For the fourth time in 10 years, China Wednesday stalled, at Pakistan’s behest, India’s bid to list Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist at the United Nations Security Council.
New Delhi, which had mounted a diplomatic offensive after the Jaish-e-Mohammad owned up the February 14 Pulwama terror attack that left 40 CRPF personnel dead, said it was “disappointed” by the outcome, but would continue to pursue all available avenues to bring terrorist leaders to justice.
Barely an hour before the deadline was to expire at 3 pm New York time — 12.30 am IST — China placed a technical hold, sources said. This means that the proposal will be in deep freeze for the next six months, and if there is a hold again for three months. Thereafter, Beijing will have to either lift the hold or block the listing again. In the next nine months, member countries can provide information to the committee for lifting the hold, and Azhar can still be listed.
China, which considers Pakistan as its “all-weather ally” and “iron brother”, did not yield to intense diplomatic pressure from the US, France, UK, Russia and India. This came despite India reaching out to capitals across the world.
In deep freeze for another six months
With Beijing placing a technical hold, the proposal to put JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist now goes in deep freeze for the next six months, extendable for another three months. Thereafter, Beijing will have to either lift the hold or block the listing again.
Sources told The Indian Express that one of the key takeaways from the proposal this time was the impressive number of co-sponsors — 13 in all. Apart from the US, UK, France and Germany, other co-sponsors were Poland, Belgium, Italy, Bangladesh, Maldives, Bhutan, Equatorial Guinea, Japan and Australia. While some of them were at the UNSC as non-permanent members, others came as UN members. This reflected the support India had this time, sources said.
India’s Permanent Representative at the UN, Syed Akbaruddin tweeted, “Big, Small & Many… 1 big state holds up, again… 1 small signal @UN against terror. Grateful to the many states — big & small — who in unprecedented numbers, joined as co-sponsors of the effort.”
The Ministry of External Affairs, in a statement, said: “The ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee (1267 Sanctions Committee), upon completion of the no-objection period on 13 March 2019, was not able to come to a decision on the proposal for listing Mohammed Masood Azhar Alvi under the UN Sanctions regime, on account of a member placing the proposal on hold.” It did not name China, since the deliberations are confidential.
“We are disappointed by this outcome. This has prevented action by the international community to designate the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a proscribed and active terrorist organization which has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir on 14 February 2019,” it said, referring to the Pulwama terror attack.
“We are grateful for the efforts of the Member States who moved the designation proposal and the unprecedented number of all other Security Council members as well as non-members who joined as co-sponsors,” it said.
“We will continue to pursue all available avenues to ensure that terrorist leaders who are involved in heinous attacks on our citizens are brought to justice,” the MEA said.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had travelled to Beijing soon after the Balakot air strike and met Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi. Sources had then described the meeting as “positive”.
On Wednesday, hours before the deadline ran out, Swaraj, speaking at a think tank gathering in New Delhi, said: , “If (Pakistan Prime Minister) Imran Khan is so generous and a statesman, he should give us Masood Azhar.” She said India can have a good relationship with Pakistan, provided the neighbouring country “takes action against terror groups on its soil”.
“Why did the Pakistani military attack us on behalf of JeM? You not only keep JeM on your soil, but fund them and when the victim country retaliates, you attack it on the terror outfit’s behalf,” she told the gathering.
Over the last 10 years, China had single-handedly blocked the listing of Azhar as a “global terrorist” at the UNSC Resolution 1267 sanctions committee, and this time was no different.
Three attempts, in 2009, 2016 and 2017, have been blocked by Beijing at Islamabad’s behest. India had always argued that since JeM is already a UN-designated terrorist outfit, its leader should also be designated as a terrorist by the UNSC 1267 sanctions committee.
The latest initiative came after JeM claimed responsibility for the Pulwama terror attack. Ahead of the deadline, Washington, in a last-minute push, also said that the US and China share a mutual interest in regional stability and peace, and “failure to designate Azhar would run counter to this goal”. This was a strong statement of intent from the US side, directly addressing Beijing, even as diplomatic efforts were underway to get the Chinese on board.
But China remained unmoved, saying the “only solution that is acceptable to all sides can be the solution of the issue”. This was seen in Delhi as a red flag, hours before the deadline to submit objections to Azhar’s listing ended.