China isolated, nations seeking ‘other options’ to counter Beijing on Masood Azhar
Some permanent members of the UN Security Council are considering “other actions” to counter Beijing’s persistent opposition to the designation of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist even as China said on Thursday that it needs more time to “study” the issue .
On Wednesday, China used a “technical hold” at the UN’s Islamic State and al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee to block the latest move spearheaded by France to list Azhar, whose group claimed responsibility for the Pulwama terror attack of February 14. The hold is valid for six months and can be extended by three months. The other 14 members of the Security Council supported the listing.
Watch: Explained: Three possible reasons why China blocked UN move on Masood Azhar
A Security Council diplomat said: “If China continues to block this designation, responsible member-states may be forced to pursue other actions at the Security Council. It shouldn’t have to come to that.” The diplomat did not elaborate on the “other actions” that could be taken by permanent members of the Security Council.
But other UN officials familiar with rules for listing terrorists said the stalled proposal can be escalated to the Security Council for an open discussion and vote.
This would be an unprecedented move and a public rebuke of China. Beijing will then be forced to “defend its defence of a well-known terrorist in full public view” as open Security Council proceedings are telecast live, they said.
“India did not co-sponsor the Masood Azhar listing as it wanted this to be part of global coalition against terror and not reduced to an India-Pakistan issue. The proposal was kept straight and narrow so that China would come on board. The remaining members of the Security Council are most disappointed by the Chinese block,” said a second UN diplomat. Hindustan Times learns that India spoke to China ahead of the meeting and, in an attempt to make the listing more diplomatically palatable to Beijing, ensured that the location of Masood Azhar was not mentioned in it. Masood Azhar lives in Bahawalpur in Punjab, Pakistan, and is directly responsible for six major terrorist attacks against India, with the Pulwama car bombing, which killed at least 40 paramilitary troopers, being the latest.
India has been critical of the opaque process by which the Sanctions Committee lists terrorists. Its proceedings and decisions are confidential and members don’t have to explain their decision. If the designation is put before the Security Council, China will be forced to take a stand publicly, in full view of those watching the live feed as it “either defends its opposition to the designation of a man who is undeniably a terrorist or gives up”, the officials said.
The Security Council diplomat – who spoke for France, the US and Britain, which backed the latest proposal to list Azhar – criticised Pakistan for depending “on China to protect it from the listing of Pakistan-based terrorist groups and individuals”.
Asked about the reason for blocking the move, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said this was in line with the rules of the Sanctions Committee.
“The UNSC 1267 committee has clear standards and procedures for designating terrorist organisations and individuals. China conducts thorough and in-depth assessment of these applications and we still need more time. That is why we put forward the technical hold,” he said.
China hopes the action of the committee “will help relevant countries to engage in dialogue and consultation and prevent adding more complicated factors into regional peace and stability”, he said. The technical hold will give China enough time to study the issue and enable stakeholders to have a dialogue, he added.
Interestingly, HT learns that the listing proposal blocked by China contains only one new line, previously approved by the UNSC in its February 21 Pulwama attack resolution, which has been added to the US’ January 2017 proposal on the listing of Azhar (which too was blocked by Beijing). Lu further said, “Only a solution… acceptable to all sides could fundamentally provide a chance for a lasting solution to the issue. China is ready to communicate and coordinate with all sides, including India, to properly handle this issue.”
The external affairs ministry in New Delhi expressed “disappointment” at the blocking of the move.