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Designating Russia as a ‘State Sponsor of Terrorism’

  • 18 Apr 2022
  • 5 min read

For Prelims: Location of Russia, International Atomic Energy Agency, UNHRC, UNSC

For Mains: Effect of Policies & Politics of Countries on India's Interests, Russia-Ukraine Conflict and its impact on global geopolitics

Why in News?

Recently, Ukraine has requested US to designate Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism”.

  • The designation would activate perhaps the harshest suite of sanctions available with the US against Russia.

What is Terrorist Designation?

  • About:
    • The US Secretary of State (the minister primarily in charge of foreign relations) has the power to designate countries that “have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism” as “State Sponsors of Terrorism”.
    • The US can place four categories of sanctions on countries that are on this list:
      • Restrictions on US foreign assistance
      • A ban on defence exports and sales
      • Certain controls over exports of dual use items
      • Miscellaneous financial and other restrictions
    • Sanctions can also be placed on countries and persons that engage in certain trade with designated countries.
  • Countries on the List:
    • As of now, there are four countries on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
      • Syria (Designated on 29th December 1979)
      • Iran (Designated on 19th January 1984),
      • North Korea (Designated on 20th November 2017).
      • Cuba was re-designated as a state sponsor of terrorism on 12th January 2021

What are the Statutes which authorise Designation?

  • There are currently three statutes that authorise the Secretary of State to designate a foreign government for repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism:
    • Foreign Assistance Act of 1961: It prohibits the transfer of most aid,
    • Arms Export Control Act (AECA): It prohibits exports, credits, guarantees, other financial assistance, and export licensing overseen by the State Department, and
    • Export Controls Act of 2018
  • Of these three statutes, only the AECA identifies objectionable activities as part of the definition while none of the three Acts defines the overarching term “international terrorism.

What has been India’s Stand on Russia - Ukraine Conflict?

  • Initially, India abstained on a US-sponsored United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution that deplores in the strongest terms Russia's aggression against Ukraine.
  • India again abstained from voting at the UNSC on the Russia drafted resolution on the Humanitarian situation in Ukraine which demanded that calling for a negotiated ceasefire for enabling safe, rapid, voluntary and unhindered evacuation of civilians.
    • Unlike during the past abstentions relating to Ukraine, it was the first time that India sided with the West in this conflict (even if by an abstention).
  • India abstained on a vote at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The Council moved the resolution to set up an international commission of enquiry into Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
  • India, China and 33 other nations recently abstained from a United Nations General Assembly resolution that censured Russia for its military actions in Ukraine.
  • India also abstained from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution that was related to safety at four nuclear power stations and a number of nuclear waste sites including Chernobyl, as the Russians seized control of them.

Way Forward

  • The Russia’s attack on Ukraine, although a gross violation of international law, is not terrorism for the purposes of this designation but Russia has provided plenty of other grounds in the past decade.
    • To designate a country as a state sponsor of terrorism, the secretary of state must determine that the nation’s government has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism, such as assassinations or financing terrorist groups.
  • India has good ties with both the countries. If the tension between the two - USA and Russia escalates, it is important for India to rationally balance the relationships.
    • India’s relations with Russia are not as multifaceted as India’s ties with the U.S., Europe, or even Japan. They are focused primarily on energy and defence.
    • India-Russia bilateral trade stands at only USD 11 billion — but Indian purchases of Russian military equipment are its most significant element.

Source: IE

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