A day before Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman lands in Delhi for a bilateral visit, Riyadh signed off on a joint statement with Pakistan Monday where they said there was a need to avoid “politicisation of the UN listing regime” — an apparent reference to India’s efforts to list Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar as a “global terrorist”.
Jaish has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack in Pulwama, the single bloodiest attack in Kashmir in the last three decades of militancy. The issue of Azhar’s listing and how China has been blocking Delhi’s efforts to designate Azhar as a global terrorist — at Pakistan’s behest — is a key issue the Indian Foreign Secretary has been highlighting in his meetings with envoys from G-20 countries, including Saudi Arabia.
There was no official response from the Ministry of External Affairs but the Saudi-Pakistan joint statement clearly belies India’s expectations.
It puts a stamp of approval on Pakistan’s narrative that India is trying to politicise the UN listing process.
Hours before the joint statement, the Ministry of External Affairs Secretary (economic relations) T S Tirumurti, who handles ties with the country, said that the Kingdom has shown “greater understanding” of India’s terrorism-related concerns and has agreed to work with India in countering this global menace.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has strongly condemned and denounced the terrorist attack on Indian security forces in Pulwama on 14 February. We appreciate Kingdom’s cooperation in security and counter terrorism areas over the years. During the visit of PM Modi to Saudi Arabia in 2016, an MoU on cooperation in exchange of intelligence related to money laundering and terrorism financing was signed,” understanding of our terrorism-related concerns and also agreed to work with India in countering this global menace,” Tirumurti said on Monday.
But the joint statement did not reflect these sensitivities as it not only praised Pakistan’s “achievements” in the war against terrorism but was also seen to be backing Islamabad on the listing regime.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan reiterated their commitment to continue combating extremism and terrorism and expressed their deep appreciation for the achievements and sacrifices made by the two sides in the war against terrorism.
They also applauded the martyrs who sacrificed their lives in order to confront this serious scourge and called on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities to join all international efforts to combat global terrorism. They also underlined the need for avoiding politicization of UN listing regime,” the joint statement said.
The Saudi Crown Prince “praised openness and efforts of Prime Minister Imran Khan for dialogue with India and the opening of the Kartarpur crossing point for Sikh pilgrims, the joint statement said.
It also pointed out to the “efforts exerted by both sides, stressing that dialogue is the only way to ensure peace and stability in the region to resolve outstanding issues”.