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Remarks by Minister of State for External Affairs of India Mr. M J Akbar at the Conference on fight against terrorist financing for Daesh and Al Qaeda

April 26, 2018

Panel discussion on "Combating terrorist financing more effectively: what cooperation is needed?"

  • Friends: Since the onset of civilization, the meaning of peace has remained the same. How and why? It is the meaning of war which keeps changing.

    A particularly barbaric form of war, terrorism, is becoming the dominant feature of conflict. It is not simply the anarchists seeking chaos for the sake of chaos. It has serious political objectives. Terrorists, particularly those impelled by dated ideologies like faith supremacy, challenge the very concept of the nation state, and seek to replace it with faith-based space. Cross-border terrorism means nothing to them, for they do not believe in nations or national borders. Their parallel purpose is to undermine the harmony of plural, democratic societies through random and dramatic violence in order to sow the poisons of fear and distrust between communities. They seek a bitter harvest of instability within societies that believe in harmony and civilisation. This was the purpose of the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in 2008 or Paris in 2015, to give only two examples from a painfully long list. We must record and applaud the courage and commitment of our people, who recognise and resist this evil. Perhaps this is a moment for introspection: are our people showing more clarity than some governments?

    For more than two decades the United Nations has been unable to agree upon a definition of terrorism. How do we fight an enemy we cannot define? Do we, sometimes, refuse to recognise the obvious in this conflict, which has been described as ‘war by other means’? Those other means, regrettably, can include the politicisation of charity by radical extremists.

    Indeed there often seems to be more cooperation between terrorist gangs, their sponsors and affiliates than between nations facing this existentialist challenge.

    We are gathered here for course correction. It is only appropriate that we begin our cooperation with a counteroffensive against a lifeline of terrorism: finance.

    This is a Dark War. Terrorists thrive in lawlessness. It is but logical that there will be a nexus between terrorists and international crime. We need to follow the massive and complex drug routes that convert poppy from an Afghan field into a product on the streets of Paris at a hundred times the price paid to the Afghan farmer. Where are drug funds deployed? Who benefits? Similarly, who controls the small arms markets? If we do not ask the right questions we will never get the correct answers.

  • There are states who use terrorists as their first line of offense. Are there silent saboteurs who will undermine tomorrow the work we do today?
  • We need, therefore, to standardize punitive measures against those who use duplicity as policy. How? We must ensure, to begin with, that freezing of assets renders them unusable, effectively by prohibiting selling, removing, alienating, transforming, assigning, encumbering, taking over or similarly dealing with assets of a terrorist organisation, wherever situated.
  • Bilateral requests under UNSCR 1373 need to be prioritised, without ifs and buts, like the excuse of evidentiary standard.
  • Each FIU must prioritise Terror Financing related requests, with reasonable timelines for response. Once information is shared with the requesting country, it should be left to the wisdom of the relevant agency to use this information for follow up follow up through its law enforcement.
  • We understand that the exchange of financial intelligence between FIUs through the Egmont Secure Web is only intelligence. But intelligence is the precursor of the investigation, which in turn provides necessary evidence to law enforcement agencies. Barriers need to be removed for quicker conversion of financial intelligence into LRs / MLA Requests.
  • We have to examine and expand options of flexibility in data privacy laws to facilitate information exchange related to terror financing..
  • FATF has played a crucial role in devising international standards to combat terror financing. They must be mandatory. The World Bank, IMF and other international financial institutions should recognise and apply FATF standards.
  • The FINTECHs, Crowdfunding, Crypto currencies and similar financial products have promoted anonymity in the payment systems. We have seen the increasing spread and use of crypto currencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Z Pay, etc. for underworld activities and some usage amongst terror groups.
  • Such technology will only become more sophisticated. FATF should review its standards, and devise more robust and specific standards to prevent anonymity.
  • It is deeply regrettable that even a great virtue like public charity is being exploited by the forces of evil. Worse, they get patronage from their authorities. Can we remain either silent or helpless.
  • We face, today, not only bands of havoc, but also an extremist ideology, born of human intent, that believes in radicalisation. If the world wants a 21st century blessed with peace and, its most fruitful dividend, shared prosperity, then this perverted radicalisation must be reversed, on the ground and in the mind. That is our mission.
Thank you foreign Minister and thank you President Macron for this conference.
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