India Has 'High Expectations' China Will Remove Hold on Masood Azhar Listing at UN

Indian sources said China's decision to remove the hold could be a result of threats by the US and other western countries to bring a resolution in the United Nations Security Council. But it is likely the result of a three-way deal.

New Delhi: There is high possibility that China could indicate its next step – even remove its hold – on the listing of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar at the UNSC’s 1267 sanctions sub-committee on Wednesday.

Sources have indicated to The Wire that there is a “silence period” in place till 9 am New York time on May 1. This means that the committee will go ahead with the listing as a default procedure, unless there was an objection before the deadline. “If no country objects till that time, the listing will take place,” they said.

This morning, a Hindustan Times report quoted sources saying that China was expected to lift its technical hold on blacklisting Azhar on May 1. In an indication of the political narrative that is likely to be pushed, an unnamed “senior official” was quoted by the newspaper as saying, “May Day is going to be the death knell for Masood Azhar, as he will be designated as a global terrorist by the UN’s Islamic State and al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee, with Beijing caving in to the global demand led by the US, France and the UK that the main orchestrator of the Pulwama attack be brought to book.”

In reality, the UN designation will do nothing to bring Azhar “to book”. Its actual significance in the fight against terrorism on the ground is largely symbolic, but for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has made his response to the Pulwama attack a major re-election plank, the news is likely to be projected as a major accomplishment of a “strong” government.

At the same time, there have been ample indications that the Modi government may have secured China’s concurrence in a three-way deal that involved India bowing to US pressure on Iran and agreeing to stop all oil imports from a country that is one of its largest suppliers of crude and also a key strategic partner in West Asia.

If it is taken on May 1, the decision will have come about a month and a half after China put on hold the listing proposal, which had been initiated by the US, France and the UK. The new proposal was mooted after the JeM took responsibility for the terror attack that left over 40 Indian security personnel dead in Pulwama, Kashmir on February 14.

While New Delhi is waiting for any developments, there is still not complete confidence that China would remove its hold – even though there is high expectation. That is one of the reasons that there have been no official comments from Indian officials in the run-up period.

According to Indian sources, China’s decision to remove the hold could be a result of threats by the US and other western countries to bring a resolution in the United Nations Security Council. The argument goes that China does not want to be seen as the sole hold-out, with the other 14 members voting for the resolution to blacklist Azhar.

Also Read: During Visit to China, Indian Foreign Secretary Shares Evidence on Masood Azhar

However, a public ‘humiliation’ may not be the main motivation for China, with its muscular go-alone foreign policy and strong interests in Pakistan. Instead, if China does remove its hold, the motive, say diplomats, is likely to be transactional, with either a deal with the US or India, or both.

The language of the listing for Azhar has apparently been under negotiation to make it more palatable for China.

Meanwhile, the US has already indicated that the pressure being put on China in the UN with Masood Azhar was linked to New Delhi’s decision to stop all oil imports from Iran.

Earlier on Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang did not go beyond previous remarks in stating that consultations were ongoing and that the issue will be “properly resolved”.

On reports that China would lift its technical hold on May 1, he said, “On the listing issue, China is still working with the relevant parties and we are in contact with all relevant parties within the 1267 Committee and I believe with the joint efforts of all parties, this will be properly resolved.”

He said there had been “some progress” due to the relevant consultations.

A month ago, on April 1, Geng also noted that “China has been working on all parties and achieved positive results”. He had been critical of the US’s draft resolution, saying it “makes no sense at all”.

Earlier this month, Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale visited Beijing, during which New Delhi stated that he shared “technical evidence” of JeM’s activities.