ON A day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted the people of China on their national day, laying stress on “deepening mutual trust and confidence”, Beijing on Saturday said that its technical hold on India’s move to get Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar listed as a terrorist by the United Nations has “been extended”, two days before expiry of the hold.
The Chinese technical hold was set to expire on Monday, and that would have cleared the way to take forward the process to list Azhar — accused in the Parliament terror attack case and, more recently, the Pathankot attack — as a global terrorist. The hold has now been extended for another three months.
There was no official response from New Delhi, but sources said this will become one of the talking points between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in mid-October, when they meet on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Goa.
China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said in Beijing, “The technical hold on India’s listing application submitted to the 1267 Committee in March 2016 has already been extended… There are still different views on India’s listing application. The extended technical hold on it will allow more time for the committee to deliberate on the matter and for relevant parties to have further consultations.”
On March 31 this year, China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council, had blocked India’s move to put a ban on Azhar, under the sanctions committee of the council. China was the only member in the 15-nation UN organ to put a hold on India’s application — all others supported New Delhi’s bid to place Azhar on the 1267 sanctions list that would subject him to an assets freeze and travel ban.
The issue has been going on at least since 2009, when China and the UK put technical hold on the listing.
Geng said the 1267 Committee of the UNSC “organises its work as mandated by relevant resolutions of the Security Council.” “China always maintains that on the listing matter, the 1267 Committee should stick to the main principles of objectivity, impartiality and professionalism, base its judgements on solid evidence and decide upon consensus among the members of the Security Council,” he said in a written reply to a question.
In August this year, when External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met the visiting Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, in New Delhi, she raised the issue of China’s technical hold on listing of Masood Azhar in the UNSC 1267 Committee. This has become a thorny issue between the two countries in recent months, especially after the Pathankot terror attack.
“China was urged to revisit its technical hold in line with its own professed zero tolerance towards terrorism,” sources told The Sunday Express, expressing surprise at Beijing’s decision on Saturday.
In July, while responding to a question on the issue, the Chinese envoy had said it was “not a political hold”. He counselled India to engage in “friendly consultations” with Pakistan — without naming the country — and arrive at a mutually acceptable solution.
Officials said India is not alone in its bid to get Azhar listed as a terrorist, as the US, UK and France had “co-sponsored” the resolution seeking Azhar’s listing.
In April, India had said it finds it “incomprehensible” that while the Pakistan-based JeM was listed in the UNSC Committee as far back as 2001 for its terror activities and links to the al-Qaeda, the designation of the group’s main leader, financier and motivator has been put on technical hold.
After India submitted a dossier on Azhar following the Pathankot attack, in March, India’s submission was considered by the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate for technical aspects of the evidence provided. The technical team, with the support of the US, UK and France, then sent it to all the members.
Sources said if there were no objections, Azhar’s designation as a terrorist would be announced after the expiry of the deadline. However, hours before the deadline, China requested the committee to hold the decision.