Once Again, China Blocks Terror Listing for Masood Azhar at UN

In the aftermath of the Pulwama and Balakot, India was hoping that the Chinese would no longer object to taking this step against the Jaish-e-Mohammed chief.

New Delhi: An hour before deadline, China on Wednesday once again placed a ‘technical hold’ on the proposal moved by three permanent members of UN Security Council to list Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar under the United Nations sanctions regime.

Listings take place on the basis of consensus, which means any member can hold up a decision by raising an objection. Individuals placed on the list are subject to an asset freeze, arms embargo and travel ban. The Lashkar-e-Tayyaba chief, Hafiz Saeed, and his deputy, Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi were both placed on the lost after the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

After the proposal is submitted to the 1267 sanctions committee, there is a ‘no-objection period’ during which any member can register their objections. If no objections are received by the end of this period, the proposal for listing is automatically adopted. The period ended at 3 pm New York time on March 13 (Wednesday). Just an hour before the deadline, China called for a hold on the listing, which delays any decision by another six months.

China has not furnished any grounds for delaying the proposal, as it is only a ‘technical hold’.

Officially, there is no word on which country has objected to the listing of Masood Azhar, as the proceedings of the UNSC sanctions committee take place behind closed door and are only limited to the member states.

Though this has not prevented India in the past from publicly identifying China as the obstacle to the listing of Azhar, the Indian reaction to the latest Chinese hold did not take any names.

In a statement issued in Delhi immediately after it knew the proposal on the Jaish chief had been blocked, the Ministry of External Affairs said that the 1267 sanctions committee – its formal name is the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee  – was “not able to come to a decision on the proposal for listing Mohammed Masood Azhar Alvi under the UN Sanctions regime, on account of a member placing the proposal on hold”.

“We are disappointed by this outcome.  This has prevented action by the international community to designate the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a proscribed and active terrorist organisation which has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir on February 14, 2019,” said the MEA press note.

India expressed gratitude for the “efforts of the Member States who moved the designation proposal and the unprecedented number of all other Security Council members as well as non-members who joined as co-sponsors”.

“We will continue to pursue all available avenues to ensure that terrorist leaders who are involved in heinous attacks on our citizens are brought to justice,” it added.

This is the fourth time that China has put a hold on a proposal to list Masood Azhar with the 1267 Sanctions Committee as a designated global terrorist since 2010.

In 2016, India’s statement on the Chinese decision was scathing. “We had expected China would have been more understanding of the danger posed to all by terrorism and would join India and others in fighting the common challenge of terrorism,” the MEA had said.

Also Read: In a First, India Shares Audio Clips at UN to Show Masood Azhar Promoting Jihad in Kashmir

In 2017 too, India indirectly identified China as the UNSC member responsible for blocking the consensus on listing Azhar. The MEA posted a statement in response to a query on Beijing’s role: “We are deeply disappointed that once again, a single country has blocked international consensus on the designation of an acknowledged terrorist and leader of UN-designated terrorist organisation, Masood Azhar.”

In similar vein, India’s permanent representative to UN, Syed Akbaruddin tweeted cryptically on March 13, 2019 that only one “big state” has held up the listing of Masood Azhar:

The proposal had been moved by US, UK and France after JeM claimed responsibility for the Pulwama terror attack that left over 40 Indian security personnel dead in Kashmir.

As The Wire reported, India had shared recent audio records and transcripts with UNSC member states of Masood Azhar in the last one month, which showed that he was very much active in preaching jihad, and using the Pulwama attack and Indian airstrikes to call for further violence in Kashmir.

The Indian dossier was supplementing the diplomatic efforts undertaken by the permanent members, and of other co-sponsors like Germany. However, signs from Beijing over the last two weeks had not shown any sign that it would change its mind.

Diplomats and analysts have long argued that the 1267 listing is largely symbolic and that going by Pakistan’s refusal to crack down on Hafiz Saeed, the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish – all of whom have been listed for a decade – Azhar’s addition is unlikely to have any effect on the ground. In an interview to The Wire last week, Shivshankar Menon, former national security adviser, questioned the utility of India expending diplomatic capital in pursuit of this goal.

Earlier on Wednesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang had said that only a solution acceptable to all sides would be helpful, which was a reiteration of previous remarks.

“China will continue to uphold a responsible attitude and deal with this issue with relevant parties via thorough consultation. Discussions on this issue must be conducted following the rules and procedures of the UN Security Council and its subsidiary bodies. China believes that only a plan adopted by all can offer a long-term solution,” said the Chinese spokesperson.

Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj was in Beijing when Pakistan retaliated to the February 26 airstrikes. She had said at the trilateral meeting with Russian and Chinese foreign ministers that Pakistan’s inaction on JeM had triggered the airstrikes.

According to diplomatic sources, China had offered to send an envoy to both India and Pakistan to help in easing tensions after the airstrikes, but New Delhi responded in the negative.