By Ashok Dixit
New Delhi, Feb.11 (ANI): Experts participating in a seminar focussed on making an assessment of countering terrorism finance and what steps possibly could be taken to neutralise it, have said that countries in South Asia, including India, seriously need to consider incorporating detailed policy initiatives and give the subject the policy-related attention that it deserves.
Describing terror financing as a huge issue, Dr. Amit Kumar, President, AAA International Security Consultants LLC, said the subject necessarily should be split into four heads to acquire an impactful understanding of the nature of the threat, three of which were – (1) Terrorism threats (2) Finance angle (3) Strategic angle.
Kumar said one of the most important factors sustaining terrorism finance was that it was available both from within and without, and added that insofar as South Asia is concerned, terrorist groups are not new, and have had a presence in the region for the past 35 years or more.
Dr. Kumar further said that the rise of terrorist groups in most parts of the world, and especially in South Asia, need to be examined in the context of pre-9/11 and post 9/11, and added that as far as India was concerned, the government’s efforts in countering terrorism financing definitely saw an upward swing after the serial bomb blasts in Mumbai in 1993 and the 26/11 terror strike in the same city in 2008.
Dr. Kumar and other participants in the Society for Policy Studies organized special lecture unanimously voiced their support for streamlining and ensuring unity of functions, rather than continuing with duality of functions by central investigative agencies that were investigating terror financing.
Kumar said, “I think it will simplify matters if we had unity of functions instead of duality of functions, because what happens is there is certain agency tasked with terror financing, another agency tasked with money laundering, other departments like MoF (Ministry of Finance) and DRI (Directorate of Revenue Intelligence) investigating trade base money laundering.”
He added, “So, if there were a common law, as there are two different legislations, one is PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) and the other is UAPA (Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act),. That is the reason we would like look at terror financing and money laundering in isolation, given the fact that terror finances and money laundering are intertwined.”
He also dwelled on the issue of cyber terrorism, which he described as a relatively more recent threat, as opposed to the more well known physical and traditional form of terrorism, and revealed that “men, material, money and messages help terrorism and terrorists.”
Dr. Kumar further informed that institutions like NGOs, cash couriers and hawala were actively used to finance terrorism and terrorists, the latter two probably being the easiest and simplest methods for ferreting money due to India’s porous borders and cost-effectiveness of cross-border value transfers.
He said that there was need to look at the implementation matrix and the impact matrix more emphatically, as also to seriously consider improved training modules and building two-way information sharing at all levels.
Commodore C. Uday Bhaskar, Director, Society for Policy Studies, said, “One big lacuna in India is the need to harmonize legislation. One constant refrain is that that law and order is a state subject. So, we need to figure out when a transgression of law and order becomes a terrorist attack. I think there is a need to harmonize and create capacity for monitoring at a time when information technology offer many possibilities and that’s the strength for India.”
Colonel Vivek Chadha (Retired), who has authored a book on countering terrorism financing, said that it would make for useful analysis to assess the financial clout of separatist leaders in a sensitive state like Jammu and Kashmir, as also election financing, use of the banking sector and why private banks were found to be better or easier conduits for receiving unaccounted for funds In India.
He maintained that vested interests were preventing the introduction of strong laws despite increased awareness.
The experts were unanimous in their calls for strengthening of domestic legislations and regulations followed in the wake of initiatives taken by the United States (US), after 9/11; and these efforts received an impetus after 26/11, as also pursuant to the decision to take membership of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
Brigadier V. Mahalingam (Retired), said, “As far as terrorism is concerned, India needs to do a lot in terms of terror financing. This is the issue which is very important, and in fact, in certain cases, finances drive terrorism, and, as far as government agencies are concerned, there is a need for counter terror financing agencies and investigative agencies to be fully integrated.” (ANI)