Friday, July 21, 2017

India protests US reference to PoK as `Azad Kashmir'

Jul 22 2017 : The Times of India (Chennai)
India protests US reference to PoK as `Azad Kashmir'
New Delhi:

India has lodged a strong protest with the US over the state department's “Country Report on Terrorism 2016“, released on Wednesday , referring to Pak-occupied Kashmir (PoK) as “ Azad Jammu and Kashmir“ even as it states that the area is being used by terrorist groups to target India.The Indian government approached US authorities after release of the report and media inquiries. An official spokesman of the ministry of external affairs told TOI, “The government has seen the mention of the term ` Azad Jammu and Kashmir' in the US state department's country report on terrorism for 2016. We have raised the matter with the US authorities, both in New Delhi and in Washington DC, and lodged our protest in this regard.“ This is the first time that the US has referred to PoK as “ Azad Jammu and Kashmir“ despite the fact that the region is closely controlled by the Pakistan military in the face of Indian protests. Till recently, the US has used the nomenclature “Pakistan-administered Kashmir“ for the area controlled by Pakistan.Though the report praises India's efforts to combat terror ism, the reference to Azad Kashmir has struck an odd note.
On the other hand, India has reason to feel satisfied that the report refers to the Indian state as “Jammu and Kashmir“ instead of its previous reference to it as “Indian-administered Kashmir“.
The report, in the section on US government designated foreign terrorist organisations, talks of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) and says “the outfit conducts its operations primarily in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and Afghanistan“. It adds that “HUM operates from Muzaffarabad in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, as well as several cities in Pakistan“. HUM had split earlier and most of its cadres defected to Maulana Masood Azhar led Jaish-e-Mohammad after 2000. Similarly, while talking ut Hafiz Saeed led Lashkar about Hafiz Saeed led Lashkare-Taiba, responsible for several attacks in India including 2611 Mumbai attacks, the state department report says that “the precise size of LeT is unknown, but it has several thousand members in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistani Punjab; Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab Provinces in Pakistan; and in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India“.
Muzaffarabad is the headquarters of LeT and other anti India terror groups and PoK is used to launch terrorists into India and plan attacks on Indian military and civilian targets on the direction of the Pakistani army . TOI's attempts to get a re sponse from the US embassy remained unsuccessful.
Some officials believe that even if PoK has been termed as Ázad J&K' by US report, it doesn't diminish the indictment of Pakistan for providing support and shelter to terrorists and cross border terrorism.
However, officers associated with defence matters said the US should use more correct terminology . An officer said, “Azad J&K is often used by Pakistani government, its military and terrorist organisations like Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad. How can US call PoK, which is a disputed territory and originally belongs to India, Azad Jammu and Kashmir?“

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