US, India Warn Pakistan on Cross-Border Terrorism

Kate Beddall and Amin Masoodi
2017.06.27
Washington and Srinagar, India
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170627_IN_US_1000.jpg Activists protest the U.S. designation of Syed Salahuddin as a “global terrorist” in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, June 27, 2017.
AFP

The leaders of India and the United States called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries, as Washington placed an anti-India militant group chief on its list of global terrorists in a move condemned by Islamabad.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Donald Trump also urged Pakistan “to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators” of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and a January 2016 raid on an air base in Pathankot, according to a joint statement issued late Monday.

New Delhi believes those attacks were perpetrated by Pakistan-based militant groups Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The statement, issued after the first meeting between the two leaders at the White House, said the two sides "called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terror attacks on other countries."

“The leaders stressed that terrorism is a global scourge that must be fought and terrorist safe havens rooted out in every part of the world,” according to the statement. “They resolved that India and the United States will fight together against this grave challenge to humanity.”

On the same day of the leaders’ meeting, the U.S. State Department designated Mohammad Yusuf Shah, alias Syed Salahuddin, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT).

The 71-year-old Pakistan-based Salahuddin is the leader of Hizbul Mujahideen, a key rebel group battling Indian control in the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir for nearly three decades.

“Salahuddin vowed to block any peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict, threatened to train more Kashmiri suicide bombers and vowed to turn the Kashmir valley ‘into a graveyard for Indian forces,’” the State Department said in a statement Monday, blaming a  September 2016 attack on an army installation in Indian Kashmir’s Uri sector on his separatist outfit. The attack killed at least 17 Indian soldiers.

'Unjustified’

Activists in Indian-administered Kashmir told BenarNews Tuesday that the U.S. decision to label Salahuddin a global terrorist was primarily to please the India government.

“It is only to please India,” Javid Shah, Salahuddin’s son, told BenarNews in Srinagar. “For quite some time, India has been urging the U.S. to impose sanctions on Pakistan and declare it a sponsor of state-backed terrorism,” he added.

The Pakistan government challenged the U.S. action as well.

“The designation of individuals supporting the Kashmiri right to self-determination as terrorists is completely unjustified,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria said in a statement.

Arch rivals India and Pakistan lay claim to the whole region of Kashmir, which has grappled with a separatist insurgency that has killed more than 70,000 since the late 1980s.

The U.S. designation of Salahuddin as a global terrorist “will not affect the peaceful movement aimed at liberating Kashmir from India’s oppressive rule,” said Shah, 42, a teacher.

“My father has only been demanding an amicable settlement of the Kashmir issue in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Kashmir,” he said.

India and Pakistan have fought three full-blown wars, two of them over the ownership of the Himalayan region of Kashmir, since the bitter partition of the sub-continent in 1947.

“Kashmir has been an unresolved political dispute for the past 70 years and the freedom movement has nothing to do with global terrorism, which is a new concept,” Ayaz Akbar, a spokesman for the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an amalgam of dozens of separatist groups in Indian Kashmir, told BenarNews.

“We strongly condemn America’s unjustified act of designating Salahuddin as a global terrorist. He is heading an indigenous movement for Kashmir’s liberation. We appeal to the international community to intervene and put pressure on the U.S. to reconsider its action,” Akbar said.

“The U.S. should rather help mediate the Kashmir issue to help the Kashmiris facing unprecedented excesses at the hands of occupational Indian forces,” he added.

India hailed the American decision.

"What the U.S. did is correct," Indian Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said in New Delhi, according to the Associated Press. "This declaration by the U.S. may probably help in impacting his movements and funding."

On Monday, just hours after the U.S. labeled him a global terrorist, Salahuddin called for a weeklong protest in Kashmir ahead of the first anniversary of the death of HM member Burhan Wani who was shot dead by Indian security forces in July 2016.

Wani’s killing triggered a fresh cycle of violence in the insurgency-ravaged region that claimed the lives of at least 100 people and injured nearly 10,000 others in near daily street clashes between anti-India protesters and security forces.

'Rigged'

Born in Soibugh village of central Kashmir’s Budgam district, Salahuddin, a political science major from Kashmir University, joined HM in 1991, almost four years after being released from prison and following his defeat in the 1987 state assembly elections, according to his son, Shah.

He was jailed under the Armed Forces Special Forces Act (AFSPA), which gives security forces sweeping powers, including allowing personnel to make warrantless arrests, to enter and search any premises and shoot any suspect.

AFSPA, which is in force in Indian Kashmir as well as the conflict-torn northeast states of Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Nagaland, provides immunity from prosecution for soldiers who conduct counterterrorist operations.

“He fought the elections from Srinagar’s Amirkadal constituency. But they [the votes] were rigged. Soon after he was jailed because he raised his voice against the unjust elections,” Shah said.

Salahuddin has been based in Pakistan for more than 20 years and is the head of the United Jihad Council (UJC), an alleged umbrella organization of Pakistan-based militant groups fighting for Kashmir’s freedom from India, Shah said.

When it comes to terrorism, Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Wilson Center, said Modi and Trump had a similar worldview — that "it needs to be destroyed wherever it rears its murderous head," AP reported.

He said the designation of Salahuddin showed that Washington was willing to work closely with New Delhi on terrorism-related matters, although it remained to be seen if that signals a tougher policy toward Pakistan, according to AP.

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