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No change in Kashmir policy, says US

Updated July 01, 2017

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SRINAGAR: Paramilitary personnel stop Kashmiri commuters during a clampdown on Friday. The Indian authorities imposed restrictions on movement in parts of the city in a bid to prevent protests.—AFP
SRINAGAR: Paramilitary personnel stop Kashmiri commuters during a clampdown on Friday. The Indian authorities imposed restrictions on movement in parts of the city in a bid to prevent protests.—AFP

WASHINGTON: The US State Department has said that the designation of Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin as a global terrorist does not reflect a change in the US policy on Kashmir.

“Our policy on Kashmir has not changed,” said a State Department spokesperson when asked if the designation indicated a change in the US policy on Kashmir, which Washington sees as a disputed territory.

On June 26, the State Department declared Salah­uddin, whose real name is Mohammad Yusuf Shah, a “specially designated global terrorist”.

American statement describes occupied territory as Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir

The designation order claimed that in September, 2016, 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 order also noted that under Salahuddin’s tenure as senior Hizbul Mujahideen leader, the group has claimed responsibility for several attacks, including the April 2014 explosives attack in “Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir”, which injured 17 people.

The State Department also notified the international community that Salahuddin, “has committed, or poses a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism”.

The reference to the need for “a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict” and the description of the territory as “Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir,” — although largely ignored in Pakistan — was noted by opposition parties in India.

“Shocking that US government order on Syed Salahuddin refers to ‘Indian Administered J&K’. No protest from Modi government. Complicit sell-out?” tweeted Randeep Surjewala, a spokesman for India’s main opposition party, the Congress.

“Modiji and BJP drumbeat and preach ‘pseudo nationalism’ everyday. India asks — why have you accepted US phrase of ‘Indian administered J&K’?” he said in his second tweet.

In an earlier statement to Dawn, a State Department spokesperson had said that Washington saw Kashmir as a dispute that needed to be resolved peacefully.

“The pace, scope, and character of any discussions on Kashmir is for the two sides to determine, but we support any and all positive steps India and Pakistan can take to forge closer relations,” the spokesperson added.

During the Modi-Trump meeting, the US administration allowed both Kashmiri and Sikh communities to protest outside the White House.

Diplomatic observers in Washington say that the designation statement and the US position on Kashmir show that while eager to forge a close relationship with India, the United States also wants to maintain its ties with Pakistan.

In a briefing to the Indian media about the Modi-Trump meeting, a senior White House official said that US ties with India were not at the expense of its relations with Pakistan.

“I want to make a point here that US relationships with India and Pakistan really stand on their own merits and terms,” the official said at a special briefing a day before Monday’s White House meeting between the Indian prime minister and the US president.

“We don’t see a zero-sum relationship when it comes to the US relationship with Pakistan and the US relationship with India,” the official added.

“While we hope to deepen the relationship with India, we are also interested in continuing our cooperation with Pakistan.”

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2017