‘Al Qaeda, IS emerged as major challenges post regime change’

Without naming Afghanistan or its rulers, Amit Shah flags new equations in South Asia and the growing influence

of terrorist organisations in the region; he also warns that financing of terror weakens the economy of countries

The growing influence of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State has emerged as major security challenge after the regime change in South Asia in 2021, Home Minister Amit Shah said at an international conference on terror financing on Friday, without specifically mentioning the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Highlighting another aspect of security challenges in the region, Mr. Shah met his Bangladeshi counterpart on the sidelines of the conference and raised the issue of attacks on temples and Hindu minority community in that country, according to a government official.

In its official statement on Mr. Shah’s meeting with Bangladeshi Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that “both sides had productive exchanges on border management and common security-related issues.” Mr. Shah also met Ministers from Ethiopia and Maldives on the sidelines of the conference.

At the third “No Money for Terror” conference, Mr. Shah chaired the session on “Global Trends in Terrorist Financing and Terrorism”, attended by Ministers from 20 countries and representatives of 72 countries and multilateral bodies.

‘No link to religion’

Addressing the conference, Mr. Shah emphasised that the threat of terrorism cannot and should not be linked to any religion, nationality, or group.

The Home Minister said that after August 2021, the situation in the South Asian region has changed. Without naming Afghanistan or its new rulers, Mr. Shah identified the regime change and the growing influence of terrorist organisations as major challenges in the region, adding that these new equations have made the problem of terror financing more serious.

“Three decades ago, the whole world has had to bear the serious consequences of one such regime change, the result of which we all have seen in the horrific attack of 9/11. In this background, last year’s changes in South Asian region are a matter of concern for all of us. Along with Al Qaeda, organisations in South Asia like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed continue to spread terror,” he said.

Mr. Shah said that terrorists’ safe havens or their resources should never be ignored and double-speak of such elements who sponsor and support them should be exposed. “Unfortunately, there are countries that seek to undermine, or even hinder our collective resolve to fight terrorism. We have seen that some countries protect terrorists. Protecting a terrorist is equivalent to promoting terrorism,” said Mr. Shah.

“Therefore, it is important that this conference, the participating countries and the organisations should not take a selective or complacent perspective of the challenges of this region,” he added.

Mr. Shah said that the financing of terrorism is more dangerous than terrorism itself, because the “means and methods” of terrorism are nurtured from such funding. Furthermore, the financing of terrorism weakens the economy of countries.

“India condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and we believe that no reason can justify an act, such as taking innocent lives,” the Home Minister said.

Reiterating Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement earlier in the day, Mr. Shah said that India has been, for several decades, a victim of terrorism sponsored from across the border.

The Minister said that India has strengthened the fight against terrorism and its financing by amending the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), strengthening the National Investigation Agency (NIA), and giving a new direction to financial intelligence.

He stated that it is the result of such continuous efforts that terrorist incidents in India have come down drastically, which in turn, has also resulted in a drastic reduction in the economic losses caused by terrorism.

Dynamite to Metaverse

Terrorist groups understand the nuances of modern weapons and information technology, and the dynamics of the cyber and financial space very well, and use them, said the Home Minister. He said that this transformation of terrorism from “dynamite to Metaverse” and “AK-47 to virtual assets” is definitely a matter of concern for the countries, and a common strategy is required to fight it.

Mr. Shah said that although significant progress has been made to confront terrorism by fortifying the security architecture, legal and financial systems, “terrorists are finding new ways to carry out violence, radicalise youth and raise financial resources.”

The emerging trends of the illegal trade of narcotics and the challenge of narco-terror have given a new dimension to terror financing, he said.

In view of this, there is a need for close cooperation among all nations, he said, pointing out that virtual assets are being used by terrorists for financial transactions. To crack down on the use of virtual asset channels, funding infrastructure and the dark net, a “robust and efficient operational system” is required, he added.