Bilateral

US censure for Hizb has come a little late in the day

Aug 18, 2017
The US designation of the Hizbul Mujahideen as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation has come a little late in the day, given that India has been flagging its concerns about the most powerful militant group in Jammu and Kashmir to the West for decades. However, the designation comes at a time when a rejuvenated Hizb, its ranks swollen by youngsters attracted to the cult of slain commander Burhan Wani, poses a serious threat in the state. The influx of these youngsters has also overturned the ratio of foreign fighters to local militants, which was earlier skewed by the presence of a large number of Pakistani terrorists affiliated to banned groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.
 
More significantly, the US designation will strengthen India’s hands in exposing the duplicitous role played by Pakistan’s security establishment in backing the militancy in Kashmir. The resurgence of the Hizb in the past few years has suited Islamabad, which has played up the “Kashmiri face” of the militancy after years of fomenting unrest through the Pakistani fighters in the ranks of the LeT and JeM. Former premier Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa are among the Pakistani leaders who have repeatedly held up Wani as a paragon of the so-called “freedom movement” in Kashmir. The fact remains that the top leadership of the Hizb is ensconced in Pakistan. Hizb chief Syed Salahuddin, who also heads the United Jihad Council and was designated a global terrorist by the US in June, largely operates from the Pakistani garrison city of Rawalpindi and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. At a time when the West and bodies such as the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force have already taken Pakistan to task for failing to act against terrorists such as LeT founder Hafiz Saeed, the designation of the Hizb and Salahuddin is bound to increase the pressure on Islamabad for giving a free run to terrorists operating from its soil. As the notification from the US state department points out, such terrorism designations “expose and isolate organisations and individuals”.
 
 For India, this is just a small victory in the continuing war against terrorism. Much more needs to be done to address the morass that is Jammu and Kashmir. Despite the BJP being part of the government in Kashmir, the state has lumbered from one crisis to the next while the state and central governments have shown little in the way of innovative thinking to address the spiraling violence and chaos on the ground. Perhaps Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown the way forward, when he spoke in his Independence Day speech about the problem being solved not by abuse or bullets, but by embracing all Kashmiris.
 
Hindustan Times, August 18, 2017

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