London, Oct. 12: A British police force is planning to open a station in Kashmir to tackle criminals who are targeting this country from India.
The new base, which will be the first overseas station for a British force, will be set up by West Midlands police in Srinagar. (It will be a first in India, too. No such base of an overseas police force exists in the country.)
The force claims that the station is necessary to catch the growing number of Indian nationals who commit offences in Britain and then flee to Kashmir.
West Yorkshire police, which are experiencing similar problems, are also interested in opening a station in India. More than 500,000 people in Britain are thought to have family links with the Kashmir region.
The new station will mean that British officers are deployed in one of the world’s most dangerous places.
Over the past three years, murders, extortion, immigration offences and illegal drugs crimes are all believed to have been committed in West Midlands by Indian nationals who have fled back to the subcontinent.
At least five British police forces have sent officers to Kashmir during inquiries into crimes over the past 12 months, at a cost of more than £100,000.
Under the West Midlands force’s plan, up to 28 officers will be based in the Srinagar station, about half of whom will be British; the remainder will be seconded from the Indian police.
Indian police have expressed enthusiasm for the plan. A spokesman said: “We always work closely with our British colleagues and this sounds like an interesting plan with which we would cooperate.”
British police officers in Kashmir will not carry weapons but will be accompanied by armed troops and Indian police officers when they go on operations.
The station will cost about £200,000 to set up and run for a year, but the force believes that money will be saved in the long term because it will no longer have to fly CID officers to India. Only the Indian police will have full police powers, including that of arrest.
Sergeant Asghar Shah, the officer behind the scheme, said that having trained staff in Kashmir would help officers in inquiries into murders and financial crimes committed in Britain but linked to that region.
He said the West Midlands force spent thousands of pounds each year sending officers to Kashmir during investigations. “We want to set up an operational link where we can get our inquiries conducted there when the timescales we are working on are tight.
“It would also enable us to train local police to our standard, so that we improve their standard of investigation and so that we can be sure all Indian officers are doing the same job as our officers would be over there.”
Shah said one detective from West Midlands had already been to Kashmir three or four times this year at a cost of more than £5,000 a time.
He said David Blunkett, the home secretary, had expressed support for the scheme.
The idea has received backing elsewhere, including from the Hampshire detective leading the hunt for the murderer of Hannah Foster, a student from Southampton, whose killer is believed to be Indian.