Merely a week after being declared as a specially designated global terrorist by the US State Department, just hours before the eagerly awaited Modi-Trump Summit, Syed Mohammed Yusuf Shah alias Syed Salahuddin gave an interview to a Pakistani TV channel in which he openly admitted his role in terror acts in Kashmir. Despite that he continued to refer to himself and his gang of terrorists in Kashmir as “freedom fighters”. What a hypocrisy? Many people are questioning the advantage that accrued to India by this act of the US Administration. They quote the example of Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar who despite being declared global terrorists by the US continue to enjoy patronage of the Pakistani Deep State. The problem with Pakistan is that it’s domestic compulsions and a peculiar power-sharing structure, wherein Army calls the shots, does not permit it to shun state sponsored terrorism. Terrorism has become an essential part of the Pakistan Army’s warfighting doctrine as force multiplier. Hence, despite US pronouncement these terrorists including Syed Salahuddin continue to remain the “strategic assets” of the Pakistan Army and as long as Army needs them Pakistan government can do nothing.
The Indian reaction to the said interview has been quite critical of Pakistan and its continuing policy of “cross- border terrorism”. In a hard-hitting statement Gopal Baglay, MEA spokesperson said, “Salahuddin’s confession of assistance in such activities from Pakistan also affirms the complicity of Pakistan’s state structure in using terrorist proxies as a matter of policies against the neighbours. It was a matter of deep regret that senior Pakistani functionaries continue to justify and defend the activities of such internationally designated terrorist entities and leaders who are responsible for killing of thousands of innocent civilians over the past three decades”. He also warned Pakistan, “to give up its policy of cross-border terrorism and fulfil its obligations under international resolutions”. In my view it is too far-fetched to expect Pakistan to mend its ways too soon until and unless UN sanctions are imposed. India needs to act firmly against Pakistan as well as Syed Salahuddin using all the resources at her disposal to make the decision of the US administration to count.
A big plus of the decision in my view is the acceptance of the “cross border” formulation by the US. It has called the bluff which Pakistan has been propagating through constant denial. By declaring Salahuddin, who is POJK based, as a global terrorist the US administration has acknowledged the fact that Kashmir is a victim of terrorism which emanates from the Pakistani soil, a long held position of India. India’s stand and the US decision has also been substantiated by the confession of Syed Salahuddin. Pakistan will have to pay a very heavy price for this. By prefixing the words Radical Islamic and referring to it as “Radical Islamic Terror”, the long lasting myth that “terrorism has no religion” has also been blown. There is no denying the fact that India, particularly Kashmir, is suffering from this form of terrorism.
In furtherance of its pan-Islamic agenda, Pakistan has used radicalisation as a means to instigate the Kashmiri youth. Jihadi Terrorism is being used as an instrument to ensure permanency of Islamisation so that monolithic identity of Kashmir is maintained and return of Kashmiri Pundits is made difficult. The US decision has also punctured the “Azadi Narrative”, a dream sold to the masses, by a few power brokers in the Valley and also politically de-legitimised the so called indigenous freedom struggle. It has also given legitimacy to the fact that the Kashmiri Pundit community has been the worst sufferer of the radical Islamic terror unleashed in the Valley by Pakistan. It amounts to nothing else but ‘ethnic cleansing’.
The US has also negated theory of ‘a terrorist for some is a freedom fighter for others’ or the classification of terrorists as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists. By naming a Kashmiri chief of a J&K centric outfit as ‘global terrorist’, the US has recognised the nexus between HM, LET, JEM and other global jihadi terrorist organisations. In any case, Syed Salahuddin is also the Chairman of United Jehad Council (UJC) which includes LET and Jaish. Another important message that emanates from the US decision is that any organisation using coercion, ransom, murder and other instruments of terror as tools to enforce their writ cannot be termed as ‘freedom fighters’. The extension of this logic is that Syed Salahuddin’s co-hearts in Valley namely the Hurriyat leaders are as culpable as him and hence they also need to be labelled as terrorists for their act of abetting terror in Kashmir. The US decision will also effect the funding of HM thus leading to financial crisis. The NIA has already tightened its noose around the neck of Hurriyat second rung leadership which may lead to netting the big fish. Lack of financial resources will give rise to economic crimes as is happening in South Kashmir but will ultimately sound the death knell of Pak sponsored terrorism until domestic vested interests interfere.
A time-bound and effective follow up action plan needs to be prepared at home to draw maximum mileage from the US decision and for a synergised fight against radical Islamic terror. The following is recommended:-
• A thorough examination of the role of Jamat-e-Islami Kashmir in the ongoing turmoil and action against its leadership. If needed, organisation be banned.
• Insist on designating HM also as a terrorist organisation and not be referred as a militant group by US.
• The privileges accorded to Hurriyat leaders by the State and Central governments to be terminated forthwith. Pensions also to be withdrawn. Their illegal properties at home and abroad to be confiscated.
• The services in government jobs of the family members of Syed Salahuddin and other separatist leaders to be terminated.
• Follow up action on NIA investigations of terror funding and hawala transactions to begin immediately.
• Syed Salahuddin to be designated as most wanted terrorist and plans made for his elimination.
• All Hurriyat and secessionist leaders to be jailed and moved out of the state.
• Special trial courts to be established for speedy trial of Hurriyat and other secessionist leaders.
• An all-out global diplomatic effort for complete isolation of Pakistan and its declaration as “a state sponsor of terror”.
• India should consider forming a joint anti-terror front with Iran and Afghanistan to force Pakistan to stop all activities of terrorists from the territory under its control.
• An early, honourable and secure return of Kashmiri Pundits and other minorities to make Kashmir a multi-ethnic abode once again.
For return of peace to Jammu & Kashmir, end of terrorism is essential. It is also essential that politics and religion be divorced from each other. Pakistan’s nefarious design of use of radical Islam to divide the society and draw a wedge between the inhabitants of the three regions of the state needs to be defeated. Religion and faith are individual beliefs and should not come in the way of peaceful co-existence. Pakistan has no love lost for Kashmiris. It is only interested in the control of the rivers that flow through Jammu & Kashmir into its territory. It has used all means including terrorism to annex Kashmir but failed miserably. It is for the people of Kashmir to decide if they want to continue to live under the shadow of terror or accept the reality that their future is safe only with India. The other two regions of the state are yearning for peace and development. They want to work hand in hand with their Kashmiri brethren for “Khushaal Jammu, Kashmir aur Ladakh”. India is determined to boot out terror from its soil and the fact that its fight against terror is not only getting international recognition but support as well will assist India in achieving her aim sooner than later.