In a major diplomatic breakthrough for India on the global stage in the middle of general elections at home, the United Nations Wednesday listed Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist after China lifted its technical hold on the listing under the UN Security Council resolution 1267 sanctions committee.
China, which had signed off on the UNSC’s “condemnation statement” on the Pulwama terror attack in February that was claimed by the JeM, yielded after two-and-half months of sustained behind-the-scenes negotiations involving India, US, UK and France.
“Big, small, all join together. Masood Azhar designated as a terrorist in @UN Sanctions list. Grateful to all for their support,” India’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN Syed Akbaruddin tweeted.
Responding to the development, Beijing said “relevant countries” had “revised and re-submitted the materials” for the listing proposal to the 1267 Committee.
“After careful study of the revised materials and taking into consideration the opinions of relevant parties concerned, China does not have objection to the listing proposal,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said.
Pakistan said it would “immediately enforce the sanctions” imposed by the UN on Azhar and that it agreed to his listing after all “political references”, including attempts to link him to the Pulwama attack, were removed from the proposal.
Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said Pakistan would “immediately enforce the sanctions” imposed on Azhar.
“Formal action will be taken on three counts: travel ban, arms embargo and travel restrictions. That is the requirement… Pakistan is a responsible state and we will take appropriate action,” he said.
The UNSC, in a statement, said that pursuant to “resolutions… concerning ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida, and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities”, it has “approved the addition of the entry specified below to its… sanctions list of individuals and entities subject to the assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo”.
It then listed Azhar’s name with details: two dates of birth, June 10 and July 10, 1968; place of birth: Bahawalpur, Punjab Province, Pakistan; aliases: Masud Azhar, Wali Adam Isah and Wali Adam Esah; and, nationality: Pakistan. Azhar was identified as the founder of “Jaish-i-Mohammed and former leader of Harakat ul-Mujahidin”.
It listed the reasons as being “associated with Al-Qaida” for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of”, “supplying, selling or transferring arms and related material to”, “recruiting for”, “otherwise supporting acts or activities of”, and “other acts or activities indicating association with” Jaish-i-Mohammad.
Saying that Azhar founded JeM upon his release from prison in India in 1999, in exchange for 155 hostages in Kandahar, it said “Azhar has also financially supported JEM since its founding”. This establishes a clear link between Azhar and JeM.
It said Azhar is a former leader of the terrorist group Harakat ul-Mujahidin alias Harakat ul-Ansar; most of these group’s members subsequently joined JeM under Azhar’s leadership. In 2008, JeM recruitment posters contained a call from Azhar for volunteers to join the fight in Afghanistan against Western forces.
While there is no specific mention of the Pulwama terrorist attack or Kashmir, Jamaat-ud-Dawa founder and chief Hafiz Saeed’s listing also doesn’t refer to either the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack or attacks in Kashmir.
On March 13, China had placed a technical hold, at Pakistan’s behest, on the proposal moved by three UNSC permanent members to list Azhar as a global terrorist. It had earlier had blocked his listing in 2009, 2016 and 2017. Azhar is also suspected to have been behind the attacks in Pathankot in 2016 and Parliament House in 2001.
For India, the breakthrough comes in the middle of a heated Lok Sabha elections, with three phases covering 169 seats still to vote.
Sources said China came around following discussions with US, UK and France over the last month-and-half. At the same time, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale spoke to his counterparts of 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.
According to sources, the understanding among the UNSC 1267 sanctions committee was that if China did not raise any objection to Azhar’s listing till 9 am (New York time, 6.30 pm IST) on May 1, it will be considered as Beijing lifting its hold. “There was no objection from China or any other country,” sources told The Indian Express.
Welcoming the move, India called it a “step in the right direction”.
The Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “The 1267 Sanctions Committee’s decision to designate the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad, Masood Azhar, as a UN proscribed terrorist is a step in the right direction to demonstrate the international community’s resolve to fight against terrorism and its enablers. We welcome the decision.”
“This is in accordance with India’s position and in line with the information that India has shared with the members of the Sanctions Committee regarding terrorist activities of Masood Azhar and the Jaish-e-Mohammad. India will continue with its efforts through international forums to ensure that terrorist organizations and their leaders who cause harm to our citizens are brought to justice,” Kumar said.