By Nantoo Banerjee
Imagine illegal migrants from India running hotels, call centres, fake financial services firms, hawala rackets and spy outfits in Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Guangdong or in any other popular business hubs in China, which is known to mercilessly control the entry and exit of foreigners! Leave alone the illegal entry, ordinary Indians have been barred to even enter China legally since last year. According to India’s foreign ministry (MEA), travel for Indian nationals, including businessmen and students, to China has become impossible since November 20.
China has made it mandatory for travellers coming from India and 19 other countries to get Chinese Covid-19 vaccines. Nobody knows if India too made it mandatory for Chinese nationals entering India or residing here to have Covaxin, the country’s indigenous Covid-19 vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and National Institute of Virology. Diplomatically, such a move should have been reciprocal. In practice, it is not.
That China is pushing increasing number of deep-pocket, tech savvy illegal migrants to India is another story. One wonders how susceptibly large unaccounted number of illegal migrants from China are happily meandering across India and carrying on all kinds of illegal activities, including running business and spying sensitive private and official information, right under the nose of India’s so-called powerful home office, MEA , BSF, ED, state police and intelligence agencies.
The arrest of Hun Junwe, one such Chinese illegal migrant, in West Bengal’s Malda about a fortnight ago may be only a tip of the iceberg. Among other activities, Hun ran a 100-room hotel in Gurgaon in the National Capital Region and smuggled out (in his own admission) some 1,300 Indian SIM cards to China to run a well organised financial fraud robbing Indians of several hundred crores of rupees. Hung even collected an Indian “friend”, Pottelli Prashant Kumar, to register a private limited company, Hut Tong Behatar Vishwa Technology, in Hyderabad.
Interestingly, Hung has been illegally travelling to-and-fro India at will, for years. Hung may be just one among several thousand illegal Chinese nationals operating in India. Like Hung, a few of them sometimes get caught and arrested by the police. But, they aren’t afraid. Indian laws and judicial system come to their rescue. The culprits finally manage to escape only to return to the country later with new vigour, new plan and determination. The criminal malpractices continue.
Recently, the central crime branch of the Chennai police arrested two Chinese nationals in Bengaluru for operating predatory instant loan apps illegally. According to Police Commissioner Mahesh Kumar Aggarwal, they were connected with the operation of a call centre, True Kindle Technology, in Bengaluru. The Indian ‘dummy’ directors of the firm too were booked along with the two Chinese operators — 38-year-old Xioa Yamao and his 10-year junior Wu Yuanlun. Both the Chinese accused reportedly came from Guangdong. They said in a statement that their boss, a person named Hong, operated from China. Xioa and Wu stayed at Haralur in Bengaluru.
The call centre employed some 110 local people as tele-callers. While Hong used ‘Ding Talk’ app, the two Chinese operators also used apps such as MyCash, Aurora Loan, Quick Loan, Dmoney, Rapid Loans, Eazy Cash and New Rupee. Aggarwal said the preliminary investigation indicated that the Chinese nationals had cheated and extorted money from over 25,000 persons. “Definitely more persons are involved in this offence. After taking the accused into our custody, we will thoroughly investigate the destination of the proceeds and the persons involved. We may collect inputs from other states as well,” he said.
In last December, the Enforcement Directorate arrested a cryptocurrency trader in a Rs. 1,100-crore Chinese online betting scam, after conducting raids at the registered offices of a few companies, which were illegally running online betting apps on websites, all hosted outside India. There may be several such instances of Chinese nationals illegally travelling to this country and running various questionable financial and security sensitive operations. Very few come to be detected. Even when Chinese soldiers and civilians straying into India through borders at Ladakh or Arunachal Pradesh, the India government, for unknown reasons, underplay such incidents and hand them over to the Chinese authorities without any fuss.
This is despite the fact that lately, communication intercepts by Indian intelligence agencies from across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh reveal heightened activity of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) own intelligence all along the undefined border with India in an attempt to get information on Indian Army movements and the on-going border infrastructure upgrade being carried out by India. Such soft actions are inexplicable. Maybe, they embolden the Chinese authorities and nationals more to happily continue with their mischievous activities and operations in the country. India is seen as a soft country and its system easily manipulable. The immigration law is weak. The punishment is even weaker.
Officially, the number of all illegal migrants based in India is around two million. However, the actual number may be a few times larger. India is easily the ‘home’ of the world’s largest number of illegal immigrants. If anything, the number represents the fact that trespassing into the Indian territory is hardly a difficult task. The porous international borders and corrupt security guards make it easy for violators of entry and exit rules. India has been a popular destination of illegal migrants from all its neighbouring countries, including Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, China, Myanmar (Rohingya, Chin, Kachin, Rakhine and Bamar sects), Thailand and beyond.
India is also seen as a hot spot for drug trafficking, money laundering and prostitution by many from countries in Africa, led by Nigeria, and some central Asian republics. However, all-pervasive Chinese illegal migrants pose as the biggest security threat to the country. Normally, illegal immigration tends to be financially upward — from poorer to richer countries. Unfortunately, the perception becomes wrong when it comes to the movement of illegal migrants from China, the world’s second largest economy, to much poorer India. Potentially, the growing deep-pocket Chinese civilian incursion into India poses to be a bigger security threat to the country than armed Chinese soldiers hissing across the border. (IPA Service)