MORE THAN a month after China placed a technical hold on the listing of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is likely to discuss the issue again Wednesday when Beijing is likely to lift the hold, sources told The Indian Express.
Three UNSC members — US, UK and France — have been pursuing the case with China over the last two months, while New Delhi has also been engaging separately with Beijing. Azhar’s JeM was behind the Pulwama terrorist attack that killed 40 CRPF personnel in February.
Sources said Beijing has come around in the last two months, and the man believed to be also responsible for the terrorist attacks in Pathankot in 2016 and the Indian Parliament in 2001 is likely to be designated a global terrorist. “The UNSC 1267 sanctions committee will be meeting on Wednesday, and Beijing is likely to lift its objections. That’s the plan,” sources said.
China, which blocked Azhar’s listing in 2009, 2016 and 2017, placed a technical hold on March 13 to the proposal that was moved by the US, UK and France. The hold required the UNSC members to provide more information in the next six months. China’s action can be extended by another three months, after which it has to either block the move or lift the hold.
Sources said the issue has been “in discussion” over the last month-and-half, as Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale spoke to his counterparts in all key UNSC member countries, and visited Washington and Beijing. India has always maintained that China should list Azhar, since he is the leader of a terrorist group that has already been proscribed by the UN.
On Tuesday, without providing a clear timeline, China said the issue will be “properly resolved”. The comments follow a bilateral meeting Sunday between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Beijing. “I can only say that I believe that this will be properly resolved,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang. China said it will continue to “engage in the discussion” and “review of this issue in a constructive manner.”
Geng said China had expressed its position on the issue many times. “First, we support the listing issue being settled within the 1267 committee through dialogue and consultation, and I believe this is the consensus of most members. Second, the relevant consultations are going on within the committee and has achieved some progress,” he said. “Third, I believe, with the joint efforts of all parties, this issue can be properly resolved.”
Last week, ahead of the second Belt and Road Forum, Gokhale met Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing where India shared “all evidence” of terrorist activities by Azhar, the Ministry of External Affairs had said. Responding to a question on whether any positive momentum can be expected following talks between India and China, Geng said: “On the listing issue, China is still working with the relevant parties and we are in contact with all relevant parties within the 1267 Committee and I believe with the joint efforts of all parties, this will be properly resolved.”
Speaking about bilateral talks between Xi and Khan, Geng said: “I would like to stress that Pakistan is China’s All Weather Strategic Cooperative Partner. To borrow Prime Minister Imran Khan’s words, our two countries are Iron Brothers. We firmly support each other on the issues concerning our core interests. Pakistan is always one of China’s diplomatic priorities.”
On Sunday, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mohammad Faisal said they are “open to the listing” of Azhar as long as he is not linked to the Pulwama attack. Speaking on a Pakistani TV show, Faisal said: “(India should) give evidence that Masood Azhar had anything to do with the attack in Pulwama. If that is not the case, then we can discuss the listing. It is not a big issue.”
A UNSC designation will subject Azhar to an assets freeze, travel ban and an arms embargo. Incidentally, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed, who was also listed under the UNSC 1267 sanctions committee, continues to move around freely in Pakistan.
Last week, Gokhale referred to the meeting in 2018 between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping in Wuhan and said: “… we will work together with the Chinese side to deepen understanding to strengthen trust to implement the decisions that were taken by leaders and to do it in a manner in which we are sensitive to each other’s concerns.”