Terror links and India’s open border with Nepal

The arrest of Syed Liyaqat Shah, an alleged Hizb-ul-Mujahideen militant, has started a volley of claims and counter-claims in India on whether he was planning a terror attack in Delhi or was on his way to Jammu and Kashmir as part of a rehabilitation plan.

There’s no dispute however over the fact that he had arrived in Kathmandu from Pakistan and was about to enter India through the Gorakhpur border when he landed in police net. Shah was not the first militant from Jammu and Kashmir who has followed the route.

Since 2010 nearly 300 former militants have returned to their home state, Jammu and Kashmir, from Pakistan to take part in the state government’s rehabilitation process. Many of them have travelled via Nepal and used to porous Indo-Nepal border—for their return.

Though the method has no official sanction of Indian and Pakistani governments, intelligence authorities of both countries are aware of it and have seemed to allow it to be used by disillusioned militants willing to return home and rebuild their lives.

But the Nepal route in used not just by militants willing to surrender and lead normal lives. The same path is being followed by many active militants, both from Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan, to enter India and carry out terror strikes across the country.

US diplomatic cables released by whistleblower website WikiLeaks in December 2010 mentions how 16 terrorists entered India via Nepal and then proceeded to Jammu and Kashmir in the first six months of 2009.

Former Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor made this assertion during a meeting of the then US National Security Advisor James Jones with defence minister AK Antony and defence ministry officials in New Delhi in June 2009.

Replying to a query by Jones on the percentage of infiltrators from Pakistan that manage to get through, Kapoor estimated it to be around 15-20% while citing the challenge posed by India’s open border with Nepal.

Indian authorities believe that the flow of militants using the same route is still continuing—with aid from the Pakistani embassy in Kathmandu. The porous border with Nepal is also believed to be used by militants to escape after carrying out terror strikes in India.

Besides militants the open Indo-Nepal border is used to ferry fake Indian currency from Pakistan to India. The same route is taken to smuggle arms into India—-both fake currency and arms are then used to fund militant activities and carry out terrorist attacks.

Nepal has been a safe haven of sorts for not just militants from Jammu and Kashmir but also for terror outfits of north east India.

In December 2010, Rajkumar Meghen, chairman of the banned United National Liberation Front (UNLF) of Manipur was arrested by a team of National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and Bihar Police from East Champaran when he was about to board a Nepal-bound bus.

He allegedly had a Nepali name-Raju Shrestha, which he used as an alias while he was in Nepal.

Two months earlier, Anthony Shing aka Ningkhan Shimray, the foreign affairs chief of Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Issac-Muivah) was arrested at the Tribhuwan International Airport in Kathmandu.

The same year in July another NE ultra, Niranjan Hojai, ‘commander-in-chief’ of the Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel) group of Assam, was also arrested in Nepal and handed over to Indian authorities.

Both Hojai and his ‘boss’ Jewel Garlossa who was arrested in Bangalore in June 2010 had properties in Nepal including hotels. The later also had a Nepali wife and fake Nepali passports.

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