India's diplomatic win on Salahuddin

Syed Salahuddin’s designation by the US as a “global terrorist” is significant for several reasons. For one, it marks an important turning point in India-US counter terrorism cooperation. The Hizbul Mujahideen chief, who is based in the Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, has masterminded several militant attacks in the Kashmir Valley and is said to be behind the violent unrest that erupted in the wake of the killing of HM commander Burhan Wani by Indian security forces last year. Indian officials had been trying to convince their US counterparts to blacklist him. Their efforts have paid off.

Although the US has declared groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba in the past, it was reluctant to do so with the HM, given its predominantly Kashmiri composition. That it has done so now indicates new sensitivity to India’s concerns. Coming along with a proposal to set up a mechanism that would facilitate better coordination between the US and India on efforts to blacklist terrorists, the designation of the HM chief as a global terrorist marks the start of a more robust anti-terrorism cooperation between Delhi and Washington. In the India-Pakistan tug-of-war over terrorism, this is a diplomatic victory for India. As a consequence of this designation, American nationals and entities are forbidden from transacting business with Salahuddin. His assets in areas under American jurisdiction will be frozen too. This means that the HM’s funding from Pakistani-Americans could dry up. However, the HM’s main source of funding is the Pakistan government and sponsors in Saudi Arabia and other West Asian countries. Thus, the US’ branding of Salahuddin as a ‘global terrorist’ will not hit its funds or fighting capacity directly.

And yet this is an important step in the right direction especially if India and the US were to cooperate further and coordinate efforts to have Salahuddin and the HM bran­ded terrorist by the United Nations and other global forums. This may not be easy, especially since China has strongly opposed such efforts targeting Pakistan-based terror groups. This has been the experience, for instance, with India’s efforts to get the UN to designate Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as terrorist. Still, a campaign to get Salahuddin designated as terrorist by the UN would lead to the HM chief’s increasing isolation in the international community. It would also lay bare China’s duplicity in efforts to tackle terrorism. Over the past year, the HM has suffered several setbacks. The organisation recently split also. And now Salahuddin has been slapped with the US terror tag. But these may not end militancy in the Valley especially since the threat of Islamist terrorism and global jihadist terror looms.

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