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It is gratifying that the United States has begun looking at terrorism from a new angle. Its decision to put the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed on the watch list for possible listing as a “terrorist organisation” should be seen in this light. The decision conforms to the promise President George W. Bush had made to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during their telephonic conversation. External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh was also given similar assurances during his visit to Washington. The sooner the US Administration takes the next logical step of declaring it a terrorist organisation, the better it will be for the international fight against global terrorism. There is a surfeit of evidence to show that Jaish-e-Mohammed is one of the most dreaded terrorist organisations in the world. Its latest handiwork — the attack on the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly on October 1 in which 38 innocent people were killed — proves beyond a shadow of doubt that it has links with such terrorist bodies as Osama bin Laden’s Al-Queda. What’s more, it has enjoyed Pakistan’s direct patronage. Significantly enough, it had claimed credit for the Assembly attack within hours of perpetrating it, only to withdraw the claim later, perhaps at the prompting of Pakistan. Yet, it is strange the US did not find it necessary to include it promptly among the terrorist organisations whose funds stand frozen.

Lapses of this nature encourage organisations like Jaish-e-Mohammed to get away with anything. Fresh reports about the hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight IC 814 show the connection it has with the attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. One of the terrorists whose release was obtained through the hijacking — Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh — is alleged to have transferred $100,000 to one of the kingpins of the September 11 attack. His story in his own words — one that this newspaper has been serialising — leaves little to imagination insofar as his links with terrorist organisations are concerned. In retrospect, if the hijack was not seen as India’s own problem and there was coordination among countries like India and the US in meeting the challenge, it could, perhaps, have even averted Black Tuesday. If anything, this shows how important intelligence-sharing is in fighting global terrorism. Incidentally, it was the clinching evidence of the Pakistani ISI chief’s links with some unholy groups that India provided to the US that forced it to prevail upon President Musharraf to oust him from office.

The US, which is in the middle of a war the success of which is dependent upon the kind of support it gets from Pakistan, has a genuine problem. It finds it difficult to antagonise Pakistan. That is why US officials have been saying that organisations like Jaish-e-Mohammed will receive their attention once bin Laden and his terrorist outfit have been tackled. In fact, if the US is serious about fighting terrorism, it has no option but to fight terrorism on all fronts and in all countries from where it gets sustenance. Declaring Jaish-e-Mohammed a terrorist organisation is a step in that direction from which the US should not shy away.
Editorial published in IndianExpress