The recent participation of officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in a function to inaugurate a hospital run by the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD) in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, was an imprudent step. As India has mentioned in its complaint to the ICRC in Geneva, the JUD is nothing but a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist organisation. The ICRC enjoys unparalleled international respect because of its role as “an impartial humanitarian body” — as described in the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. But by associating with the JUD, its officials may jeopardise this non-partisan character while lending a degree of legitimacy to a terrorist group.
For over a century, the ICRC has fulfilled its mission of protecting and assisting victims of war while promoting humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles. Over the years, as new non-State actors have emerged and gained in size and importance, this latter task has led to a perceptible effort on the part of the ICRC to have laws governing armed conflict apply to irregular fighters. This is best exemplified by its campaign against the US prisons in Guantanamo and its cooperating with the Hamas. However, the JUD-LeT is not a popular resistance movement like the Hamas but an armed terrorist organisation whose raison d’etre is launching strikes against India.
Since the 2004 earthquake, the JUD has been striving to win popular support by organising relief and rehabilitation efforts. It actually succeeded in becoming a nodal point for many international aid agencies. Nevertheless, this doesn’t take away from the fact that the JUD is first and foremost a terrorist organisation, not a grassroots humanitarian aid group as it pretends to be, that leaves no opportunity to cause loss of life and property in a neighbouring State. International NGOs, especially those of the stature of the ICRC, cannot afford to be taken for a ride by such unscrupulous elements and led into making such political and strategic errors.