A safe and a secure world is a shared responsibility. When threats like terrorism, drug trafficking, corruption and organized crime are global, the response to them cannot just be local.
That was PM Modi’s emphasis at the 90th Interpol General Assembly, recently held in New Delhi.
Interpol will turn 100 next year. Now is the time to calibrate to counter emergent challenges.
What is INTERPOL?
The Interpol, or International Criminal Police Organization, is an inter-governmental organization comprising 195 member countries, which helps police forces in all these countries to better coordinate their actions.
It was set up in 1923 by 19 countries in the wake of an urgent need to facilitate cooperation between police across borders.
It enables member countries to share and access data on crimes and criminals and offers a range of technical and operational support.
It is run by a secretary general with its headquarters in Lyon, France, with a global complex for innovation in Singapore, and several satellite offices in different regions.
India accepted Interpol membership in June 1956.
The General Assembly is the apex governing body of Interpol that meets every year to discuss its functioning.
Key functions of INTERPOL
Global police-level cooperation: Interpol is a global organisation that provides a platform for cooperation between the police forces of various member countries even between countries that do not have existing diplomatic relations.
Database of crime and criminals: It also manages databases with information on crimes and criminals which are accessible in real-time to member countries.
Investigative and training support: It lends investigative and training support such as forensics, analysis, and assistance in locating fugitives around the world.
Combating global crimes: Interpol also plays a key role in combating crimes across three global areas namely terrorism, cybercrime and organized crime which pose a significant threat in the current era.
Key challenges to global security
At present countries across the world are facing unprecedented complexity in the criminal threat landscape with threats including-
Drug trafficking and
Women and child sexual abuse
All these crimes are interlinked. Here is how?
Mixed nature of crime: Transnational organised crime continues to thrive due to illicit networks that operate on the strength of money laundering.
Radicalization: In recent years, terrorism is not only spreading in physical space but has started spreading its presence through online radicalization and cyber threats.
Financial crimes: Corruption and money laundering threaten people in every aspect of their lives across the world. So are the payment frauds.
Environmental crime: This includes illicit cross-border trade in wildlife.
Why need INTERPOL?
Rising criminality has caused law enforcement to come under strain.
In a democratic polity, police forces have to act with restraint, within the boundaries of legal procedures.
Lawbreakers enjoy the ease of mobility and access to the internet. There is no diminishing trend of these threats within sight.
How is INTERPOL equipped to curb transnational crimes?
Interpol uses 19 databases and tools for issuing alerts, sharing information about criminals and their modus operandi.
It has a huge repository of fingerprints, DNA profiles, facial recognition kits, cyber-enabled financial crimes, and property crimes, among others.
Providing information about crime and criminals in the digital space, preventing abuse of cyberspace and stalling hackers on the dark web are areas where Interpol’s global security architecture is used.
Interpol issues colour-coded notices of various hues — red, yellow, blue, black, orange, green and purple.
INTERPOL and India
A large number of red corner notices have been issued at the request of Indian law enforcement, resulting in the detention of several accused and convicted fugitives.
India, as one of the oldest and strongest members of Interpol, has been involved in productive engagements over the years.
Several operations have been undertaken by the CBI with Interpol.
Limitations of INTERPOL
Vague composition: In its composition, Interpol is like the UN. But it is not meant for dispute resolution. It is designed to assist the police forces of member nations.
Not a policing body: Interpol is neither an investigative agency like the CBI nor a front-line police force.
Assistive role: It is mandated to share information and provide back-end technical assistance to law enforcement agencies.
Not an independent organization: Interpol action against notorious fugitives is consequential upon commensurate action from member nations where the fugitives might be seeking shelter.
More of a bilateral tool: Interpol cannot act on its own. The desired legal course of action depends on bilateral arrangements like mutual legal assistance treaties.
How can India leverage INTERPOLs benefit?
India becoming the fifth-largest economy in the world, and on the path to becoming the third-largest in the near future.
The country has created a positive impact by bringing down terrorist-related violence.
Moreover, India is now an acknowledged technology powerhouse.
This demographic dividend of a large and young technology-oriented workforce in startups can be utilised for upgrading the security architecture.
Indian skill development resources through capacity building programmes run by the CBI training academy are used periodically by the international police fraternity.
There should be close collaboration between global security organisations such as the Interpol, United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
It is important that these security organisations reposition their strategies in line with the realities of the current century and the latest advancements.
In this context, India must push for the establishment of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) which was proposed by India in 1996.
It is time for Indian coaxial engagements with Interpol and other member nations to accelerate further, both bilaterally and multilaterally.