Kashmir issue suffers a blow with US sanctions

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US designates Hizbul Mujahideen as terror outfit

In another indication of its growing ties with India, the United States on Wednesday designated Kashmiri organisation Hizbul Mujahideen as terrorist outfit, freezing its assets and banning US financial transactions with the group.

In a statement posted on its official website, the State Department said the move was aimed at denying resources to Hizbul Mujahideen that it “needs to carry out terrorist attacks”. The announcement came nearly two months after the State Department declared the Hizb’s chief, Syed Salahuddin, as a global terrorist.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office had called the earlier move “completely unjustified”. The decision had faced criticism and condemnation from both sides of the Line of Control (LoC), with Kashmiris chiding the US President Donald Trump’s administration for “equating their legitimate struggle for internationally acknowledged right to self-determination with terrorism”.

Separately, on Wednesday, the US Treasury Department also said it had listed the Pakistan-based group as a counter- designated group, freezing any assets it may hold in the United States and prohibiting Americans from dealings with it.

“Today’s action notifies the US public and the international community that Hizbul Mujahideen is a terrorist organisation. Terrorism designations expose and isolate organisations and individuals and deny them access to the US financial system. Moreover, designations can assist the law enforcement activities of US agencies and other governments,” the State Department said.

Michael Kugelman, Senior Associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Centre, told The News that the decision is another indication of how quickly the US-India relationship is deepening. “It may not be coincidental that the State Department announced this move the very day after the US and India announced a new initiative to deepen their strategic dialogue, which includes the formation of a new ministerial dialogue on defence and foreign affairs,” he said.

Kugelman believes the Trump administration is telegraphing a powerful message that on matters of militancy, it firmly sides with India. “I doubt this decision will have any type of major impact on Pakistan, but it will certainly cement the perception in Islamabad that Washington is deepening its embrace of New Delhi. That’s a perception that I imagine to be quite accurate,” he said.

By Waseem Abbasi

www.thenews.com.pk

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