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Lavanya asked: What strategies could be employed to contain the arms nexus prevalent between the separatist-extremist groups & some of the neighbouring countries?

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  • Vivek Chadha replies: It is a well established fact that the transfer and smuggling of arms does take place across India’s borders. This is especially an acute problem in the case of Northeast India. The challenge is accentuated because of porous borders with Bangladesh and Myanmar. It is also difficult to stop such activities due to limited control over the border areas of these countries. In some cases, there is also collusion between state and non-state agencies to smuggle arms. These arms come from weapon markets in Cambodia, Laos and are often sourced from China.

    There are two major factors which lead to the smuggling of arms. First, it takes place as a result of terrorist groups and smugglers active in the border areas exploiting it as an illegal trade to make money. Given the high profit nature of this kind of trade, the incentive to undertake gun running remains high. This is furthered because of the need for such military hardware by terrorist groups like CPI (Maoist) in the hinterland, which may not have access to sophisticated weapons, with the exception of those captured from security forces. Second, weapons smuggling is done as part of a state sponsored strategy to destabilise India.

    In both these cases, the measures required to be put in place to prevent this activity are similar. First, cooperation with countries which are not directly involved in gun running should be strengthened by way of intelligence sharing and mutual legal assistance and extradition treaties. Second, fencing along borders should be completed urgently to limit free movement. Third, there is a need to enhance the employment of electronic means for surveillance along the borders. Fourth, both the strength and capacity of border guarding forces should be enhanced to ensure that they are better equipped to stop gun running. Fifth, intelligence along border areas needs to improve. This can best be accomplished by coordination between intelligence, border guarding forces, local police and the people in the area. Sixth, stringent laws should be employed to ensure conviction through newly amended acts like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2012, which can book offenders under counter terrorism offences. Last, since the nature of this crime is international in its scope, there is a need to highlight it and build pressure upon countries in the diplomatic fora to curb the existing trend.

    Posted on January 30, 2014