China blocks India-US bid to sanction JeM leader at UNSC

Updated on Aug 12, 2022 05:05 AM IST

In June, China placed a technical hold on a joint move at the Security Council by India and the US to list Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) leader Abdul Rehman Makki.

China blocked the joint bid by India and the US to designate Azhar at the UN Security Council on Wednesday. (AFP)
China blocked the joint bid by India and the US to designate Azhar at the UN Security Council on Wednesday. (AFP)

China has blocked a move by India and the US to list Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) leader Abdul Rauf Azhar as a global terrorist at the UN Security Council, the second time Beijing has resorted to such a step in less than two months.

Azhar is the younger brother of JeM founder Masood Azhar and the deputy leader of the terrorist group that has its main base at Bahawalpur in Pakistan’s Punjab province. Azhar was designated as a terrorist by the US treasury department in December 2010.

China blocked the joint bid by India and the US to designate Azhar at the UN Security Council on Wednesday by placing a “technical hold” on the proposal on the ground that more time is required to study the matter. People familiar with the matter said this was the same position taken by China in the past to block proposals for sanctioning other terrorists based in Pakistan, its traditional ally.

“We placed a hold because we need more time to study the case. Placing holds is provided for by the committee guidelines, and there have been quite a number of similar holds by committee members on listing requests,” a spokesperson for China’s mission to the UN told Reuters, referring to the Security Council’s sanctions committee.

In June, China had similarly placed a technical hold on a joint move by India and the US at the Security Council to list Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) leader Abdul Rehman Makki, the brother-in-law of LeT founder Hafiz Saeed. The listing of Makki continues to be pending because of the block by China.

The people cited above said there is “incontrovertible evidence” for the listing proposals for Azhar and Makki. “Both individuals have been sanctioned by the US under its domestic legislation,” one of the people said.

“Such politically motivated actions by China, in nearly every listing case of a Pakistan-based terrorist undermine the entire sanctity of the working methods of the UN Security Council sanctions committees,” the person added.

The move also comes at a time when India’s relations with China and Pakistan are at an all-time low. While addressing a UN Security Council meeting on threats of terrorist acts on Tuesday, India’s envoy to the UN, Ruchira Kamboj, had, without naming Pakistan or China, spoken out against “double standards in dealing with terrorists” and the politicisation of the sanctions regime. She also said that the “practice of placing holds and blocks on listing requests without giving any justification must end”.

The proposal to list Azhar under the UN Security Council sanctions regime had been circulated to all 15 members of the council’s Al-Qaeda and ISIL Sanctions Committee, also known as the 1267 Committee. Besides China, all 14 other members of the council supported the proposal.

The technical hold, which can last for up to six months at a time under the Security Council’s procedures, effectively blocks proposals to designate terrorists until the measure is withdrawn by the country that placed it.

“It is unfortunate that the sanctions committee has been prevented from playing its role due to political considerations. China’s actions expose its double speak and double standards when it comes to the international community’s shared battle against terrorism,” the first person said.

In the past, China blocked proposals to designate JeM chief Masood Azhar at the UN sanctions committee at least four times over the course of a decade by using technical holds. At the time, Beijing had contended this was done as more information was required about Azhar’s activities.

China relented in Masood Azhar’s case by lifting the technical hold on May 1, 2019, allowing his listing by the 1267 committee for his terrorist activities and his links with al-Qaeda. China gave in because of mounting global pressure and its own efforts at the time to improve ties with New Delhi in the wake of the 2017 border standoff at Doklam.

The designation of a terrorist by the UN Security Council requires the country where the person is based to take three steps – freezing of funds and financial assets, enforcing a travel ban, and cutting off access to weapons and related materials.

When the US treasury department designated Abdul Rauf Azhar, also known as Abdul Rauf Asghar, in 2010, it described him as a senior leader of JeM who “urged Pakistanis to engage in militant activities”. He served as JeM’s acting leader in 2007, as one of the group’s “most senior commanders in India”, and as its intelligence coordinator. In 2008, Azhar was “assigned to organise suicide attacks in India” and was also involved with JeM’s training camps.

According to Indian officials, Azhar was involved in the planning and execution of numerous terrorist attacks, including the hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC814 from Kathmandu to Kandahar in 1999, the 2001 attack on India’s Parliament and the 206 attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot.

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