US brands Hizb a foreign terror outfit

A day after US President Trump called PM Narendra Modi to greet him on Independence Day, the US designated Pakistan-based Hizbul-Mujahideen, responsible for attacks in J-K for the last three decades, as a “foreign terrorist organisation“.

The labelling of Hizb as an FTO means it will face financial sanctions. The Trump administration's previous decision to designate Hizb chief Syed Salahuddin a “global terrorist“ came just ahead of Modi's meeting with the US President in Washington in June.

The announcement is also read as a sign of US-India proximity on strategic issues at a time when Delhi is locked in a tense face-off with Beijing near the Sikkim-Bhutan-China tri-junction and is facing a daily dose of threatening statements from Beijing. The action also indicates that the US does not support China's efforts to protect terror groups sustained by Pakistan against international sanctions. The US designation of Hizbul-Mujahideen as a “foreign terrorist organisation“ seeks to deny it the resources it needs to carry out terrorist attacks, the State Department said in a media note announcing the move. Among other consequences, it said, all of HM's property and interests in property subject to US jurisdiction are blocked, and US persons are prohibited from engaging in any transactions with the group.

The move comes ahead of a widely-awaited review of South Asia strategy -involving Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India -which Trump will preside over on Friday at Camp David with vice-president Mike Pence and the National Security team.

The US decision is seen as an act of solidarity with India in its fight against terrorism and jihadi outfits operating out of Pakistan with the support of the Pakistani army and ISI. The decision, as in the case of Salahuddin, acknowledges India's arguments that the Hizb and its leaders are terrorists rather than “freedom fighters“ as claimed by Pakistan and separatists in J-K.

Hizb is now in the same list as Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Boko Haram or other Pakistan-based anti-India terror outfits such as LeT and Jaish-e Mohammad.

India now has a strong chance to push its case for designating Syed Salahuddin and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen as `global terror outfits' in the United Nations Security Council.

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