new AQ, which had not yet been announced, but to comment on an earlier report in the London Daily Mail.

Here’s a more detailed account of how things are unfolding.


Abhishek Bhalla, writing in the Daily Mail on 16 July this year under the title Al-Qaeda plans final jihad for India: Intel report points to terror recruitment drive targeting nation’s Muslims, posted:

Intelligence agencies say the terror network is making inroads into India, sowing the seeds of a “final war” across the country. Information gathered on al-Qaeda’s India plans points to a mobilisation of its resources for jihad. The ideological goal of the group, as detailed in the report, is chilling:

Ghazwa-e-Hind, or the final battle in India.

Ghazwa-e-Hind refers to an indoctrinated view of a final apocalyptic war in which India will be conquered by a jihadi army. All soldiers of this army are guaranteed a place in heaven. This term is freely used in jihadi circles and on the web, but is considered bizarre by others.

From the report itself:

“Not only Kashmiri groups but Taliban and al-Qaeda affiliates have stakes in the larger scheme of Ghazwa-e-Hind where India is regarded as next battleground in the ‘End of Times’ battle. This ideology is likely to be used to drive Taliban and al-Qaeda affiliates into Kashmir,” says an intelligence report.

And one last point of interest from the Mail account:

Al-Qaeda’s propaganda arm, Al Sahab, released a video recently, titled ‘Why is there no storm in your ocean?’ The report states that the video and transcripts were posted on several jihadi forums.

The videos have speeches asking youths from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat and South India to join the global jihad. Incidentally, these are the areas where young men were recruited by the Indian Mujahideen (IM), India’s homegrown terror group that has become synonymous with bomb blasts in public places.

There’s more detail in the Mail, of course, although there’s not much substantiation of the various claims.


Here are some key quotes from Brigadier Gupta’s analysis:

A sensational story published last week in Daily Mail, UK revealed the ideological goal of Al-Qaeda as Ghazwa-e-Hind, or the final battle in India. It also quoted intelligence agencies to say that the terror network is making inroads into India, “sowing the seeds of a final war across the country”.

It further stated “not only Kashmir groups but Taliban and Al-Qaeda groups have stakes in the larger scheme of Ghazwa-e-Hind where India is regarded as next battleground in the ‘End of Times’ battle.” This ideology is likely to be used to drive Taliban and Al-Qaeda affiliates into Kashmir. What is this ideology? What does ‘Hind’ mean?

Ghazwa-e-Hind is a prophesied battle in which Muslim armies would invade the Indian subcontinent and would be victorious and establish Islamic law in the subcontinent. Flag the word Indian subcontinent. Hind does not mean only India but includes Pakistan as well. But anti-Indian Muslims in Pakistan have spin-doctored the ideology to mislead the community and create a hatred for India.

This school of thought is also promoted by the Pakistani Army because it suits its ambition of subverting the supremacy of the elected government. As per them, “the concept of Khilafat, armies of greater Khorasan led by Pakistan and invasion and capturing of India in the end times, is a mainstream Islamic concept. It would reshape the geopolitics of the present and future world.’ Note how cleverly Hind (which included Pakistan as well) has been replaced by India.

After a brief mention of Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid, whom he characterizes as “a jihadist-turned-religious scholar and mouthpiece of the Pakistani Army” — Gupta goes on to say:

Some Pakistanis led by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) harbour the idea of a “Greater Pakistan”. The envisioned map of Greater Pakistan and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS)’s Caliphate of Khorasan are almost mirror copies of each other.

He then explains what he sees as renewed interest in the Ghazwa in terms of the impact of recent IS successes:

The doctrine of Ghazwa-e-Hind is being used by terrorists, extremists and fundamentalists to incite hatred against India and give it a religious colour and justification. Buoyed by the unprecedented success achieved by ISIS in the recent months the international jihadi outfits want to expand the conflict zone in order to achieve their cherished dream of World Dominion of Caliphates.

In mid-June this year Al-Qaeda released a video titled ‘War should continue, message to the Muslims of Kashmir.’ In this video Al-Qaeda called upon Muslims of Kashmir to follow the example of their brothers in Syria and Iraq and revolt against the authorities. It asked the Kashmiris to seek inspiration from the “new Afghanistan being created in Syria.”


This was followed by the call made by the self-styled Khaliffah Ibrahim of Caliph of Islamic State at the beginning of the pious month of Ramzan. He called upon all believers to take up arms and terrify the enemies of Allah. Among the enemy countries he named both India and Pakistan. In another development, parts of northwest India and the whole of Pakistan were included in the Caliphate of Khorasan, in a map issued by the ISIS.

In yet another development Syed Salahuddin, chairman of Pakistan-based United Jihad Council and Hizbul Mujahedeen supremo, has invited Al-Qaeda and Taliban and like-minded groups to extend a helping hand to “oppressed Kashmiris”. He announced “Jihad on the lines of ISIS in Iraq is the solution to Kashmir.”

