It was a significant victory for the Indian political and diplomatic establishment when the Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council finally succeeded in declaring dreaded Pakistani terrorist, Masood Azhar, a “Global Terrorist”. With this decision, Azhar has joined notorious company. Several attempts were made in the past to get the Security Council to so designate Azhar but every time, it was our neighbour China which blocked those efforts. It did so by deceptively imposing what is called a “technical hold”.
The credit goes to the doggedness of the Narendra Modi government in pursuing the matter to its logical conclusion. Although the matter was taken to the UNSC by the UPA government in 2009, it was not pursued enough and appropriately. Once Modi became prime minister, a resolute effort was launched at the UN level and elsewhere to ensure that the resolution is passed. It was a nerve-racking effort for our diplomats because the Chinese representative at the UN would take weeks, if not months, to move even an inch forward.
The Chinese bureaucracy is much more cumbersome than ours. Each step forward needed approval from the top — whatever the “top” meant — and the country representative is helpless in the absence of the same. It was a test of patience for Indian representatives and those of other countries. At one point, the US had to threaten to bring in another resolution demanding open voting on the subject. That would have forced China to spell out its reasons for protecting the dreaded terrorist beyond the so-called “technical hold”.
Finally, the Chinese have blinked. As the learned former Ambassador to China, Gautam Bambawale, observed, it was a situation where the costs outweighed benefits for China, compelling it to withdraw its objections.
The nation should have welcomed this decision of the UNSC. But the Doubting Thomases went overboard, raising all sorts of doubts and suspicions. There was a quid pro quo with China, some insisted, never spelling out what that quid pro quo was all about. A senior Opposition leader insinuated that all references to Kashmir were removed before the said resolution was passed at the UNSC.
The Masood Azhar matter before the Security Council was 10 years old. India had first approached the UNSC in 2009 demanding the listing of Masood Azhar in the 1267 Resolution. The matter depended entirely on the dossier India submitted to all the member countries at that time and subsequently, as and when it came up before the 1267 Sanctions Committee. It contained all the details of the activities of Jaish-e-Mohammad and Azhar, its founder. From the Parliament attack in 2001 to the Mumbai terror attack in 2008 to the Pulwama attack in 2019, Azhar’s footprints were present in many a terror attack in India. All this material has been placed before all the member countries through the dossier.
India is not a member country during the current term of the Security Council. Hence, it was France which moved this matter at the 1267 Committee, seeking the listing of Masood Azhar as a designated global terrorist. Not only the US and UK, but even countries like Indonesia, which is the chair of the Security Council at the moment, strongly supported France. Finally, 14 out of 15 members of the UNSC were in its favour forcing the 15th member — and a permanent member at the UNSC, China — to concede.
Announcing the inclusion of Azhar’s name in the notorious list of global terrorists, the Sanctions Committee cited the reasons as: “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-Mohammed”.
It is clear from the above description that the Indian dossier was comprehensively and extensively used by the Council in arriving at the conclusion on May 1. Now to argue that Kashmir was not mentioned in the resolution is flimsy.
This action of the UNSC offers Pakistan an excellent opportunity. Thus far, it succeeded in protecting terrorists and terror organisations because of the support it got from China. Now its isolation is complete. It can convert this isolation into an opportunity by sincerely following up on the UNSC resolution with the mandated actions, which include freezing of Masood Azhar’s accounts, fund flows and other assets; restricting his travel; and a total embargo on weapons’ sales. It effectively means that Azhar has to be literally immobilised and all his activities, including running terror camps, stopped.
Pakistan is a sanctuary to more than a dozen terror groups that have been proscribed by the UN. But the nonchalance of the Pakistan establishment allows these organisations to carry on their activities unhindered. If Pakistan wishes to overcome this isolation and ignominy, it has to join the world community in the fight against terror.
Five weeks from now, on June 15, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit meeting is going to take place at Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, where the prime ministers of India and Pakistan are going to face each other after a long gap. After the Pathankot attack in early January 2016, the Indian side had frozen bilateral engagements with Pakistan.
The new leadership in Pakistan under Prime Minister Imran Khan can use the UNSC resolution to show its sincerity in the fight against terror by taking effective measures against the terror networks in his country. That would not only help Pakistan come out of its global isolation, but also create a conducive atmosphere for breaking the logjam with India. The onus squarely lies with Pakistan’s leadership.
“New Pakistan doesn’t want anybody to indulge in terrorism from its soil,” Imran Khan declared recently. It is time he walked the talk.
This article first appeared in the print edition on May 7, 2019, under the title ‘The Masood Azhar victory’. The writer is national general secretary of the BJP and director, India Foundation.