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India Welcomes US Freeze on Militant Group's Assets - 2001-10-13

India has welcomed a United States decision to freeze the assets of a Pakistan-based militant group operating in the Kashmir region. The group was on a new U.S. list of 39 organizations and individuals with terrorist links. The decision to freeze the assets, comes days before U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is scheduled to visit India and Pakistan.

Indian officials have described the ban on the Jaish-e-Mohammad group as an important step in addressing New Delhi's concerns that the fight against terrorism should be widened to include Kashmiri militants. The Jaish-e-Mohammad group was established by an Islamic cleric, Maulana Massod Azhar, one of the three militants released by India in return for a Indian Airlines plane hijacked in 1999 to Afghanistan.

The Pakistan-based group first claimed and then denied responsibility for a suicide attack on the Kashmir state assembly building that killed 38 people earlier this month.

India accuses Pakistan of funding and training militant groups such as the Jaish-e-Mohammad, and wants them targeted in the American-led campaign against terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge.

New Delhi fears that the United States may ignore its concerns as it seeks Pakistan's assistance to trace Osama bin Laden, Washington's prime suspect in the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

A defense analyst at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Amitabh Mattoo, said the ban on Jaish-e-Mohammad will send an important signal to the Indian government. "I imagine the government will really be reassured that this tactical alliance between the United States and Pakistan is not going to undermine Indian interests, and that United States is really determined to fight terrorism in all forms and whereever its exists," he said.

India is also expected to reiterate its concerns about a host of Islamic militant groups operating in Kashmir during a visit by United States Secretary Colin Powell to India and Pakistan next week.

Brahma Chellaney with the independent Center of Policy Research says there are worries that New Delhi could face an upsurge of violence in Kashmir as the war against terrorism unfolds in India's neighborhood.

"One particular concern of Indians is that as these terrorists are flushed out from Afghanistan, from their hideouts there, they will only move in one direction because that is the only escape route," said. "They will move into Pakistan, and Pakistan then in turn will encourage them to move into Kashmir, which would then mean a rise in terrorist violence in India. So the Indians want to ensure that as Americans fight the terrorists in Afghanistan, they do not turn a blind eye to the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan."

Meanwhile a spokesman for the banned Jaish-i-Mohammed group has denied U.S. charges that the organization is a terrorist group, and vowed to continue its armed struggle in Indian Kashmir.