US branding Hizbul Mujahideen a 'terror outfit' changes nothing; India has long been combating terror outfits

So let's say North Korea is a rock. And let's call Charlottesville a hard place. The US administration of President Donald Trump has been kind of caught between that rock and that hard place. Even though the North Korean threat seems to have abated, the domestic polarisation over the white supremacy that Trump gave a huge fillip during his campaign keeps him preoccupied.

Not just that, his top team has been unstable ever since he took office at the beginning of this year, and so have his policy prescriptions. The US today is far from a stable giant confidently straddling the world stage. Let us not forget that it had already, under Barack Obama, stood by as Putin's Russia took up a decisive role in Syria.

In this background, it would be foolhardy to expect the Trump administration to do much to support India if push comes to shove (no pun intended on the two armies' recent interactions in Doka La and Ladakh) between India and China. The US has repeatedly advised (in public) that India and China should talk to each other about the stand-off in the Doka La region. That indicates just how much backing India can expect from the US.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Terror branding

There was much back-slapping and celebration in sections of the media after word came in on Wednesday evening that the US had listed Hizbul Mujahideen as a global terrorist organisation, but the declaration is no big deal. It only amounts to putting up a paper tiger.

After all, Hizbul Mujahideen engages in militant acts in Kashmir, where the Indian Army, the Jammu and Kashmir Police, the CRPF and other paramilitary organisations are already going all out to combat it. None of them needed the US to tell them that Hizbul is a bad apple.

Nor is Hizbul likely to have bank accounts, properties or other assets in the US or in other countries which would take action based on the US's blacklisting. As for Pakistan, from where Hizbul is coordinated, it is adept at keeping shady operations going under alternative labels-and denying that there are any operations in the first place.

Deep links

One might even call the terror branding a sop. For, we would be fooling ourselves to think that the US or any other significant country has just discovered Hizbul or any other militant organisation functioning in Kashmir. The US, the UK, leading European Union countries, Iran and several other countries' diplomatic missions in New Delhi have kept close tabs on what is going on in Kashmir for decades.

One might even suspect that some of them are better informed than Indian agencies about what is really afoot. Some of them seem to have direct access to some separatist outfits. And that includes funding, advising, and other kinds of support.

Since the beginning, the Government of India has been amazingly lax about the foreign links of various figures in Kashmir. For instance, it only had a murky idea of what had gone on during Sheikh Abdullah's several meetings with Loy Henderson, the then US Ambassador to India, in 1952-53.

Incredible as it may seem, it was only when the US State Department de-classified the ambassador's telegrams many years later that the Government of India learnt the contents of Abdullah's conversations with Henderson (that Abdullah proposed independence with US support).

Even the current government does not seem to see any foreign links beyond Pakistan.

Diversify diplomacy

As for the rest of the world, it seems to view the US as India's backer-in-chief. The Manmohan Singh government did too, but had not alienated neighbours as much as the current government has. It is unwise to put all one's eggs in one basket in any circumstances. At this juncture, it is worse than unwise.

Particularly with regard to confronting China, the US focuses sharply on trade routes through the South China Sea. It may not want to get drawn into border issues between India and China. By and large, the West appears to have accepted China's One Belt One Road project, including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. That corridor of course passes right through the Pakistan-held part of Jammu and Kashmir.


Published Date: Aug 17, 2017 12:04 pm | Updated Date: Aug 17, 2017 06:30 pm


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