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UNSC criticism of Pulwama terror attack may bolster India’s push to ban Jaish chief Masood Azhar

The UN Security Council issued a strongly worded resolution condemning the Pulwana terror attack and naming Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed after almost a week of diplomatic heavy lifting by the US in support of India amid stiff opposition from China.

india Updated: Feb 28, 2019 09:45 IST
Yashwant Raj & Shishir Gupta
Yashwant Raj & Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
People pay tribute to slain CRPF jawans of Pulwama terror attack, at Ridge, Shimla.
People pay tribute to slain CRPF jawans of Pulwama terror attack, at Ridge, Shimla. (PTI)

The UN Security Council issued a strongly worded resolution condemning the Pulwama terror attack and naming Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed after almost a week of diplomatic heavy-lifting by the US in support of India amid stiff opposition from China.

The resolution, which diplomats describe as unprecedented, could weaken China’s opposition to any effort to list Jaish chief Masood Azhar by the UN. China, a permanent member of the Security Council has blocked all attempts to do so.

This is perhaps the first time the Security Council has a resolution in favour of India’s security forces and called on all UN members, including Pakistan and China, to cooperate with India to bring the “perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors” of the attack to justice.

The resolution, described by officials as “path-breaking”, bolstered India’s efforts to mount pressure on and isolate Pakistan in the aftermath of the February 14 suicide bombing at Pulwama that killed 40 troops and was claimed by JeM.

“The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the heinous and cowardly suicide bombing in Jammu and Kashmir, which resulted in over 40 Indian paramilitary forces dead and dozens wounded on February 14, 2019, for which Jaish-e-Mohammed has claimed responsibility,” the resolution said.

The Security Council said “any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed”. It reaffirmed the need for all nations to “combat by all means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and other obligations under international law...threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts”.

According to top diplomats based at the UN in New York and New Delhi, the resolution, which was to have been cleared by the Security Council on February 15, a day after the attack, was delayed till February 21 due to opposition from Chinese representatives who were receiving instructions from Beijing, and the Pakistani envoy, who lobbied for changes in the reference to Jammu and Kashmir.

The US representative, under specific instructions from Washington, worked with the UK, France, Russia and non-permanent members of the Security Council to push through the strongly worded resolution.

“France may have gone public on moving a proposal at the UN to designate JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, but it was the US, under instructions from the top, that pushed the Pulwama resolution. It was due to this heavy-lifting that all other permanent Security Council members and 10 non-permanent members followed suit,” said a UN diplomat.

People familiar with developments said the Chinese representative pushed for three changes during negotiations this week – deletion of the reference to JeM, changing “Jammu and Kashmir” to “Indian-administered Kashmir”, and changes to the paragraph that “underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice, and urged all States, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with the Government of India and all other relevant authorities in this regard”.

The Chinese representative reportedly referred to the “sensitivity” of the region where the attack occurred, diplomatese for the state being disputed.

The reference to cooperating with India under Security Council resolutions will strengthen a planned effort by France, with the backing of the US and Britain, to seek the listing of Masood Azhar by the 1267 Committee, the people said.

“Once China backed the resolution with this wording, a lot of questions will be asked if it tries to block any move to list Azhar,” one of the people familiar with the matter said.

Since 2016, China has acted at the behest of its ally Pakistan and repeatedly blocked efforts by India, France, the UK and the US to sanction Azhar under Resolution 1267 for links to al-Qaeda.

Officials involved in the exercise said on condition of anonymity that JeM was declared a Pakistan-based terror group in October 2001 by the 1267 Committee, and not naming Pakistan in the document would not in any way dilute the resolution.

They added that steps will now be taken to link Azhar to the Pulwama attack and other terror strikes such as the 2016 Pathankot airbase attack so that the Security Council can designate him a global terrorist. Azhar, afflicted with a kidney ailment, and his terrorist brother Rauf Asghar currently live at Bahawalpur in Pakistan’s Punjab province. He hasn’t been seen in public since 2017.

Pakistan is not a member of the Security Council, and the country’s envoy lobbied against the resolution by calling the region disputed and seeking to make a distinction between terrorists and freedom fighters. Pakistan says it only provides political, moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiri separatists, but banned anti-India groups such as JeM, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen have bases on Pakistani soil.

An official close to the deliberations pointed out, “When was the last time the UN Security Council condemned a terrorist strike in Kashmir?”

The official added: “Never.”

The UN condemnation is a blow to Pakistan, coming on top of being named by the US in several statements since the Pulwama attack that pointed to its complicity because of its support for terror groups operating from its soil across the borders with India and Afghanistan.

First Published: Feb 23, 2019 07:11 IST

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