Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s startling televised address to the nation, announcing demonetisation, left people rushing to petrol stations and wondering what its impact would be. As details emerged, it soon became clear that while honest, tax-paying citizens may face some short-term inconvenience, the big sharks and corrupt officials and politicians, with crores of undeclared money stashed away, would deservedly be the hardest hit. The Prime Minister made pointed reference to the demonetisation striking those funnelling money for terrorism. There is little doubt that the ISI is going to ponder over how it should now act, to continue smuggling of high denomination counterfeit Indian currency, to its terrorist “assets” in India.
Memories go back to the events surrounding the hijacking of IC 814 from Kathmandu to Kandahar. On December 24, 1999, Zia Ansari, a clerk in the Pakistan Embassy in Kathmandu, handed over revolvers, hand grenades and knives to the hijackers, as they boarded the aircraft. A week later, a sting operation by the Nepal Police entrapped Asam Saboor, peddling counterfeit Indian currency for terror activities. He took orders from First Secretary in the Pakistan Embassy, Mohammed Arshad Cheema. Nepal’s Foreign Secretary Murari Raj Sharma acknowledged: “We have begun to express our concerns about underground activities to the Pakistan Government”. In a crackdown, the Nepal Police recently arrested a Pak national from Karachi and his local collaborators, smuggling around `1 crore of Indian currency, across the Nepal border.
Under increasing surveillance and scrutiny in Kathmandu, Pakistan shifted its smuggling of counterfeit currency to Bangladesh, where things were allowed to proceed smoothly by the Khaleda Zia Government. Things became more difficult for Pakistan’s counterfeit currency smuggling activities in Bangladesh, when Sheikh Hasina became PM. Pakistan High Commission staff members faced expulsion, when caught indulging in subversive activities. During this crackdown, Bangladesh intelligence agencies seized a whole container, full of counterfeit Indian currency, in the Chittagong harbour last year. In an intelligence-driven effort, Pak national Faiz Mohammed was arrested in Guangzhou, China, carrying counterfeit Indian currency of around `25 lakh from Sri Lanka. He is said to have confessed that he was working for the ISI.
In the face of such setbacks, Pakistan has sought new routes for its smuggling of counterfeit currency into India, through Thailand and Myanmar. The 1,640 km land border between India and Myanmar is porous, with villages on the two sides often facing each other. In a recent development, the Thai Police arrested Myanmar nationals, who were in the process of smuggling nearly `40 lakh of counterfeit Indian currency across the Myanmar-India border. The smuggling through Myanmar was reportedly discussed with Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, during her recent visit to India.
There is unfortunately a widespread impression in India that our problems with Pakistan will end if only we “settle” the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, to its satisfaction. Pakistan’s military elite and even sections of its “civil society”, however, believe that their aspirations cannot be fulfilled till India is “weakened from within”. When asked just before the Kargil conflict, whether relations with India would become normal once the J&K issue was resolved, General Musharraf responded that this would not happen. He averred that as India is a “hegemonic” country, “low intensity conflict” with it would continue, even if the issue is resolved. Printing and smuggling of counterfeit Indian currency by the ISI has to be understood in the context of such thinking.