India: The Militant Focus on High Tech Print
Written by Stratfor   
Friday, 05 January 2007 00:00

On Jan. 5, Indian police arrested a suspected militant near Jalahalli, a village just north of the important high-tech center of Bangalore. The arrest, the latest in a series of incidents connected to the high-tech industry, demonstrates the increasing militant focus on this vital sector of the Indian economy.

Acting on intelligence, Bangalore police arrested the suspect -- a male in his early 30s identified only as Imran (aka Bilal) -- as he traveled to Bangalore on a private bus from Hospet, a city in Bellary district, in Karnataka state, some 220 miles from Bangalore. Police also confiscated one assault rifle and 300 rounds of ammunition. More significantly, they recovered a satellite phone, SIM cards and a map of Bangalore with several locations reportedly marked out, including the airport, Wipro Technologies Ltd. and the complex operated by Infosys Technologies, the Bangalore-based global information technology (IT) services provider. Although Infosys denies it was a target, this is the second time since October 2006 that the company's name has come up in an incident involving a potential militant plot.

Bangalore police very doubtfully intercepted the suspect on his way to an attack. The suspect's possession of a satellite phone and multiple SIM cards indicates he was not acting alone, but rather was part of a larger, well-financed group. (Both the phone and the airtime to use it would have been costly). Furthermore, the satellite phone suggests the suspect was much more than a foot soldier, but most likely was an operational commander. Satellite phones are likely the preferred way for militants operating in India to communicate with commanders in the remote mountainous Kashmir region. The fact that the suspect was carrying several SIM cards suggests he was changing them frequently in order to ensure his calls would not be traced.

In recent years, militant organizations, including the Kashmiri separatist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Maoist Naxalites, have increasingly targeted India's high-tech sector. LeT militants, whose attacks against religious, government and other economic targets have failed either to cause significant economic harm or to elicit the desired response from the Indian government, could be broadening their target set to focus on the important high-tech industry. By striking this sector, the militants could force an exodus of multinational corporations from India, which would be devastating to the country's growing economy.

The arrest near Bangalore is just the latest incident in a series of hoaxes, arrests and attacks involving the high-tech sector:

  • March 2005: A raid against suspected Kashmiri militants uncovers evidence of a plot against IT companies in Bangalore.

  • October 2005: The U.S. State Department warns U.S. citizens in India of a possible threat of attacks against U.S. interests in New Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Kolkata.

  • December 2005: A gunman attacks a conference at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.

  • January 2006: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh confirms that militants are targeting the country's IT industry.

  • March 2006: Police in Hyderabad increase security at business centers around the city in response to what authorities believe is a credible threat against customer service and support centers.

  • August 2006: Indian police arrest a suspect linked to the Mumbai commuter train bombing. He reportedly worked at the Oracle India facility in Mysore.

  • August 2006: Indian police step up security around IT centers in Bangalore after receiving intelligence about possible militant attacks.

  • October 2006: Militants are arrested after a shootout with police near the Infosys campus in Mysore.

    Given the growing importance of India's high-tech sector, it makes sense that militant groups aiming to strike a blow at the government by damaging the economy would now be setting their sights on this large and vital industry. Should the cost of providing adequate security against potential attackers begin to outweigh the benefits of operating in India, multinationals could begin to lose interest in maintaining their operations there.
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