Colombo, June 27 (newsin.asia): Aiming to bag Indian arms contracts and secure New Delhi’s cooperation in Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific region against China and Russia, US President Donald Trump on Monday wooed visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi by listing the Pakistan-based Hizb-ul-Mujahidden chief, Syed Salahuddin, as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist”.
The State Department came with the listing hours before Modi’s meeting with Trump at the White House.
The State Department noted that Salahuddin had vowed to block any peaceful resolution of the Kashmir conflict; threatened to train more Kashmiri suicide bombers; and vowed to turn the Kashmir valley “into a graveyard for Indian forces.”
Hizb-ul-Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for several attacks, including the April 2014 explosives attack in Kashmir, which injured 17 people.
Welcoming the US move, Indian foreign Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said the State Department’s step vindicates India’s long standing position on cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
“It underlines strongly that both India and US face the threat of terrorism and are working together, not in one particular area, but globally,” Baglay said.
Contrasting With China
The US may be hoping that the designation of Salahuddin as a global terrorist will make India see the difference between the US and China. While the US has shown readiness to designate Salahuddin even though he is based in “friendly“ Pakistan, China has been blocking India’s bid to get the UN to designate another Pakistan-based terrorist, Hafiz Sayeed, as an international terrorist.
Heightened Defense Relations
The US would be hoping that the designation of Salahuddin will lead to India’s stepping up arms purchases from it. Ahead of Modi’s arrival, senior US officials had emphasized that “defense relationship is extremely important for both countries.”
Since 2009, India’s weapons purchases from the US have grown exponentially, displacing Russia as the main seller by 2014.
About 70% of the equipment of the Indian armed forces have traditionally been of Russian origin, but this kept dwindling since 2009 because India has been wanting to diversify its sources. And Modi has a penchant for things American.
The total value of U.S. imports increased from a mere $200 million in 2009 to $2 billion in 2014.
According to The Diplomat the US aircraft maker Boeing alone has won bids to supply the Indian military with ten C-17 Globemaster-III strategic airlift aircraft (worth $4.1 billion), eight P-8I maritime patrol aircraft (worth $2.1. billion), 22 AH-64E Apache, and 15 CH-47F Chinook helicopters (both helicopter deals have a combined worth of $2.5 billion). More recently India decided to buy 22 Guardian drones for US$ 2 billion.
Problematic Economic Issues
While Modi may agree to buying more weapons from the US, to face increased tensions with Pakistan and China, he may find it hard to meet the conditions set by the US to step up its investments in India.
“Many sectors of the Indian economy remain highly and unjustifiably protected, and India continues to be a difficult place for American companies to do business,” a bipartisan group of US lawmakers said in a recent letter to Trump.
The law makers pointed out that a 2017 World Bank report had ranked India 130 th out of 190 countries for ease of doing business.
Successive Indian governments have found it difficult to change the business environment due to local pressures, and Modi’s may be no exception.
The US also wants India to buy more goods and services from the US to narrow an unfavorable trade deficit of US$ 30 billion, but here again Modi’s hands are tied by local anti-import lobbies.
Sensing a strengthening of the Indo-US strategic cooperation against it at the Trump-Modi encounter, China on Monday smashed three Indian bunkers on the India-China border in Sikkim to send a subtle message that it cannot be taken for granted..
(The featured image at the top is that of the Pakistan-based Hizb-ul-Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin)