Qaeda
Al Qaida's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri speaks from an unknown location, in this still image taken from video uploaded on a social media website.Reuters

Al-Qaida leader Ayman al Zawahiri has countered the growing coverage of Isis (now known as the Islamic State) by announcing the creation of a new Indian front in a call to Muslims in South Asia to join the "caravan of jihad".

In the 56-minute video, Zawahiri says the "Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent" is to be "the standard bearer" of former leader Osama bin Laden's "global message which aimed to unite the [world's Muslims] in jihad against enemy, liberate occupied lands and establish the caliphate".

The offshoot of the terror group, which Zawahiri has controlled since the death of Bin Laden, would fight for Muslims facing "injustice and oppression in Burma, Bangladesh, Assam, Gujarat, Ahmedabad, and Kashmir," he said.

According to experts, the terror group is facing an uphill task recruiting young jihadists who are flocking to the Islamic State which has declared a 'caliphate' across the Iraqi-Syrian border.

The groups fell out in 2013 after IS expanded into Syria, conducting beheadings, crucifixions and mass executions.

In a snub to the Islamic State, Zawahiri pledges the new al-Qaida offshoot's allegiance to the Taliban's leader Mullah Omar.

"This new group has not come into formation in a single day, but attempts to unite the jihadi groups of subcontinent that were going on for nearly past two years. This group will work under the central al-Qaida, which is an army among the armies... led by Mullah Omar," it says.

It is believed that, in the face of the spreading influence of the Islamic State in the Middle East, Zawahiri is now turning his attention to the almost half a billion Muslims who reside in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

In his statement, he warned new recruits against punishing local Muslim populations, an allegation levelled against the Islamic State.

"If you said that you are doing jihad to defend the sanctities of the Muslims, then you must not transgress against them or their money or honour, and not even transgress your mujahideen brothers by word and action," he said.

"Discord is a curse and torment, and disgrace for the believers and glory for the disbelievers," he said. "If you say that by your jihad you do not want but the pleasure of Allah, then you must not race for governance and leadership at the first opportunity."

India's population consists of approximately 175 million Muslims (15%), the third largest Muslim population in the world.