NEW DELHI: French ambassador to India Alexandre Ziegler on Friday said the listing of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as an international terrorist by the UN is “good news" for the world community.
Ziegler, whose country took the lead to set in motion the process to get Azhar listed as a terrorist by the UN’s 1267 sanctions committee after the 14 February Pulwama attack, acknowledged that the process took a long time.
France as a partner of India “extended unconditional support" to “what was for us a very obvious case", Ziegler said.
The JeM was listed as a terrorist group by the UN in 2002 following an attack on the Indian parliament and the Kashmir state legislative assembly in 2001. But Azhar was not named a terrorist, leaving him free to travel and raise funds. Azhar and his group were blamed for a series of attacks, including the 2016 attacks on Indian military installations in Kashmir.
“It was a very important decision that was taken, a very important political decision," Ziegler said referring to the 1267 sanctions committee declaring Azhar a terrorist on 1 May.
The decision followed weeks of intense negotiations after China on 13 March placed a hold on the French proposal moved on 27 February to declare Azhar a terrorist. China’s fourth “technical hold" on the proposal— blocking efforts by India and others to get Azhar declared a terrorist by the UN—was seen as an attempt to shield Pakistan, Beijing’s “all weather friend". After several rounds of consultations, China finally relented on 1 May to agree to lift its hold.
“It was for the first time that the world has reached a consensus on this decision. All the members of the (UN) Security Council have reached a consensus on listing Azhar," Ziegler added. “It (the decision) is concrete because it directly hinders the JeM chief’s activities. All states are bound to freeze his assets and block his access to the financial system; ban him from entering or transiting through their territory; not provide him any arms or military assistance whatsoever, whether directly or indirectly."
One person familiar with the developments added that the final decision to indict Azhar was possible after “some countries" in the 1267 sanctions committee gave some additional information to ensure no doubts remained on his role as an international terrorist.
“The fight against terrorism is one of the pillars of our strategic partnership with India. Our two leaders had recalled this during the state visit of President Macron (in March last year) and I can tell you that we are moving very closely and very fast with India," the French envoy said.
Describing France as “an all-weather, unconditional and predictable partner for India," Zieglar said bilateral naval exercises code-named Varuna had started this week.
The joint exercise will first be carried out off the coast of Goa, while the second will be held off the coast of Djibouti, where France has a military base, along with China and the US.
France is participating with six vessels, which includes an aircraft carrier, two destroyers, a frigate, a tanker named and a nuclear submarine. About 3,000 French sailors will take part in this exercise, along with 20 naval variants of France’s frontline fighter aircraft, the Rafale.
Indian aircraft carrier Vikramaditya will be among the Indian vessels taking part in the exercise.