Little has changed on blacklisting Masood Azhar
The United States has asserted it will use “all available resources” to ensure the designation of Masood Azhar, the Pakistan-based chief of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, as a global terrorist following China’s blocking of an effort to blacklist him at the United Nations’ Islamic State and al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee. Policymakers in India believe the US position is a reflection of the closer counterterror cooperation between the two sides as well as the growing disappointment and frustration among members of the United Nations Security Council over China’s repeated use of a “hold” to stymie efforts to sanction Azhar, whose groups have planned and carried out attacks against India ever since he was freed from prison in 1999 in exchange for the passengers of a hijacked Indian airliner. As part of its efforts to corner China over the issue of Azhar, the US has circulated a draft resolution on blacklisting the JeM chief among members of the Security Council, though Beijing has described this move as something that will complicate matters and undermine the UN Sanctions Committee.
It remains to be seen whether the draft resolution will be passed by the Security Council, especially in view of China’s veto power in the forum. If China decides to use this power, all the US and its allies such as Britain and France will be able to do is force a public debate on why China has been standing up, on behalf of its “iron brother” ally Pakistan, for a man who is universally acknowledged to be a terrorist with links to al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. Such a debate is unlikely to influence the positions of China and Pakistan, who do not seem too bothered about the embarrassment brought on by public knowledge of their efforts to protect the JeM chief. It also remains to be seen how much of the posturing by the US is linked to the current problems in its relationship with China and its efforts to pressure Pakistan to help in the negotiations with the Afghan Taliban.
At the end of the day, India can draw comfort from the wider acceptance of its efforts to show that Pakistan is the fount of crossborder terrorism in the region, with several groups based on Pakistani soil being accused of carrying out attacks against Afghanistan, India and Iran. Irrespective of whether the US resolution is backed by the United Nations Security Council, India should focus on forums such as the Financial Action Task Force that have clearly been able to do more to increase the costs for Pakistan’s use of terrorism as an instrument of State policy.