Pak’s Wallet Shrinks, Narco-Terror Role Grows

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Despite grappling with an economic crisis and heavily relying on foreign loans, Pakistan skillfully assembles resources to fund terrorist organizations…writes S.P.S. Pannu

While India has stepped up its vigil and there has been a paradigm shift in the country’s counter-terror doctrine which now allows retaliatory strikes, Pakistan continues to sponsor cross-border terrorism to keep Jammu and Kashmir on the boil.

Although Pakistan has plunged into an economic crisis and is surviving on foreign loans, it somehow manages to scrape together enough resources to finance terror groups. Proof has also emerged that the narcotics trade is being used to finance these terror activities. Pakistani drones carrying drugs and arms across the border have been shot down in Indian territory.

India has been relentlessly highlighting Pakistan’s involvement in sponsoring cross-border terrorism, but Islamabad has managed to wriggle out of the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and secured a bailout from the IMF aided by geopolitical considerations and backing from big brother China.

Cash-strapped Pakistan has hiked its defence expenditure by a whopping 15.5 per cent to Rs 1.8 lakh crore for the fiscal year 2023-24, making its priorities very clear.

In a joint statement issued after talks between U.S. President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Washington in June this year, the two countries “strongly condemned cross-border terrorism and the use of terrorist proxies” by Pakistan.

Pakistani Currency.

The statement called on Islamabad “to take immediate action to ensure that no territory under its control is used for launching terrorist attacks.”

However, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry in a cynical response said the statement was “politically motivated,” and it was “surprised” by the reference given “Pakistan’s close counterterrorism cooperation with the U.S.”

India has been forced to take measures to fortify its national security both against terrorism as well as the twin military threats on its borders with Pakistan and China.

The Narendra Modi government’s new counter-terror doctrine provides for retaliation against terror groups responsible for strikes within or outside the country. The 2016 surgical strikes and the 2019 Balakot strike by the Indian armed forces formed part of this strategy. Both these retaliations were well planned with all the three defence services fully prepared for both vertical and horizontal escalations by land, air or sea.

The retaliation by India across Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) in 2016 and in Balakot in Mansehra district in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) in 2019 after the Pulwama attack, has served to send a message to the hostile neighbour that India will not let such acts go unpunished. Many prominent leaders of terrorist groups have been forced to scramble for shelter in safe houses of Pakistan’s ISI due to the fear of Indian overt and covert retaliation.

India’s coastal areas, including those near big cities such as Mumbai and Chennai are much better protected now than they were in 2008 when the 26/11 attack took place in the country’s financial capital.

The Indian Navy, Coast Guard and State Marine Police, as a three tiered cover, along with other agencies such as Customs and Port Trusts, patrol the Maritime Zones of India, islands and adjacent seas, using ships and aircraft to detect and check infiltration through the sea routes.

The electronic surveillance mechanism has been augmented by provisioning of an electronic/radar chain called Coastal Surveillance Network (CSN) comprising a Chain of Static Sensors equipped with a radar, Automatic Identification System (AIS), Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT), day/night cameras and advanced communication systems, the government has stated in Parliament.

These measures assist in developing Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), which has been achieved by interconnecting 51 Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard stations, which has been established to develop a Common Operational Picture. Vessel Traffic Management System (VTMS) radars in ports also facilitate surveillance of port areas.

Coastal Security Exercises are being conducted regularly by the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard to assess the effectiveness of existing mechanisms and to address gaps.

Another important development in tackling terror has been the increased role being given to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to deal with such cases.

The country’s police and internal security system in the hands of the states is highly fragmented and often poorly coordinated. These forces, especially the local police, are often poorly trained and equipped and riddled with high levels of corruption.

The NIA, which operates directly under the Union Home Ministry, has successfully dealt with innumerable incidents of terrorist attacks, not only in the militancy and insurgency affected regions and areas affected by Left Wing extremism, but also in the form of terrorist attacks and bomb blasts in various parts of the hinterland and major cities.

A large number of such incidents are found to have complex inter-state and international linkages, and possible connections with other activities such as the smuggling of arms and drugs, pushing in and circulation of fake Indian currency and infiltration from across the borders.

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