February 21, 2019 / 2:06 PM / 5 months ago

India presses for Pakistan to stay on terrorism financing list

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India is pressing for Pakistan to be kept on a terrorism financing watchlist following an attack in disputed Kashmir that was claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group, three Indian government officials said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Indian soldiers stand guard near the site of Thursday's suicide bomb attack in Lethpora in south Kashmir's Pulwama district February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Ismail/File Photo

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global body created to counter terrorism financing and money laundering, has been meeting in Paris this week and Pakistan has been hoping to get off a “grey list” of nations with inadequate controls over such activities.

But two Indian government officials dealing with the issue said new information had been provided to the FATF relating to Pakistan after the car bombing last week in the Pulwama district of Kashmir in which 40 paramilitary police were killed.

The Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for the attack. A third Indian official said details relating to the militant group’s operations were provided to the FATF.

“It was a post-Pulwama brief,” said one of the officials when asked about the information provided to the watchdog. The officials declined to be named as the talks were still underway in Paris

Pakistan has been on the grey list since June, making it harder for it to access international markets at a time when its economy is stumbling. While there are no direct legal implications from being on the list, it brings extra scrutiny from regulators and financial institutions that can chill trade and investment and increase transaction costs, experts say.

Pakistan’s finance ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The attack chilled long frosty relations between India and Pakistan, with India accusing Pakistan of failing to crack down on militant groups operating from its soil, and saying it would work to isolate Islamabad diplomatically.

It has cancelled Most Favoured Nation trade privileges for Pakistan and imposed 200 percent duty on goods coming from Pakistan, further squeezing the barely $2 billion bilateral trade.

Pakistan has demanded India provide evidence for its claims that it supports militant groups and warned of retaliation if India attacks.

The FATF said it would release the results of its review after a meeting of the group’s decision-making body.

“We will publish the outcomes from the meeting, including our updated statements identifying high-risk and other monitored jurisdictions, at the end of the meeting, on Friday afternoon,” Alexandra Wijmenga-Daniel, FATF communications management advisor, said in an email.

Over 800 officials from global multilateral bodies including the IMF, World Bank are in Paris for the six-day FATF gathering.

The Indian finance ministry did not reply to a Reuters email seeking comments.

But an official said India’s case was that Pakistan had done very little to close down the financing streams of militant groups, despite making assurances to the watchdog.

Pakistan, which has opened talks with the International Monetary Fund about a possible bailout, faces a struggle to avoid a balance of payments crisis that has left it with growing debts and foreign exchange reserves sufficient only to cover two months of imports.

Additional reporting and editing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Frances Kerry

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