Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Compromising Indian citizens’ lives for vote bank

The outgoing UPA government is leaving the aam aadami and the nation highly vulnerable to terrorists, according to irrefutable evidence emerging from both within and outside the country.

What the aam aadami knows is that the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh earlier this month rubbed shoulders with other Heads of State from the world’s most powerful group of 20 countries (G-20) in London.

What the public does not know the UPA government’s shameful record in preventing terrorism as assessed on the G-20 report card titled Measures to Combat the Financing of Terrorism—Summary of Country Measures.

It compares 19 countries and the European Union that collectively constitute the G-20 on 15 parameters. India’s performance on most crucial parameters is nothing but a scandal.

The UPA-led India scored ‘nil’ on three crucial parameters and ‘No’ on two other vital parameters.

The country scored ‘nil’ against the parameter regarding the number of Al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists listed under two United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 1333/1390 for which assets freeze order has been issued.

It is obvious that the United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA’s) obsession for minority community votes that compels it either go soft or drag feet against terrorism. Islamic countries such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, don’t have such minority fixation. The latter thus reported 503 cases and the former 182 against this parameter.

India again scores ‘nil’ against the parameter titled ‘number of other terrorists under UNSCR 1373 for which a freeze order has been issued’.

The report card assigns India zero on the issue of amount of assets accounts (of terrorists) frozen.

The country has been assigned a big ‘No’ against the query: ‘Can freeze be simultaneously?’

It again gets ‘No’ against the query titled specific risk-based measures in place to ensure that non-profit organisations (NPOs) cannot be abused for the financing of terrorism.

India’s laxity in the area of anti-money laundering (AML) and CFT has also been reported in an international study titled Vulnerabilities of Casinos and Gaming Sector, which was released a few days back.

The study has been prepared jointly by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and a global informal forum named Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which spearheads AML and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) initiatives.

The report says that India’s six casinos operating in Goa are not regulated under AML and CFT.

The implicit message is terrorists can thus easily channel funds through casinos in India as well as Nepal, which have also kept casinos out of the ambit of AML and CFT.

Here it is pertinent to remind aam aadami about UPA’s half-heartedness in implementing recommendations from various government-constituted entities.

The Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC’s) recommendation on (CFT), for instance, has not been acted upon.

In its report submitted in June 2008, ARC recommended incorporation of a separate chapter in the ational Security Act (NSA) to provide legal framework for freezing assets including bank accounts in cases “when there is reasonable suspicion of their intended use in terrorist activities”.

UPA government has to simply issue an ordinance to implement such a sage recommendation and thus avoid hundreds of terrorist-inflicted casualties in a year.

In its report on terrorism, ARC observed: “When faced with the need to protect national security and integrity, there is ample justification for having strong anti-terrorism provisions in the law. In fact, many western countries with strong traditions of democracy and civil liberty have enacted such legislations to deal with the threat of terrorism.”

Similarly, the Law Commission had also recommended a water-tight and comprehensive definition of terrorism that should include raising funds for or fostering activities of the banned organisations. This and several other recommendations to protect the life and limb of aam aadami are contained in the Commission’s 173rd report on Prevention of Terrorism Bill that was submitted in April 2000.

Later, the BJP-led NDA government had enacted Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), 2002 to deal with terrorism, whose legal definition included raising funds for terrorist activities.

As put by a General Manager of Training College, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in 2003, POTA “seeks to deal with types of heinous crimes like subversion, insurgency and terrorism in place of the existing criminal justice system, which is not designed to deal with such horrific crimes. The Act replaces the Ordinance that was first promulgated on October 24, 2001 and re-promulgated thereafter in December 2001. The Act also meets the requirement of the United Nations resolution calling upon member nations to enact a model deterrent law to curb the growing menace of internal and global terrorism.”

Turning a blind eye to such independent assessment, UPA government repealed POTA due to compulsions of minority politics, thereby giving a major encouragement to terrorism in 2004.

Forget amending NSA, UPA government has not even framed rules under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act 2008, which provides for punishment for raising funds for terrorist activities.

