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China non-committal as push renews for terror tag on Jaish chief Masood Azhar

France, the UK and the US have launched a fresh bid at the UN to list Masood Azhar, founder of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) that took responsibility for the February 14 Pulwama terror attack, as a global terrorist though China remained non-committal on backing the move.

india Updated: Mar 01, 2019 09:10 IST
Yashwant Raj & Sutirtho Patranobis
Yashwant Raj & Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Washington/Beijing
A file photo of Masood Azhar, center, (wearing glasses and white turban), leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad, in Islamabad, Pakistan. (AP)

France, the UK and the US have launched a fresh bid at the UN to list Masood Azhar, founder of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) that took responsibility for the February 14 Pulwama terror attack, as a global terrorist though China remained non-committal on backing the move.

Paris is leading the latest and fourth attempt to put Azhar on the blacklist of UN’s 1267 Committee that already includes the JeM, which he founded after being freed by India in 1999 in exchange for passengers of an Air India flight hijacked to Kandahar.

Three previous attempts were blocked by China, which cited the rules under the UN Security Council Resolution 1267 and lack of evidence and consensus.

Resolution 1267 allows for the listing of individuals and groups with links to al-Qaeda or the Islamic State.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson was non-committal when asked whether Beijing will block the latest move to list Azhar. “We have said many times that the UN Security Council 1267 Committee has clear regulations on the listing and related procedures of terrorist organisations or individuals. China will continue to participate in discussions in the Council on sanctions committees and other subsidiary bodies in a responsible manner,” the spokesperson said.

China’s repeated blocking of the move has been an irritant in bilateral ties, which have improved markedly since last year’s informal summit in Wuhan between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Beijing adopted a more nuanced approach after the Pulwama attack and backed a strongly-worded statement by the Security Council that named JeM.

Indian officials are cautiously optimistic of the prospects of the new move in the backdrop of the Pulwama attack on that killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers.

“There is a direct link between the Pulwama attack carried out by Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Balakot camp that was run by his brother-in-law Yusuf Azhar, one of the five hijackers of Indian Airlines flight IC-814, who is on CBI’s listed of wanted criminals,” an Indian counter-terrorism official said.

People familiar with developments in New Delhi said China’s ambiguous position was not unexpected. They said every effort is being made to convince China that there are reasonable grounds for sanctioning Azhar, and other countries too have information that they are using to persuade Beijing.

India has given specific information about JeM and its leaders to all members of Security Council and will continue to lobby them, the people said. Listing Azhar is not the endgame, and the move is aimed at sending a message to Pakistan that no one is on its side on the issue of terrorism, they added.

The process of putting together a case for the UN sanctions committee is technical, painstaking and confidential. Contents of previous proposals for Azhar’s designation remain confidential, as do reasons for their failure.

“In an age where informed publics increasingly demand transparency from public institutions, the sanctions committees are the most egregious examples known to multilateralism in terms of their opacity and lack of accountability,” India’s permanent representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin, said during a debate at the UN on multilateralism last November.

Azhar has been the best-known beneficiary of this opaque process that has been deployed only by China in support of Pakistan, which hosts JeM, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other terror groups. JeM has been on this UN list since 2001, along with LeT, which carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

First Published: Feb 28, 2019 23:28 IST