Are these actions a mere coincidence or ominous warnings to the rulers in India and Pakistan?

Gupta’s conclusion:

The concept of Caliphates does not recognise national boundaries. Pakistan has to realise that the Global jihad is as dangerous for her existence as it is for destabilising India. Ghazwa-e-Hind as prophesied includes the entire Indian subcontinent. Pakistan no longer can ignore the ominous signals. It is for both India and Pakistan to bury the hatchet and get ready to face the common enemy in the form of Islamist terror.

Both countries need to evolve a joint mechanism to fight the growing menace. One sincerely hopes that reality would dawn on the Pakistani authorities to change their anti-India outlook lest they are determined to implode. For the Indian authorities it would be advisable to take China on board. China is not merely a threat but provides a lot of opportunities as well, particularly when Pakistan has hurt China also by supporting the Uighur Islamist militants and separatist movement in Xinjiang. China may be more than willing to rein in Pakistan if it decides to ignore this sane advice.


All of that is appropriate as background, in my view, to yesterday’s AQ announcement of a “subcontinental” branch, apparently several years in the making.

Bill Roggio in LWJ writes Al Qaeda opens branch in the ‘Indian Subcontinent’:

Al Qaeda has announced the establishment of a new branch, called “Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent.” The group reports to Mullah Omar, the head of the Afghan Taliban, and is led by a former commander in the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan who also served as a sharia official in al Qaeda’s branch in Pakistan. The ultimate goal of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent is the same as al Qaeda’s: to establish a global caliphate and impose sharia, or Islamic law.

As Sahab, al Qaeda’s official media outlet, released a lengthy video promoting the creation of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent today. The video, which was published on various Internet video sites, including YouTube, features Ayman al Zawahiri as well as Asim Umar, the new emir of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, and Usama Mahmoud, the group’s spokesman. The video was translated by the SITE Intelligence group.

“A new branch of al-Qaeda was established and is Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent, seeking to raise the flag of jihad, return the Islamic rule, and empowering the Shariah of Allah across the Indian subcontinent,” Zawahiri says in the opening of the video, according to the translation by SITE.


Zawahiri says the group will defend the “vulnerable in the Indian subcontinent, in Burma, Bangladesh, Assam, Gujurat, Ahmedabad, and Kashmir …” and “your brothers in Qaedat al-Jihad did not forget you and that they are doing what they can to rescue you from injustice, oppression, persecution, and suffering.”


The creation of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent and the promotion of Asim mar highlights the close ties between al Qaeda and the Taliban groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al Qaeda routinely fights alongside both Taliban groups against the Afghan and Pakistani governments.

Al Qaeda has promoted the Asim Umar, the new emir of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, in several propaganda releases by As Sahab in the past two years. Umar was previously identified by al Qaeda as a commander in the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, a jihadist group closely linked to al Qaeda, in a video released by As Sahab in July 2013.

Also notable:

He [Asim Umar] focused on the growing jihad in Syria, and said that “[a]fter Iraq, the black flags of Khorasan are heading for Syria.” The Khorasan is a region in Asia that includes Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is considered a key battleground by al Qaeda.

Umar also indicated in that speech that al Qaeda was integrating with other jihadist groups and traveling to Syria to fight.

“Al Qaeda and other Mujahideen have taken the leadership of this movement in their own hands,” he said. “Several groups have gone to Syria from Afghanistan and are leading the Jihad there.”

Sanjoy Majumder of BBC News, Delhi, is quoted giving this analysis:

India’s intelligence and security services are studying the announcement by al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri very closely and have also asked their state units to remain vigilant on any possible threat.

At the same time, however, they see this more as a statement of intent, aimed at attracting fresh recruits to the organisation at a time when it is facing a threat as the pre-eminent global jihadi group from a rising Islamic State.

There is no evidence as yet of any al-Qaeda presence in India.


The only clear mention of the Ghazwa in the context of the AQ declaration that I’ve come across is in this, also from the BBC report today:

The BBC’s M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says Zawahiri’s announcement was not entirely unexpected.

The Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and some allied Punjabi militant groups have long debated the Ghazwa-e-Hind, or the battle for India, which they say was foretold by the Prophet Mohammad.

My own sense is that the Ghazwa e-Hind isn’t a raid performed by militants in place, Indians in India, but by an invading army, likely Pakistani in origin — but I’d certainly welcome comments on this side of things.


I haven’t seen the whole script of al-Zawahiri’s announcement, but as far as I know, he doesn’t mention the Ghazwa. I’m bringing the two together here because I believe one provides some context for the other, that they must surely overlap in several highly relevant minds. And the tweets I’ve seen about the AQ video have been appropriately ” keep calm” and “wait and see”:


JM then made a few points specifically addressing the announcement vis-a-vis the AQ / IS “balance of power” about which he recently wrote a major piece, and closed his series of tweets thus: