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Islamism and Intelligence in South Asia: Militancy, Politics and Security

Islamism and Intelligence in South Asia: Militancy, Politics and Security
Prem Mahadevan

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State sponsorship of terrorism is a complex and important topic in today's international affairs - and especially pertinent in the regional politics of the Middle East and South Asia, where Pakistan has long been a flashpoint of Islamist politics and terrorism. In Islamism and Intelligence in South Asia, Prem Mahadevan demonstrates how over several decades, radical Islamists, sometimes with the tacit support of parts of the military establishment, have weakened democratic governance in Pakistan and acquired progressively larger influence over policy-making.

Mahadevan traces this history back to the anti-colonial Deobandi movement, which was born out of the post-partition political atmosphere and a rediscovery of the thinking of Ibn Taymiyyah, and partially ennobled the idea of `jihad' in South Asia as a righteous war against foreign oppression. Using Pakistani media and academic sources for the bulk of its raw data, and reinforcing this with scholarly analysis from Western commentators, the book tracks Pakistan's trajectory towards a `soft' Islamic revolution. Envisioned by the country's intelligence community as a solution to chronic governance failures, these narratives called for a re-orientation away from South Asia and towards the Middle East. In the process, Pakistan has become a sanctuary for Arab jihadist groups, such as Al-Qaeda, who had no previous ethnic or linguistic connection with South Asia. Most alarmingly, official discourse on terrorism has been partly silenced by the military-intelligence complex. The result is a slow drift towards extremism and possible legitimation of internationally proscribed terrorist organizations in Pakistan's electoral politics.

Author Info

Prem Mahadevan is a senior researcher with the Global Security Team at the Center for Security Studies (CSS), ETH Zurich. He specializes in the study of intelligence and sub-state conflict, and is responsible at the CSS for tracking jihadist terrorism and geopolitical trends in the Indo-Pacific and Western-Central Europe.

Mahadevan completed his undergraduate degree in War Studies from King's College London, followed by postgraduate and doctoral degrees in Intelligence Studies. He has advised Indian government agencies on counter-terrorist operational management, provided political risk assessments to the private sector, and been consulted by the Czech government, EUROPOL and NATO Headquarters on emerging security challenges.


'I have long admired the writings of Prem Mahadevan, not only his excellent works on modern terrorism but across the board of national security studies. His publications are invariably incisive, reliably researched, and brimming with insights. He displays these talents again in his most recent book, Islamism and Intelligence in South Asia, which peers deeply into the hidden dynamics of jihadist militancy in Pakistan. No one can fathom the future of the jihadist movement without coming to grips with its methods in this important South Asian nation; this book is indispensable for that purpose.'
Lock K. Johnson, Regents Professor of Political Science, University of Georgia, USA, 'Dr Mahadevan's book provides a macro-historical overview of jihadism in South Asia and the role that intelligence has played. His careful and detailed analysis reveals an alarming degree of continuity in the arms of the militant Islamists over time and space; indeed, the demonstration of the longevity of these trends is one of the book's strengths. The book should appeal to academics and policy-makers alike: the value of the lessons derived are of considerable policy relevance. Islamism and Intelligence in South Asia is a superb, scholarly book and I wholeheartedly recommend it.'
Michael S. Goodman, Professor in Intelligence & International Affairs, King's College London and Official Historian of the UK Joint Intelligence Committee, 'Contains a wealth of information on the complex dynamics centred on Islamism, jihadism and terrorism, including the relationship between the state and militant groups. The author shows his through knowledge of the region, its intricacies, and its long troubled history....Complex inter- and intra-state politics, and regional dynamics, are presented in a manner that is easily understandable to common readers and experts alike.'
Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, 'Islamism and Intelligence in South Asia approaches its subject from a fresh perspective. It is an important book at the present juncture where wishful thinking, deception and self-delusion continue to dominate the responses of various powers struggling to deal with Islamist terrorism emanating from Pakistan'.- Ajai Sahni, Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi, 'In this informative and fascinating volume, Prem Mahadevan explores how Pakistan became at once a safe haven, a victim, an enabler, and an exporter of Islamist militancy. It is a fascinating journey into the murky domain of the `deep state' and hidden hands. Mahadevan sheds light on dynamics that defy outside analysis...'
Brian Michael Jenkins, Senior Advisor to the President of the RAND Corporation

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.

ISBN: 9781784534646
Publication Date: 29 May 2018
Number of Pages: 256
Height: 216
Width: 138
Illustrations: 1 map

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