As China blocks Masood Azhar terror designation, US says won’t give up

Last week, China blocked a proposal by the US to name Azhar a UN-designated terrorist.
File photo of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar.(Reuters)
File photo of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar.(Reuters)
Updated on Nov 08, 2017 10:37 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Washington | ByYashwant Raj, Washington

If India will not give up trying to push the UN to designate Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar a terrorist, neither will the United States, which has said it will continue to work for the designation and urge others to pursue it as well.

It was a proposal by the US, backed by France and Britain, to name Azhar a UN-designated terrorist that China blocked last week in a cynical show of solidarity with Pakistan, its “iron brother” ally. Beijing cited lack of consensus caused by its own refusal to support the move.

“We would support efforts to list Azhar, Jaish-e-Mohammed’s founder and leader, on the 1267 Sanctions List and would encourage others to support his listing as well,” a US state department spokesperson told Hindustan Times on background.

The spokesperson refused to comment on China blocking the US proposal, saying, “Committee discussions over whether to add an individual or entity to the…sanctions list are confidential to the committee.  As a result, we do not comment on internal committee deliberations.”

The spokesperson added, “I would therefore refer you to the Chinese government to explain their position.”

Here is what the Chinese said in Beijing about their decision: “As for listing the application by the relevant country, there are disagreements. China raised the technical hold so as to allow for more time for all parties to deliberate on this matter. To our regret the committee so far has yet to reach a consensus.”

The committee referred to by the US and China was created by the UN Security Council Resolution 1267 ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant — or Islamic State, as it is known in India — and Da’esh, as it is also known as) and al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee.

It comprises 15 member nations who must all vote unanimously to approve any proposal to expand or shrink the sanctioned list that has 256 individuals and 80 entities. Even one no-vote from any member is sufficient to deny a decision. Worse, deliberations of the committee remain undisclosed.

China has been the sole dissenter to the two proposals moved thus far for Azhar’s designation. First by India, in February 2016, which was backed by the US, France, Britain and the rest of the committee, excluding China. The second proposal was from the US in the dying days of the Obama administration in January this year.

It had seemed like a done deal for the US. As the state department spokesperson said, “Masood Azhar is listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under US Executive Order 13224 in 2010, and Jaish-e Mohammed was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) by the US in 2001.

“Masood Azhar founded the terrorist organisation Jaish-e Mohammed, which has proven its willingness and ability to execute attacks against innocent civilians, and is listed under the UNSC 1267 ISIL and al-Qaeda sanctions regime.”

Designating Azhar, a known terrorist with a history of ordering the death of scores of innocent people, was a no-brainer, but China has turned it into a test of its own conviction and resolve to combat newly emergent home-grown terrorism and those fostered by its ally Pakistan. 

JeM has already been proscribed by the UN committee, so why protect its founder? UN designation will enjoin member countries to, one, not deny him funds, other resources and arms, and not allow him to enter or leave their territory.

This shouldn’t have been  a problem for Pakistan, eager as it is  to scrub its image. Politically, it has turned into a battle between India and the US and other nations struggling with terrorism such as Britain and France on one side, and China and Pakistan, an active  abettor and supporter of terrorism, on the other.

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