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Monday, 9 September 2013

Pak connection

Pak connection

Fake IC
The finance ministers of Nepal and Pakistan signed an agreement at a Joint Economic Forum held in Islamabad recently. It envisages cooperation between the two countries in tourism, energy and agriculture. 

Similarly, a talk was organized by Pakistan Study Center in Kathmandu on the first week of August, entitled “Nepal-Pakistan Relations: An overview of Five Decades of Friendship”. Both these are indications of friendly and largely problem-free relations. 

But there have also been allegations by India about Nepal being used to transport Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) via open Indo-Nepal border. India has already informed Pakistan of FICN being routed to India via Pakistan (Times of India, Aug 20). Abdul Karim Tunda was recently arrested at the Indo-Nepal border near Mahendranagar; Yasin Bhatkal, the founder of Indian Mujahadin, was similarly arrested near Mahendranagar. The Hindustan Times on August 29 reported that both Tunda and Bhatkal were arrested in Nepal and handed over to India. Bhatkal is reported to have travelled between Karachi and Dubai five times. Another news item published in Nagarik daily (June 11) indicates that three Nepali and Indians were working in collaboration with Dawood Ibrahim.

Most of those arrested with fake currency are Pakistanis (Annapurna Post, Dec 3, 2011). For instance, a Pakistani national was arrested in Kathmandu Airport with US $5,200 in January 2012, and is reported to have told authorities that it was his ninth visit in three years. The purpose of his visit was to circulate fake US dollars and Indian currency (Nagarik, Jan 4, 2012). A Vietnamese national was arrested in April with 10 million FICN at the airport. He was travelling from Vietnam through Thailand to Nepal. Airport Police Chief suspected that these FICN were printed in Pakistan and were being taken to India through Nepal, taking advantage of the open border (The Kathmandu Post, April 5, 2012). A few weeks earlier, Nepali Police had arrested a group of Filipino, Indian and Nepali nationals with FICN worth 12 million at Kalanki. (Nagarik, Jan 4, 2012). FICN worth 60 million seized in Delhi in January was suspected to have entered India via the “porous Indo-Nepal border” (Times of India, Jan 13, 2012).

FICN worth billions of dollars is in circulation in India (J N Verma in India Strategic, Nov 2009). According to Verma, fake Indian currency is also sent from Bangladesh, UAE and Sri Lanka to India. However, many Indian analysts believe most of the smuggled FICN passes from Kathmandu airport to the towns of Nepali Tarai, and then to the states of UP and Bihar in India. One such analyst Shashikumar (Indian Defence Review, Jan 13, 2012) calls Birganj in Nepal the biggest transit point for “almost all the fake currency entering India.” According to him, the FICN is of such good quality that only the Reserve Bank of India officials can distinguish it from genuine currency. He believes that “such financial terrorism will have serious implications for the Indian economy.”

There are reasons to believe that large scale smuggling of FICN is also impacting Nepali economy. The Armed Police Force of Nepal arrested two persons with fake Nepali currency amounting to Rs 1 million in Jhapa. According to them, these were printed in Naxalbari just across the Mechi River in West Bengal (Rajdhani, March 25, 2012). 

Crime and terrorism are not limited to any nation or religion. Nepal is now in a transitional phase, and corruption and impunity are rampant. This makes the lure of “easy money” very attractive. There are reasons to believe that Nepal is also emerging as transit point for white heroin and cocaine. A Nepali national was arrested with 1.2 kg white heroin in Kathmandu brought from Afghanistan via Delhi (Republica, Jan 11, 2012). It could fetch up to 4 million Euros in the European market. According to the arrested person, it was supposed to be given to an African national before being taken to western countries. Another Thai woman was arrested with a kilo of cocaine in Kathmandu last January (Republica, Jan 6, 2012).

The FICN seems to be intended to hurt India economically. As many of the FICN shipments to Nepal originate in Pakistan, the government there should ensure through regular customs and police inspections that these are not sent to Nepal. Pakistan and Nepal have traditionally enjoyed good relation. They have common interest in preserving their independence and sovereignty, and countering the domination of a regional power. But still a large number of currency smugglers carrying fake Indian currency are of Pakistani origin, and the amount of such currency entering Nepal from Pakistan is very large. The important thing to remember is that many of these are arrested by Nepali Police. The news of such arrests is published in Nepali newspapers. It would be wrong to consider all of these ‘Indian propaganda’.

On the other hand, Nepali Police should thoroughly investigate suspected persons. There are criminals in all countries, including Nepal and Pakistan. What I’m concerned about is prohibiting the use of Nepal to “bleed” India economically. It’s precisely such activities that make India want to include Nepal in its “security umbrella”. India has already intervened in Nepal in brokering an accord between the political parties and Maoist insurgents, which went on to mark the end of monarchy and its emergence as a republic.  As Nepal faces possible Indian intervention on the pretext that its security is threatened.