Azhar designated global terrorist by UN in diplomatic coup for India

  • The designation of Azhar as a terrorist by the UNSC will lead to embargos on his travel and his ability to find finance for his group
  • India’s first attempt to get Azhar listed came in 2009, seven years after his JeM group was designated a terrorist outfit by the UN

NEW DELHI : In a major diplomatic victory for India, the United Nations (UN) on Wednesday designated the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed’s (JeM) chief, Masood Azhar, as a global terrorist after China lifted its block on the move.

The move by the UN Security Council’s 1267 Sanctions Committee, which will lead to sanctions on Azhar’s travel and his ability to secure finance for his group, was confirmed by India’s permanent representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin.

“Big, small, all join together. Masood Azhar designated as a terrorist in @UN Sanctions list Grateful to all for their support. #Zerotolerance4Terrorism," Akbaruddin said in a Twitter post.

The development comes as a major win for the National Democratic Alliance government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has taken a strong position against terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

“Der aye, durust aye (better late than never)," Modi said at an election rally in Jaipur. “It is a big success for India’s efforts since long to root out terrorism," PTI reported, citing Modi.

Sharat Sabharwal, India’s former envoy to Pakistan, described the blacklisting of Azhar as a “major symbolic victory" for India.

Sabharwal, however, sounded a word of caution, noting that there was no signal from Islamabad to suggest that Pakistan had changed its attitude towards India and its use of anti-India terrorism.

That the listing was imminent became clear with Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper in a report citing an unnamed Pakistani official saying that Azhar would be designated as a global terrorist on Wednesday. The go-ahead came after consultations between Pakistan and China, the report said, adding that Pakistan agreed to the move after its objections were addressed. According to the text of the proposal, the wording agreed on Wednesday does not mention the Pulwama attack or any attacks that JeM was involved in after 2009.

China said on Wednesday it ended its hold after “a careful study of revised materials (information) and taking into consideration the opinions of relevant parties concerned".

India’s external affairs ministry spokesman, Raveesh Kumar, said the UN’s decision to proscribe Azhar was “a step in the right direction to demonstrate the international community’s resolve to fight against terrorism and its enablers. We welcome the decision".

“India will continue with its efforts through international forums to ensure that terrorist organizations and their leaders who cause harm to our citizens are brought to justice," Kumar added.

France too welcomed Azhar’s designation. “This decision taken at the United Nations Security Council signals the successful realization of our efforts. France remains mobilized at all levels and all fora to take effective measures against terrorism," it said in a statement.

Coincidentally, Azhar’s listing as a terrorist comes two decades after he and two others were released from Jammu’s Kot Balwal jail in exchange for about 160 passengers on board the Indian Airlines IC-814 aircraft that was hijacked on its way from Kathmandu to New Delhi in December 1999.

India’s first attempt to get Azhar listed as a terrorist at the UN came in 2009, seven years after his JeM group was designated as a terrorist outfit by the UN. The UN action had come after it joined hands with the Lashkar-e-Taiba to launch an attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001.

Since 2016, New Delhi has made concerted efforts to get Azhar named a terrorist following a series of attacks on Indian military installations in Kashmir, all of which were blamed on his group. But all of India’s efforts came to nought with China—an all-weather friend of Pakistan—blocking the efforts.

The latest attempt to ensure Azhar was banned by the UN came in the form of a proposal moved by France in February following the Pulwama attack in which a suicide bomber rammed a car full of explosives into a bus carrying security personnel.The JeM claimed responsibility for the attack.

The French proposal was supported by the US and the UK, but China on 13 March put a technical hold on it, stalling the move. People familiar with the developments had then said that India was “cautiously optimistic" that it would be able to persuade Beijing to give up its technical hold and that New Delhi would show patience.

India kept up its engagement with Beijing on the matter with foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale discussing the matter with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi during a visit to China last month.

According to people familiar with the developments, the fact that the move was initiated by the US and supported by France and the UK put pressure on the Chinese. “If China had vetoed the resolution, it would have to give a public explanation for its vote—on why it was supporting a terrorist," said one of the people cited above. “Given the global sentiment on terrorism, there was a feeling that China was getting isolated," the person said.

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