TOPIC: General studies 3
- Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
- Challenges to internal security through communication networks and social networking sites
- Linkages between development and spread of extremism.
- Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.
The growing Islamic State threat: a “Big Concern”
Extremists have carried out four massive attacks in three continents since the beginning of Ramzan this year, the holy month in the Islamic calendar. All the attacks were directly or indirectly linked to the Islamic State (IS) terror group.
Recent attacks by extremists in
- Orlando, U.S.
- Istanbul, Turkey
- Dhaka , Bangladesh
- Baghdad, Iraq
Out of these, the IS has claimed direct responsibility for the July 3 bombing in Baghdad that killed more than 200 people.
In other three attacks, most of the attackers have pledged their allegiance to the IS or not an IS-directed assault but an inspired one.
New face of Terrorism
Each of the above attacks has its own nuances.
- The U.S. government says Orlando was not an IS-directed assault but an inspired one.
- In Turkey, the outfit did not claim responsibility (something unusual when compared to the boastful claims it makes after terror strikes elsewhere)
- In Bangladesh, the government has rejected the IS’s claims, blaming local militant networks instead.
- Baghdad could be the only incident in this set where there’s a consensus on the identity of the perpetrator.
But these nuances also reflect the new face of terrorism.
The IS is expanding its reach through its ideology even as it’s facing organisational setbacks at its core.
- All attackers in the above discussed four cities may not have got directions from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or his core team.
- There need not be an organisational link between the IS in Iraq and Syria and the terror cells in Dhaka or Jhenaidah.
- What connects these men is the deadly world view the IS is propagating.
- For the IS, everyone who doesn’t subscribe to its vision is an enemy and it divides these enemies into different sects — crusaders (largely Christians), apostates (mostly non-Sunni Muslims) and sinners (it could be anyone from gays to rebels).
In the three years of its existence, the IS has adopted several tactical approaches to stay relevant as a global jihadist force.
(Case I) Initial Tactic: Establishment of a Caliphate
- Its early focus was on the establishment of a Caliphate.
- The weak sectarian government of PM Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq and the bloody chaotic civil war in Syria let the group capture territories in both countries and declare the Caliphate.
- In the first year of the Caliphate, the IS kept expanding its territorial reach.
- The IS blended both asymmetric terrorism and modern warfare tactics to capture and hold on to territories.
(This approach was different from the al-Qaeda-type terror organisations which were mainly hit-and-run groups.)
Problem with this tactic:
- Enemies could easily target such groups by attacking the areas they control. The IS started facing the heat when its multiple enemies such as Russia, the U.S., Iran and the Kurds launched separate attacks from all sides of the Caliphate.
(Case II) Tactic: Suicide Bombings
When the IS lost most of its territories and when they were repelled by the Kurdish fighters, the IS shifted its strategy by started attacking faraway locations using suicide bombers at the same time. (Especially when it lost Kobane, the Syrian border town which the IS laid siege too briefly.)
So, till Kobane, the IS’s focus was largely on Iraq and Syria. But Kobane shattered the myth of invincibility, prompting the group to change tack.
Incidents of IS attacks –
- IS gunmen killed 22 people in Tunisia’s Bardo national museum.
- They struck Paris, killing 130 people.
- Brussels attacks
- Beirut bombing
These attacks were largely planned at the core and executed elsewhere — or the al-Qaeda style of suicide attacks. In all these attacks, the jihadists were trained in Syria and sent out to carry out the “missions”.
Problems with this tactic:
- Even this tactic had its limitations. Terror modules could attract the attention of intelligence agencies in countries with functional institutions. There’s a higher chance for them to be busted than attacks being carried out.
- On the other side, the IS’s core territory kept shrinking. It lost Palmyra in Syria, and Ramadi and Fallujah in Iraq.
- The group is facing enormous pressure from all sides of the Caliphate — the Iraqis are set to march towards Mosul, while Kurdish forces backed by U.S. aircraft are breathing down on Raqqa.
(Case III) New Tactic: Propagation of IS ideology
The IS wanted to strike anywhere outside Iraq and Syria (which is relatively easy for the group) to continue to stay in the business of jihadism.
This desperation was apparent in the Ramzan message released by IS spokesperson Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, who called for “a month of calamity everywhere for non-believers”.
The group’s propaganda has urged “supporters and soldiers of the Caliphate” to pledge allegiance to the Caliph and then carry out mass murder.
IS issued an audio message – “The smallest action you do in the heart of their land is dearer to us than the largest action by us”
The new tactic is paying off
- The recent attacks since the beginning of Ramzan this year – Orlando, Turkey and Dhaka attacks – show that this tactic is paying off.
- This is a far more dangerous phase.
- Al-Qaeda usually operates from its hideouts through its networks or autonomous cells.
- The IS has territory (the Caliphate); it has networks and affiliates (from Afghanistan to Nigeria); autonomous cells (possibly the Istanbul attack was carried out by such a cell and that’s why the IS leadership doesn’t claim the assault); and lone wolves and local groups that have subscribed to its world view (Orlando and Dhaka).
Irrespective of the setbacks it suffered at its core, the IS has transformed its ideology, which at the advent of the group was seen as an isolated, barbaric world view propagated by a few wicked human beings, into that of a globalised force. This means that even if the IS is defeated in Mosul and Raqqa, the threat it poses to the modern world is not going to subside anytime soon.
Connecting the dots:
- The recent attacks by IS either directly or indirectly reflects its new phase or tactic, which the security experts claim, “is a far more dangerous phase”. Do you agree? Discuss your view point. Also discuss, how Islamic State approach differs from the al-Qaeda-type terror organisations?
- “The recent attacks by IS are not an IS-directed assault but an inspired one”. Give some strategies/suggestions, both from a domestic viewpoint and at global level, how to tackle these kinds of attacks which are carried out by its autonomous cells or lone wolves or local extremist groups that have subscribed to its (IS’s) world view.
