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Chinese veto to UN action against Masood Azhar: Here’s how India can respond

Beijing has only itself to blame for its present predicament: is it for or against terrorism

analysis Updated: Nov 06, 2017 16:02 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
China,United Nations,Masood Azhar
Jaish-e-Mohammad head Maulana Masood Azhar in Islamabad, August 26, 2001. (Reuters File Photo)

Someone in Beijing is not thinking things through. Every time China has blocked the designation of Masood Azhar by the United Nations, it has seemed more and more like its terrorism-loving ally Pakistan.

Indian diplomats privately acknowledge that as much as they want to see Masood Azhar designated, and punished at some stage, they are “extremely comfortable” with a “no” from China as well. It gives them the opportunity to relitigate the issue, rally the world against terrorism, and as a bonus, expose China’s doublespeak and have it stand with a world-renowned terrorist, as his greatest ally and benefactor. And at no extra cost.

Azhar is not going anywhere with or without the UN designation. His outfit, Jaish-e-Mohammad, stands sanctioned by the same UN committee that the Chinese are protecting him from. The man has also been designated by the United States, whose proposal it was that Beijing blocked on Thursday, to beat a procedural deadline.

Having forced China to hold a knife to its own throat, India has no intention of letting up the pressure, especially when it also has the moral high ground on the issue, and the backing of the world.

“The process is going to continue,” an official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, so as to be able to speak freely about India’s options and strategy, in the face of China’s cynical cussedness.

Option One, “go after the same guy”: India could file another application before the ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council, start the process all over again for Azhar, secure the support of 14 members of the committee, which works on the principle of unanimity (all 15 members must vote for the proposal to be adopted, no one has a super-veto), and kick the ball back to the 15th member, China. China typically begins by running down the clock with the help of “technical holds”, as it did with the first proposal, moved by India in 2016, and backed by the US, Britain and France. After stretching it out for the entire year almost, it killed it with a “block”, a veto, in December.

It put a technical hold on the second proposal, moved this time by the US and backed by Britain and France, in February, and killed past week citing lack of consensus that it had caused with as the leading, and only, dissenter.

Option Two, “go after the same guy, with another country”: Terrorism has fewer friends around the world than enemies. Pakistan, which has been under the scanner for a while, recognises that. China, a relatively new player as both a victim and purveyor of it, doesn’t.

India could wait for or look for another sponsor of a proposal to designate Azhar. Britain or France, backers of the earlier proposals, could be a candidate, in consultation with the United States and India. Or, may be a third country.

Option three, “another guy, proposed by India”: Dump Azhar. There are plenty more to choose from. How about Chhota Shakeel, an aide of Dawood Ibrahim, the mafia don in Pakistan and who is already on the list? There are currently 256 individuals on the UN list. Only. There is scope for plenty more, and not to test China’s cynical resolve to prove its loyalty to Iron-Brother ally Pakistan, but to genuinely limit the ability of these killers to cause more damage.

Option four, “another guy, but proposed by US, France or Britain”. A proposal moved by one of the three permanent members of the Security Council to proscribe another terror suspect. How about Chhota Shakeel again, to stay with the case cited earlier? Or, a completely different individual.

The effect would be the same: China in the box again as particularly partial to terrorists (and terrorism) to be blocking the designation of another terrorist. It would be the only country to come to the rescue of terrorists, held as terrorists and murders by the rest of the world, twice. A rare dishonour for a country which has incipient problems with terrorism.

Option five, “proscribe a terrorist group”: There are 80 terrorist organisations, and affiliates, on the UN list already. But it can easily take a few more, challenging Beijing to now prove it can go beyond Azhar if it really did have issues with him, and not terrorism. Beijing has only itself to blame for its present predicament: is it for or against terrorism.

First Published: Nov 06, 2017 16:02 IST