New Delhi: Indian security agencies are keeping a close eye on the activities of the controversial Turkey-based Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) working with Nepal’s Muslim community residing in that country’s districts bordering India. Based on historical evidence, the role of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) cannot be ruled out in this, as Turkey and Pakistan have developed very close ties in recent times.

It has become more pertinent for the Indian security apparatus to focus on these developments as the facilitator of IHH in Nepal is an organisation named Islami Sangh Nepal (ISN), which is already under the scanner of Indian intelligence agencies for allegedly providing a safe haven to terrorists. In 2018, arrested Indian Mujahideen (IM) terrorists Junaid and Abdul Subhan Qureshi, alias Tauqeer, had told the security agencies that an activist of ISN, Nizam Khan, had given them shelter and helped them in getting fake Nepalese citizenship, apart from assisting them to travel to other countries.

It is a well-known secret in the espionage game that countries, to destabilize a rival nation, often use a third country to run their operations. Since the last many decades, it has been established time and again that Pakistan’s ISI uses Nepal to carry out terror activities against India, run fake currency rackets and facilitate movement of fugitive terrorists to other parts of the world. Since the last one year, suspicious activities in Nepal had increased  manifold with even a few Rohingya camps being established and new madrasas getting operational with the support of these groups. The activities of the ISN-IHH basically focus on Province No. 1 and Province No. 2 of Nepal, bordering India. ISN and IHH have established mosques, Islamic centres and madrasas in several places like Rauharat, Mahottari, Parsa and Bara which are close to the Indian border. The minority community constitutes over 7-8% of Nepal’s total population, of which around 95% live in the Terai region bordering India.

Since the 1980s, both sides of the Indo-Nepal border saw a surge in the building of mosques and madrasas, with security agencies saying that money from foreign agencies was involved in these activities. Azizuddin Sheikh, an ISI operative belonging to the D-Company, revealed to the Indian agencies that on the directions of the ISI, the Siraj-ul-Uloom madrasa in Kapilvastu district was being used by the D-Company for illegal activities.

Despite not having a major stake in Nepal, unlike India, the Pakistan embassy in Kathmandu has stationed a large number of diplomatic officers and staff there. Around 10 diplomatic officers are currently posted in the Himalayan kingdom. Sumit Jha, a lecturer in University of Delhi and an expert on South Asia, said, “It is a widely known fact that the ISI has a very active presence in Nepal. The activities of IHH-ISN increasing around the border means that the Pakistani agency is using it as a shield to run its activities, as in recent times, India has cracked down on the module directly run by the ISI. The open border between India and Nepal and the liberal Nepalese visa rules because of Nepal’s reliance on tourism has been exploited by the notorious ISI. Many previous testimonies by arrested terrorists and fake currency couriers, show that fake Indian currency was printed in Karachi or Lahore and was brought to Nepal and later put in the Indian market. Therefore, with this new information coming, and considering our previous experience, we need to be very vigilant.”

WikiLeaks cables that came in the public domain in 2011, had covered in detail the use of Nepal by Pakistan’s ISI to carry out terrorist acts against India. In February 2012, WikiLeaks published emails of June 2000 containing a detailed report prepared by the United States. It read: “The ISI is effectively exploiting Nepalese territory to mount major terrorist offensives against India by providing human, material, and logistic support to the various militant groups—Kashmiri, Sikh, and north-eastern. Today, Kathmandu has become a big meeting point for training and distributing arms to these anti-India militant groups. According to our sources in the region, Pakistan has also developed a strong smuggling/criminal infrastructure in Nepal. The seizure of hundreds of kilograms of explosives (RDX) by the Nepalese and Indian border police, the large-scale circulation of fake Indian currency notes, and the hijacking of an Indian airliner while enroute from Kathmandu to Delhi last year clearly show how far the ISI has consolidated its presence in Nepal. Intelligence reports also say that the officials posted at the Pakistan embassy in Kathmandu are actively involved in motivating and financing agents in these activities. The ISI is also trying hard to exploit the rising nationalist sentiments in Nepal with the purpose of creating friction between Kathmandu and Delhi.”