General studies 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
General studies 3:
- Science and Technology – developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
- Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
Hanging Free Basics—Between Telecom & Internet Services
- Net neutrality is the principle that individuals should be free to access all content and applications equally, regardless of the source, without Internet service providers discriminating against specific online services or websites.
- Without net neutrality rules in place, ISPs can prevent users from visiting some websites, provide slower speeds for services like Netflix, or even redirect users from one website to a competing website. Net neutrality rules prevent this by requiring ISPs to connect users to all lawful content on the internet equally, without giving preferential treatment to certain sites or services.
- In the absence of net neutrality, companies can buy priority access to ISP customers. Larger, wealthier companies like Google or Facebook can pay ISPs to provide faster, more reliable access to their websites than to potential competitors. This could deter innovative start-up services that are unable to purchase priority access from the ISPs.
- Also, if ISPs can charge online services to connect to consumers, consumers would ultimately bear these additional costs
Facebook’s Free Basics-
Facebook (FB) had recently allowed signing an online petition by those who support free basics. As per FB’s online petition, it urged users to send a letter to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) supporting Free Basics.
Free basics: Free Basics is part of the Internet.org by Facebook initiative. It is a platform (app) which makes the internet accessible to more people by providing them access to a range of free basic services like news, maternal health, travel, local jobs, sports, communication, and local government information.
Against free basics-
- Data as commodity:
- When users go online internet data is consumed and personal data is the currency of the Internet economy.
- Data as commodity is the oil of the 21st century. Facebook and Google’s revenue model is based on monetising our personal data and selling it to advertisers (like what we search more, which age group etc.)
- Facebook generates estimated revenue of nearly $1 billion from its Indian subscribers, on which it pays no tax (FB is a US based company for which it pays no tax in India).
- Free basics is not free and violates net neutrality:
- Free Basics is not free, basic Internet as its name appears to imply. It has a version of Facebook, and only a few other websites and services that are willing to partner Facebook’s proprietary platform.
- With free basics the concept of net neutrality is violated. The internet service providers (ISP’s) by tying up with FB act as gatekeepers, regulating what content we have to view and what we should not.
- Basic flaw with the model:
- Facebook’s ads and advertorials talk about education, health and other services being provided by Free Basics, without telling us how we are going to access doctors and medicines through the Internet; or education.
- It forgets that while English is spoken by only about 12 per cent of the world’s population, 53 per cent of the Internet’s content is English. If Indians need to access education or health services, they need to access it in their languages, and not in English.
- And no education can succeed without teachers. The Internet is not a substitute for schools and colleges but only a complement, that too if material exists in the languages that the students understand. Similarly, health demands clinics, hospitals and doctors, not a few websites on a private Facebook platform.
- Monopolization of internet:
- Free basics have some limited apps which can be accessed without any cost (zero rating). When more people log onto free basics as it has no data charge, indirectly FB starts monopolising internet.
- Internet becomes FB and FB becomes internet. Who knows—if after monopolisation FB can charge money or data from people for accessing its services!
Thus, TRAI ruled in favour of Net neutrality-
The telecom regulator struck down differential pricing for internet services offered by telecom players to mobile users, in a bid to uphold the principles of net neutrality—serving a big blow to Facebook’s Free Basics and other zero-rated platforms such as Airtel Zero for which the social media giant
- No service provider can offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content. Tariff for data services could not vary on the basis of the website/application/ platform/ or type of content being accessed. For example, a consumer could not be charged differently based on whether she was browsing social media site A or B, or on whether she was watching streaming videos or shopping on the Internet, it added
- No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged by the service provider for the purpose of evading the prohibition in this regulation.
A new Consultation paper—Bringing Free Basics back from the grave
Differential pricing back in spirit?
Differential pricing means charging customers different prices for access to different websites and services. Zero-rating platforms are services developed by telcos in partnership with internet service providers (ISPs)/app makers come give free access to customers for certain applications/websites
TRAI, earlier: Price-based differentiation would make certain content more attractive to consumers resulting in altering a consumer’s online behaviour and the knowledge and outlook of those users would be shaped only by the information made available through those select offerings.
TRAI, at present: The real problem was that Free Basics had an exclusive agreement with just one telco to do so. It would accordingly be fine if Free Basics entered into a similar agreement with all telcos.
- Telcos will not be able to benefit from content-based price discrimination. However, they will facilitate ways whereby content providers can pick up the tab for consumers accessing their content (and not other)
- Or consumers being reimbursed directly by content providers for the access of their content
Effects on the consumer: Incentivised access to some content and services over others, undercutting the key equalising feature of the Internet
Internet exceptionalism—A new trend on the block
- The Internet is considered to be some kind of uniquely regulation-free zone
- Paves way for a distinction being done by the regulator— between regulating the telcos and regulating “Internet services and apps”
- Universal access to the Internet need not be interpreted as “uniform access” and the build-out of networks should be aligned to the absorptive capacity of a region by making it a demand-driven service.
- The time is also right to give up the telecom-Internet distinction as communication systems of the society are of special social significance and requires committed regulation and not just be treated as ordinary market goods.
- An attempt to bring back the Free Basics by making a distinction between telecom and ‘Internet services’ should be done away with and TRAI should make sure that paid prioritisation, blocking and throttling of lawful content and services on the net be excluded (strictly, at that)
Connecting the Dots:
- What do you understand by net neutrality? Is free basics initiative of Facebook a violation of net neutrality? Substantiate
- Explain the terms differential pricing and zero rating used in telecom sector.
- ‘The British Empire was based on the control of the seas. Today, whoever controls the data oceans controls the global economy.’ Comment.
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