Book Review | Terror Financing in Kashmir: A Deep Dive into the Economics of Terrorism
Book Review | Terror Financing in Kashmir: A Deep Dive into the Economics of Terrorism
‘Terror Financing in Kashmir’ by Abhinav Pandya goes in-depth into the history of terror financing in Kashmir. He pointed out that Pakistan transformed the terror funding business into a robust parallel conflict economy, with the conflict elites having substantial stakes in it

The book Terror Financing in Kashmir by Abhinav Pandya published by Routledge Taylor and Francis is an important contribution to our understanding of the entire gamut of the ecosystem of terror in Jammu and Kashmir, especially its modalities, its dynamics, the sponsors and the economics of proxy wars and the financing and legitimisation of terror from across our border by Pakistan.

For India’s two-year term in the UN Security Council between 2021-22, one of our priority areas was combatting terrorism. I had chaired the UN Security Council Counterterrorism Committee (CTC) for 2022. It was therefore with great interest that I read the book.

Here we have a deeply researched book, which has been tested on the touchstone of ground reality, covering unchartered and new domains on all facets of the problem of terror, especially terror financing in Jammu and Kashmir. As the author himself says, “Kashmir’s terror ecosystem is rooted in the complex, layered, and interconnected web of Islamism, separatism, radicalisation, and terrorism.”

Abhinav Pandya, the author, has done his interviews and research with a range of interlocutors in the face of tremendous danger to his own life. Further, this was undertaken at a critical juncture i.e. between 2016-2022. That’s why we need to laud his efforts and take this book seriously. One cannot doubt the authenticity of the book’s findings. He does not pull any punches and has given a candid view of the ecosystem which helps terror to thrive in the Valley.

The author has rightly expanded the definition of terror financing. He has included a range of activities which it encompasses including sustaining the separatist narrative, the larger ecosystem of terrorism in terror financing, funding of activities like stone-pelting and anti-India media narratives, radicalisation, digital manipulation and disinformation campaigns etc. This broader perspective is crucial in helping us appreciate the dynamics of terror financing.

The book goes in-depth into the history of terror financing in Kashmir, how it started and expanded in the region and later got intricately interlinked with international terror financing. These include inter alia fake currency printed in Pakistan (FICN), financing through international donations and from drugs and hawala channels, the role of jihadist diaspora organisations and charities in terror funding, the role of petrodollars and undermining of the economy itself. He explains how terror financing became increasingly sophisticated over the years. While some of them are well-known, these chapters are bound to give much food for thought to our investigating and intelligence agencies and present a very disturbing picture.

What should disturb us even more is the role played by some of the mainstream institutions of Jammu and Kashmir. It is indeed revealing the extent to which the mainstream institutions have been compromised and penetrated by Pakistani proxies. As the author points out, Pakistan transformed the terror funding business into a robust parallel conflict economy, with the conflict elites having substantial stakes in it.

The book also gives a detailed account of the three main Pakistani-based terrorist groups – Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Jaish-e-Mohammed. In this context, in the UN Security Council (UNSC), India proposed several names of terrorists in 2022 for listing under the UNSC Resolution 1267 sanctions regime with the US joining us as co-signatories. However, a block was placed by China against listing them. But we successfully listed one of them, namely Abdul Rehman Makki, Deputy Amir/Chief of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the first listing with India as a proposer in the Council. Interestingly, to give terrorism a religious colour, Pakistan tried desperately to have Hindus listed under the 1267 sanctions regime on cooked-up charges, which was repeatedly rejected by the Council.

At this juncture, even as the book focuses on terror and its financing in Jammu and Kashmir, there are dangerous contemporary international trends which are diluting our collective fight against terror. These will impact India, including Kashmir.

September 11, 2001, made sure that the global fight against terror was a collective fight. However, after more than 20 years, we are drifting back to the era of “your terrorist” and “my terrorist” and fragmenting our collective fight.

The UN Global Terrorism Index 2023 states that “ideologically motivated terrorism continues to be the most common type of terrorism in the West” which includes far-right terrorism in Europe and “racially/ethnically motivated violent extremism” (REMVE) in the United States. China’s blocking of India’s attempt to list terrorists under the 1267 sanctions list is an example of how their geopolitics overrides the global fight against terror. And in Canada, they have indicated that “our terrorists,” which are the Canadian Khalistani terrorists on their soil, are “not their terrorists.” They are in effect condoning terror by not recognising it.

Therefore, with the rest of the world being preoccupied with its own variety of terror, the focus is shifting away from South Asia and from cross-border terror from Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir. In this scenario, this book should serve to put terrorism from Pakistan and its proxies back on the international agenda and puncture some fake narratives being put out by Pakistan on this issue.

We have also entered a far more sophisticated and dangerous era of terrorism with terrorists using new and emerging technologies like information and communication technologies; unmanned aerial systems; and financing of terrorism through new payment technologies and fundraising methods. Many of these technologies are already in play in Jammu and Kashmir. Another dangerous trend relates to politicising phobias against religions to justify terror. Using Islamophobia as a justification to condone terror is truly worrying.

In the last two texts of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted by the UNGA, Pakistan tried its best to introduce a reference to Islamophobia as a justification for terrorist acts. India fought to keep this reference out. Further, this fight against religiophobia is selective. There has been a lack of recognition of the growing attacks against non-Abrahamic religions, including against Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists etc. The continuing attacks on temples and gurudwaras and forcible conversion of minority communities in our neighbourhood, especially in Pakistan, are well known. But this hatred has spread to the West as well, including the US, Australia, the UK and Canada. This has serious implications for a multicultural, pluralistic and democratic country like India.

Even as we combat terror financing in Kashmir from across our border, it is important to view both our domestic policies against terror as well as international contemporary terror trends through the prism of the central findings of this book.

T. S. Tirumurti was Permanent Representative of India to the UN, New York (2020-2022) and President of the UN Security Council in August 2021. He was also Chair of the UN Security Council Counterterrorism Committee for 2022. Currently, he is Distinguished Professor at IIT Madras, Chennai. Views expressed in the above piece are personal and solely that of the author. They do not necessarily reflect News18’s views.

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