Organized crime and terrorism result from ineffective governance and have developed a symbiotic relationship; nevertheless, it is essential to differentiate them. Neither are all terrorist acts organized crime, nor are all organized criminal acts terrorism; in most developed countries, organized crime thrives with little or no terrorist activities, and in most developing countries, terrorism exists along with varying levels of organized criminal activity.
There are a number of similarities between terrorism and organized crime.
- Both use extreme violence and the threat of reprisals, use kidnappings, assassinations, and extortion.
- Both operate secretly, though at times publicly in friendly territory. Both defy the state and the rule of law.
- For a member to leave either group is rare and often fatal. Both present an asymmetrical threat to the nations.
- Both can have “interchangeable recruitment” pools. Both are highly adaptable, innovative and resilient.
- Both have back-up leaders and foot soldiers and have provided social services, though this is much more frequently seen with terrorist groups.
- While some terrorist and criminal groups may operate opportunistically in partnership, others may be converging or transforming into a single terror-crime entity.
- Another significant relationship between organized crime and terrorism, especially in Kashmir, is through the spread of counterfeit currency.
The differences between them rest on means and ends.
- Terrorism aims to overthrow the existing government by altering the status quo. Organized crime, on the other hand aims to form a parallel government while coexisting with the existing one; any change in the status quo is only circumstantial and born out of convenience rather than zealous revisionist policy.
- Secondly, terrorism primarily uses violent means, whereas organized crime prefers to be non-violent notwithstanding odd resort to belligerence.
- Third, terrorism is driven purely by political objectives despite exploitation of regional, national and religious sentiments to achieve their ends; conversely, economic objectives are the operational determinants of organized crime.