Why Modi-Trump take on radical terrorism & US move on Syed Salahuddin are a blow to Pakistan

Modi-Trump meet: With US declaring Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin a global terrorist, and the Indo-US joint statement talking of concerted efforts to eliminate radical terrorism – Pakistan has been dealt twin blows.

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During his meeting with Modi, Trump asked the prime minister to do more to reduce obstacles to US exports to India as the two leaders vowed to further "expand and balance" Indo-US trade relationship.

Modi-Trump meet: With US declaring Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin a global terrorist, and the Indo-US joint statement talking of concerted efforts to eliminate radical terrorism – Pakistan has been dealt twin blows – and has every reason to worry. US State Department in a statement said that Salahuddin had “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”. Defence and strategic affairs analysts believe that the move on Salahuddin and the statement on radical terrorism send a strong message to Pakistan and signal deeper ties between India and the US.

Sreeram Chaulia, a renowned Strategic Affairs expert believes that the decision Syed Salahuddin is significant. “This means that US has acknowledged that Hizbul is no longer just an indigenous Kashmiri homegrown terrorist outfit. This may also have an impact on Hizbul’s funding with Salahuddin coming under such scrutiny,” Chaulia, who is also the Dean of Jindal School of International Affairs, tells FE Online. “The statement on radical terrorism and ideology is also welcome,” he says.

But, as Chaulia points out, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. “If US could eliminate Osama bin Laden, then nothing should stop it from collaborating with India and taking out terrorists like Syed Salahuddin and Hafiz Saeed. With Salahuddin being declared a global terrorist, India should in the months ahead rigorously step up its effort at the second and third rung of American diplomacy and push for joint military operations, greater intelligence sharing,” Chaulia feels pointing to the way ahead.

Also watch: PM Modi’s joint press statements with US President Trump

According to Chaulia, “India should aim to carry out joint targeting of terrorists by forming joint operations teams with US Special Forces.” He is of the view, that this will help realise the wording in the Modi-Trump Joint Statement that both sides will “deepen and expand our policy coordination as far as possible.” “We must push the limits and do something new to increase the cost of terrorism,” he adds.

Colonel (Retd) KV Kuber sees greater and more precise intelligence sharing by the US in the days ahead. “Declaration of Syed Salahauddin as a global terrorist has sent a direct message to Pakistan sponsored terrorism, and I hope they will learn. The only exports they have is terror. Additionally, the statement on greater cooperation in tackling radical terrorism means is that in the days ahead, we can look forward to greater intelligence inputs from the US,” Kuber, an independent consultant on Defence and Aerospace tells FE Online. “If India conducts more surgical strikes, then there may even be a scenario where US helps in terms of technology etc,” he adds.

Also read: Why US declared Syed Salahuddin as global terrorist

Abhijnan Rej, Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation acknowledges that US has taken a sharper tone towards Pakistan, but is not so optimistic about America’s greater participation in India’s fight against Pak-sponsored terrorism. “There is evidence of strong convergence of positions on terror — the designation of a Hizbul leader as SDGT (Specially Designated Global Terrorist) is welcome from India’s point of view – earlier HM was seen as a homegrown outfit. The language on Pakistan was also sharper in this joint statement. What that would mean, practically, for the US-Pakistan relationship remains to be seen though,” Rej says.

However, Rej believes that any chances of US carrying out joint strikes with India are unlikely. “The fact is that US has reduced its military aid to Pakistan over the years, but it is unlikely to completely stop it as it would tilt Pakistan completely in favour of China – a consequence that both India and US would not desire. To that extent, the statement is just a reaffirmation of principles, but gives India greater freedom to carry out operations such as surgical strikes without the US making noise about it,” he concludes.

US President Donald Trump in his joint statement with Modi said, “…we are both determined to destroy terrorist organizations and the radical ideology that drives them. We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism. Our militaries are working every day to enhance cooperation between our military forces.”

Also read: Syed Salahuddin declared global terrorist by US: What it means, how it will hit Hizbul Mujahideen leader

PM Narendra Modi spoke of enhanced sharing of intelligence and information. “Today, during our meeting, we discussed the serious challenges of terrorism, extremism, and radicalization, which are the major challenges facing the world today. And we have agreed to enhance our cooperation in fighting against these scourges. Fighting terrorism and doing away with the safe shelters, sanctuaries, and safe havens will be an important part of our cooperation,” he said. “With respect to our common concerns on terrorism, we will also enhance our sharing of intelligence, and exchange information to deepen and expand our policy coordination as far as possible,” Modi added.

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