China’s “technical hold” on the UN designation of Jaish-e-Mohammed’s Masood Azhar was foretold. Nothing has changed between India and China, or China and Pakistan, for Beijing to have had a change of mind at the UN 1267 Sanctions Committee that designates terrorist entities, individuals and groups. This is the third time since the January 2016 Pathankot attack that China has used this route to block Azhar’s designation. Each time, India pointed at Beijing and complained loudly. But the government must know by now that China is not easily embarrassed. Like every country, China is guided by self-interest. Clearly, it does not consider the JeM a threat to its own interests yet. On the other hand, each such episode is an exposition of the limitations of Indian diplomacy with China — even a personal word from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Chinese President Xi Jinping, and an appeal from External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, have not done the trick. It is time India stopped investing so much diplomatic energy in the 1267 Committee.
Existing designations also seem to have done nothing to “dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism”; the JeM and the Lashkar-e-Toiba were designated in 2001. Five years later, the LeT struck with the Mumbai train blasts in July 2006, and two years later, with the 2008 attack on Mumbai. Shortly after this, Hafiz Saeed, head of the LeT proxy Jamaat-ud-Dawa, and the group, were both designated. Barring some discomfiture for Pakistan, and a few months under house arrest for Saeed, the designation has done nothing to disadvantage him or the JuD.
The JeM, which unlike the JuD, is banned in Pakistan under its own Anti-Terrorism Act, has likewise continued to grow since its designation. After the Pathankot attack, Pakistan chose to take Azhar into “protective custody”.
Indian interests may be better served by working to improve ties with China in a new, unpredictable world, and to convey to Beijing that India-aimed terrorism emanating from Pakistan threatens the stability of the region, and thus hurts China’s ambitious economic interests in Pakistan.
This thought appears to be dawning in the Chinese establishment too. There has been some chatter that the recent house arrest of Hafiz Saeed may have come after a nudge from China, not the US. While there is no evidence to back either possibility, it would also be unwise to put too much store by Pakistan’s move, which may have been aimed at showing anti-terror credentials to the immigration-obsessed Trump administration. Saeed has easily shaken off previous house arrests under the Maintenance of Public Order Act through appeals in the courts, which, while setting him free, have reprimanded the government for bending to pressure from India or the US. It would be no surprise if this happens again.