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EFSAS holds meetings with Scholars, Policy Advisors on Terrorism and Think Tanks in Brussels

20-05-2019 & 21-05-2019

A delegation of the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS), consisting of Mr. Junaid Qureshi (Director EFSAS), Mr. Dušan Vejinović (Senior Research Analyst EFSAS), Ms. Yoana Barakova, Ms. Soana Deunier and Mr. Hossein Mojtahedi (Research Analysts EFSAS) held meetings in Antwerp and Brussels with Scholars, Policy Advisors to the European Council and representatives of leading policy institutions working on various issues pertaining to the region of South Asia.

EFSAS first held a meeting with Prof. Dr. Tom Sauer, an Associate Professor in International Politics at the University of Antwerp, Belgium. Prof. Dr. Tom Sauer’s major research interests concentrate on international security, (nuclear) arms control, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, disarmament and missile defense.

EFSAS and Prof. Dr. Sauer discussed the geopolitical stability of the region of South Asia in general, and in particular the possibility of a nuclear war, which could have irreversible destructive consequences not only for the Indian subcontinent, but for the entire world. According to Dr. Sauer the region of South Asia contains the highest risk of a nuclear weapons confrontation, owing to the years-long Indo-Pak rivalry, violent clashes over the region of Jammu & Kashmir and growing terrorism and radicalization in the region. The recent terrorist attack in Pulwama in Indian Administered Jammu & Kashmir clearly exemplified a very dangerous scenario.


Mr. Junaid Qureshi, Ms. Yoana Barakova, Ms. Soana Deunier and Mr. Hossein Mojtahedi (EFSAS) with Dr. Jens Haarlov (Office of the EU counter-terrorism coordinator)


Considering the threat imposed by the operations of Pakistani-based terrorist groups, EFSAS raised the question whether terrorist organizations could acquire nuclear weapons and consequently bring India and Pakistan to the brink of a nuclear war. Prof. Dr. Sauer explained that this largely depends on to what extent terrorist outfits have the backing of the Pakistani military establishment, and thus in principle this could be possible.

Prof. Dr. Sauer further argued that an extremist group could also acquire the technical infrastructure and knowledge to build its own nuclear weapon, yet for that they would need the support of the government in order to get access to the necessary chemical elements. Hence, in case the Taliban is accommodated in the government in Afghanistan, this could be a worrying situation.

Prof. Dr. Sauer concluded by saying that for the sake of the stability of the entire globe any future escalations in South Asia must be prevented and that the only feasible way to avert a nuclear war is by eliminating entirely all weapons of mass destruction everywhere. EFSAS and Prof. Dr. Sauer exchanged views on possible collaboration and Prof. Dr. Sauer expressed his willingness to share his academic and scholarly expertise during future events organized by EFSAS.

EFSAS further held a meeting with Dr. Jens Haarlov, former Danish diplomat and currently a Policy Advisor to the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove.

The EFSAS delegation and Dr. Haarlov discussed various topics regarding the future of the South Asian region, notably Indo-Pak relations, the Afghan peace process and the threat of the Islamic State’s shift towards South Asia following their defeat in the Levant. The approach of the European Union towards reconciliation and its policies to promote peace and stability in the region were further discussed.

Ms. Yoana Barakova and Ms. Soana Deunier (EFSAS) with Ms. Anna Vuillerod (European Foundation for Democracy)


EFSAS and Dr. Haarlov both agreed that the fall of the IS in the Levant has not rendered their ideology obsolete. Considering South Asia’s fertile ground for radicalization, extremism and terrorism, IS’ shift to the region is not a surprise, which is evident from the fact that IS has already declared a province in Khorasan (Afghanistan), in Jammu & Kashmir and in Bangladesh. The group is, thus, attempting to gain a foothold in South Asia, which is a cause of great concern.

Dr. Haarlov elaborated EU’s role in the Afghan peace process and noted that the EU’s focus on Europe and its periphery, notably North Africa and the Middle East, is a mistake that could come back to haunt them. He emphasized that Afghanistan has been the recipient of EU foreign aid and assistance programs for years, yet the EU does not have a substantial political clout in the peace process despite all invested efforts and resources. EFSAS and Dr. Haarlov argued that should the EU choose to gain a foothold in the process, it must invest in the educational sector, as education is the key to a sustainable solution in Afghanistan. While secular education does exist in Afghanistan, madrassas are still prominent and play an essential role in the radicalization of youth.

EFSAS and Dr. Haarlov also examined the Indo-Af-Pak paradox, namely the fact that the future of Afghanistan depends on Indo-Pak relations, while it could also be argued that the future stability of India and Pakistan greatly relies on how the peace process in Afghanistan unfolds. Considering the close relationship between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistan military establishment, a sustainable solution for the region would further stem from the halting of the mushrooming of extremist ideologies in madrassas and the genuine crackdown of terrorist organizations in the AfPak region.

In conclusion, EFSAS agreed on providing its strategic analysis, statistical data, research and political forecast on developments related to the region of South Asia to Dr. Haarlov, in order to effectively address those global security challenges and simultaneously guarantee mutual strategic interests.

EFSAS also met with Ms. Anna Vuillerod, Policy Assistant at the European Foundation for Democracy (EFD). The EFD is a Brussels-based policy institute dedicated to preventing radicalisation, building resilience and empowering pro-democratic voices, which also closely cooperates with the European Commission’s Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) on the development of credible and robust alternative counter narratives for young people susceptible to radicalisation and recruitment by extremists.

Mr. Junaid Qureshi, Mr. Dušan Vejinović, Ms. Yoana Barakova with Prof. Dr. Tom Sauer (University of Antwerp)


The delegation of EFSAS and Ms. Vuillerod discussed the numerous set of aspects that contribute to the processes of religious indoctrination and violent extremism across South Asia, emphasising the role of religious propaganda, madrassas and the online presence of extremist organisations such as the IS. In regards to the region of Jammu & Kashmir, EFSAS particularly examined the shift from political struggle to religious extremism, alongside with the ongoing proxy warfare in the area, which have all given oxygen to terrorist groups for the purposes of targeting and recruiting young impressionable individuals. EFSAS further shed a light on the risk of perpetuating a vicious circle of radicalisation should the political climate in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan remain unstable.

Ms. Vuillerod described the research and projects undertaken by the EFD in order to combat and prevent growing radicalization, notably through establishing comprehensive educational policies and supporting front-line professionals. She highlighted the initiatives launched by the EFD, such as the publication of manuals, which aim to provide guidelines for teachers and social workers on how to protect children from extremism and recruitment.

Since EFSAS and EFD both pursue the aim of raising awareness among the international community on preventing radicalisation and extremism, the delegation of EFSAS and Ms. Vuillerod exchanged views on future collaboration on joint projects as the expertise of EFSAS and EFD complement each other.