India will step up efforts to get the UN sanctions committee to blacklist Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group chief Masood Azhar as a terrorist, despite China blocking the move last week.
Beijing blocked the Indian application to put Azhar, the lynchpin of the Pathankot airbase attack in January, in the UN sanctions list.
But New Delhi remained optimistic that the Chinese pressure could wilt under growing support from UN member countries to blacklist the rabidly anti-India militant group’s chief.
Foreign ministry officials said the US, UK and France have for the first time come together as co-sponsors to back India’s move.
Separately, the government decided to hold a meeting next week to decide on whether to put China back in the list of ‘country of concern’, which could mean either total denial of security clearance to Chinese firms or stricter norms for setting up a shop here.
“A meeting of representatives from all stakeholders – ministries of home, external affairs, finance and commerce – is being called to decide on the issue,” said a senior government official requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to media on the issue. The move is seen in line with the Indian retaliation to Beijing’s UN moves.
“There is larger synergy among the UN members on the issue of designating Azhar a terrorist. We will learn lessons from the latest experience and step up our efforts,” a foreign ministry official said.
Foreign policy experts were not entirely convinced, saying overturning a negative Chinese response would be a daunting task. “India and China have to have greater level of confidence with each other for this. As long as that doesn’t happen, Beijing will not be on board,” former career diplomat MK Bhadrakumar said.
India approached the sanctions committee in February to act against Azhar. The process involves proving how entities and individuals are associated with UN-proscribed organisations such as al-Qaeda, Islamic State and Taliban. Once they are listed, individuals and organisations will face asset freezing, travel ban, arms embargo and other penalties that would cripple their ability to carry out attacks.
(With inputs from Rajesh Ahuja)