New Delhi: France is leading Western efforts to collar Pakistan-based terrorist Maulana Masood Azhar whose group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) has claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack that killed at least 40 Indian security personnel. France will move a proposal at the UN in a “couple of days" to designate Azhar a global terrorist, a foreign diplomat familiar with the development said on Tuesday.
Besides this, at the forthcoming meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in Paris, France will lobby to retain Pakistan on the “grey list," the diplomat said. The FATF is an inter-governmental body that sets standards and promotes effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
“At the UN, France will lead a proposal to put Masood Azhar on the terrorist list... It will happen in a couple of days," the diplomat said. The French decision figured in discussions between Philippe Etienne, diplomatic advisor to the French President Emmanuel Macron and India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval by telephone on Tuesday.
France’s backing of India puts China, which has repeatedly blocked Azhar’s proscription at the UN, on notice. Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale had met China’s ambassador to India Luo Zhaohui on Friday to seek Beijing’s cooperation on the matter. News of the French move comes as Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who during a visit to Pakistan on Monday backed Islamabad’s record on fighting terrorism, arrived in New Delhi on a two-day visit on Tuesday. This, along with a reference to Pakistani moves to promote regional peace in the Pakistan-Saudi joint statement, has discomfited India.
But when he landed in New Delhi, the crown prince was received at the airport by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, signalling India would not stick to protocol in its interaction with an important Gulf partner that New Delhi would like to co-opt in its fight against terrorism.
New Delhi had earlier conveyed to the Saudi side that MBS’s India visit immediately on the heels of the Pakistan leg would not be welcome. This prompted the crown prince to go back home and come to India after a day.