Same is the case with the Prevention of Money Laundering (Amendment) Act (PMLA), which was yet to be notified after its passage by both the houses of Parliament in January 2009. The amended law is supposed to counter financing of terrorism.

Minority vote-bank politics has delayed the enforcement of amended laws as well as amendment of other laws.

The UPA’s lack of political will to take on terrorism is also confirmed from its failure to replace outdated The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 1976 with a new law, though the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) (FCR) Bill 2006 was prepared in 2006.

India would have won half its war against terrorism had it paid heed to advice from various international entities.

In 2003, Asian Development Bank (ADB), for instance, recommended: “Countries should review the adequacy of laws and regulations that relate to entities that can be abused for the financing of terrorism. Non-profit organisations (NPOs) are particularly vulnerable, and countries should ensure that they cannot be misused by terrorist organisations posing as legitimate entities”

In its policy paper on combating money laundering and terrorist funding, ADB said terrorists can exploit legitimate entities as conduits for terrorist financing, including for the purpose of escaping asset freezing measures; and to conceal the clandestine diversion of funds intended for legitimate purposes to terrorist organisations.

The US Department of State, in its International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), published in March 2009, has also raised alarm bell at the chinks in Indian legal framework in combating terrorism.

INCSR recommends: “Given the number of terrorist attacks in India and the fact that in India hawala is directly linked to terrorist financing, the GOI (Government of India) should prioritize cooperation with international initiatives that provide increased transparency in alternative remittance systems. India should devote more law enforcement and customs resources to curb abuses in the diamond trade.”

Stressing the urgency for passing the FCR Bill 2006 to prevent terrorist financing through NPOs, the report says: “GOI regulations governing charities remain antiquated and the process by which charities are governed at the provincial and regional levels is weak.”

Had the FCR bill been enacted into a law, India would have been to crack down on the channeling of terrorism funds through dubious non-government organisations (NGOs)/NPOs.

Had that been the case, India would have moved a step closer to membership of FATF, whose 40 AML recommendations and 9 CFT recommendations (40 plus 9) have become the global gold standard in tackling money laundering and terrorism funding.

The country at present participates in FATF only as an observer though it was invited to file an application for membership way back in 1998.

India is at present a member of two other regional FATF-type groups – Asia Pacific Group (APG) and Egmont group.

Membership of FATF would not only help India strengthen its capability to take on terrorists but also strengthen its case to access vital data on thousands of crores of rupee of black money stashed away in foreign banks by rich businessmen and politicians in tax havens.

India’s readiness on AML-CFT front would be known only after 2nd independent assessment called ‘mutual evaluation’ jointly by APG and FATF in the fourth quarter of 2009.

The first such assessment by APG in 2005 found India’s non-compliant with several crucial (40 plus 9) recommendations.

As put by a Finance Ministry official, “We had not covered all of what are called 20 serious predicate offences.”

The APG report said: “India has not undertaken any comprehensive threat assessment of money laundering or terrorist financing. Its legislative efforts have been concentrated on fight tax evasion and the large black money component in its economy.”

It is thus not surprising to learn that finance amended the definition of ‘suspicious transaction’ in PMLA rules in May 2007 only to specifically provide for reporting of suspected transactions relating to terrorist financing.

The ministry’s anti-money laundering arm, Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), is also implementing leisurely its information technology project named FINnet, which was conceived in 2006.

It had twice invited bids for selection of system integrator for the project in 2008 and later extended the last date for submission of bids to January 7, 2009.

FINet is crucial for both AML and CFT initiatives. It, for instance, would be capable of automated detection of suspicious patterns using data mining tools. It would also deploy advanced trend analysis using business intelligence tools.

By the time India becomes fully compliant with 40 plus 9 recommendations, terrorists would continue to get funds easily to carry forward their agenda. Thousands of more aam aadamis would perhaps have to pay for UPA’s lack of political will to nip terrorism in the bud.

Bhay (Fear) Ho! Jai Ho!! Jai Ho!!!

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