Terror groups like LeT and Jaish continue to ‘destabilise region’: India at UN
India has called for a zero-tolerance approach, without any “double standards”, to combat the existential global threat of the terror-crime nexus, under which UN-sanctioned terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed continue to “destabilise regions through their cross-border financing” and propaganda.
“We have heard today how the twin scourges of terror and organised crime feed off the same lifelines. The nature of their relationship may vary, but they are sustained by the same malignant forces that seek to undermine governance, development and social cohesion through the illegitimate use of violence,” India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin said at the United Nations on Tuesday.
Speaking at a high-level special event of the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on ‘Cooperation to promote peace, security and stability: preventing the linking of terrorism with organised crime and its financing through drug trafficking’, Akbaruddin said, “The terror-crime nexus is an existential global threat, the contours of which are mutating everyday.” In order to combat this menace, Akbaruddin said the international community will need to keep ahead of the new trends and technologies -- “something that can only be achieved if we work together, with a zero-tolerance approach, bereft of double standards”.
Akbaruddin emphasised that an added challenge in the nexus between terror and organised crime is the role of new and emerging technologies, including virtual currencies, encrypted communications and artificial intelligence. “Such technologies are making networks loosely associated on the ground, closely intertwined in cyber-space,” he said.
The Indian envoy said UN-designated terrorist organisations such as the ISIL, the Al-Shabab, the Al-Qaida, the Boko Haram, the LeT and the JeM “continue to destabilise entire regions through their cross-border financing, propaganda, and recruitment, including by using -- rather abusing -- evolving global public goods such as the cyberspace and social media”.
He stressed that terrorist organisations are engaging in lucrative criminal activities such as human trafficking to raise funds. At the same time, he said, criminal groups have joined hands with terrorists to provide illicit financing through drug trafficking, arms dealing, selling looted antiquities, money laundering and counterfeiting. “Depending upon the circumstances, these groups can coexist, cooperate and even converge,” Akbaruddin said. He cited the example of drug trafficking used to finance terror networks in South Asia. According to the Afghanistan Opium Survey by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), out of an estimated 29 million dollars generated in “illegal taxation” of opium revenues in Afghanistan in 2018, 21 million dollars were collected by anti-government elements, including the Taliban.
“The cross-border nature of such fused entities and their financing activities poses a serious challenge, as coordinated international response is too slow to be effective in most cases,” Akbaruddin said.
He underlined the importance of global frameworks such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and need for Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) to combat the terror-crime nexus. “Terrorist organisations have to recruit and train fighters, buy weapons and equipment, wage propaganda campaigns, and plan and carry out operations. These activities cost money, so understanding how groups raise, store, move, and spend that money helps bringing terrorists to justice and deters others from harbouring them or funding or joining their organisations,” he said, adding that the UN needs to increase cooperation and coordination with such bodies.
At the same time, there also needs to be much greater rigour and transparency in the implementation of instruments already at the disposal of the UN, such as the Security Council regimes targeting terrorist entities and individuals, Akbaruddin said. “The efforts at concluding the CCIT have seen little progress at the UN and require to reinvigoration,” he said.
He noted that addressing these challenges requires increased sophistication and a coordinated international response, with real time intelligence sharing, capacity building and technology assistance. Akbaruddin lamented that while there is an expanding body of international legal instruments to prevent transnational organised crimes in specific sectors, there is still no common global strategy to curb criminal activities in cyberspace. However, the Christchurch Call, which brought technology companies and governments together to commit to “eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online” is one way forward, he said, referring to the commitment launched in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on two mosques in New Zealand’s Christchurch town in March 2019. The attack, which was live streamed, killed 51 people and injured 50.
India, which joined the SCO in June 2017, has acceded to the ‘SCO Agreement on Cooperation in Combating Illegal Trafficking of Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Precursors’, which provides for cooperation in the analysis of crimes related to illicit narcotic-trafficking and harmonization of national legislation in the fight against narcotic trafficking.
Akbaruddin said India looks forward to organising an SCO event in India on combating illegal financial flows related to narcotics trafficking in 2020.