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Home >Opinion >Columns >Opinion | Sanction on Azhar a small victory in the war on terror

India has with persistent diplomatic effort finally succeeded in getting Masood Azhar designated as an international terrorist by the UNSC 1267 Committee. This success has many facets. India has been able to mobilise the support of key western countries for its case against Azhar much more than in the past. This reflects the greatly improved ties with them in recent years.

India’s value as a strategic partner of the West has greatly grown, not to mention its attraction as an economic partner. Pakistan’s image, on the other hand, has deteriorated. It is increasingly seen as a dysfunctional state, mired in terrorism within and promoting terrorism abroad. With major western countries suffering terrible acts of terrorism by Islamic terrorists, their discourse on combating international terrorism has changed, making them more receptive to India’s case on the JeM chief.

Heightened counter-terrorism cooperation between India and countries like the US and France has helped in bolstering our case against Pakistan. The US has openly castigated Pakistan on its terrorist affiliations in recent years. It has, unsurprisingly, taken the lead to get Azhar designated as an international terrorist.

Even the Gulf countries have begun extending us support on the issue of terrorism, including in the case of the Pulwama attack, knowing its links with Pakistan. This support contributes to international pressure on Pakistan directly and indirectly.

China has been able to prevent Azhar’s designation as decisions in the 1267 Committee are taken by consensus. China’s double standards have been glaring: it combats Islamic terrorism in Sinkiang but protects an Islamic terrorist in Pakistan. China has given more importance to its relations with Pakistan than its own international credibility on the issue of combating terrorism collectively and the impact of its highly partisan position on relations with India. Finally, faced with the prospect of a resolution moved by US, France and UK in the Security Council, China has chosen to avoid being isolated and cut its losses by lifting its objection to Azhar’s designation in the 1267 Committee itself.

We have through our diplomacy forced China to retreat from its entrenched position which did not change even after Wuhan. China’s latest move is therefore not a bilateral gesture towards India. Pakistan giving its “consent" to China’s lifting its hold in the 1267 committee is a charade. China’s position was becoming untenable and was going to be exposed in the Security Council. China has also to contend with other pressures from Washington and chose attenuate pressure on this one.

China’s backing out sends a significant message to Pakistan, in that Pakistan can longer count on China as its “iron brother" to stand by it in a multilateral forum no matter what the cost. Pakistan will have to factor this in its future policies on terrorism.

Pakistan has had to ward off the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) pressures on it to take credible action against jihadi groups on its soil. Pakistan has been given a long list of action points by the FATF, and if Pakistan fails to act, it will get more squeezed internationally on the financial front, which it cannot afford in its present dire financial situation.

Azhar being designated as an international terrorist means that we have won a battle, but not the war. Hafiz Saeed has been an internationally designated terrorist since 2008 but Pakistani authorities allow him to carry out his jihadi activities against India and he remains unpunished for master-minding the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. The designation of JeM chief is a step in the right direction by the international community but much depends on Pakistan’s future conduct. Pakistan can take cosmetic action against Azhar and after the heat on it dissipates, it can continue its past duplicitous policies. The crucial question, therefore, is sustained pressure on Pakistan’s government.

Kanwal Sibal is a former foreign secretary

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