The fate of the proposal to designate Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed's chief Masood Azhar as a "global terrorist" by the UN Security Council will be known on Wednesday and all eyes are on China after it blocked the move thrice since 2009. The proposal to designate Azhar under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council was moved by France, the UK and the US on February 27, days after the Pulwama terror attack carried out by a suicide bomber belonging to the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) that led to a flare-up in tensions between India and Pakistan.
The Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee members have 10 working days to raise any objections to the proposal moved by France, the UK and the US. The no-objection period deadline ends 3 pm local time (New York) Wednesday (12:30 am IST Thursday). The Committee makes its decisions by consensus among its members.
China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, and an "all-weather ally" of Pakistan has blocked India's proposal from being adopted by the Sanctions Committee in 2009 and 2016. In 2017, Beijing also blocked a move by the US, the UK and France to designate Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN. According to the listing rules of the Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee, if no objection is received by the end of the no-objection period, the decision will be deemed adopted, meaning that Azhar will become a UN-designated global terrorist.
A UNSC designation will subject Azhar to an assets freeze, travel ban and an arms embargo. An assets freeze under the Sanctions Committee requires that all states freeze without delay the funds and other financial assets or economic resources of designated individuals and entities. The travel ban entails preventing the entry into or transit by all states through their territories by designated individuals.
Under the arms embargo, all states are required to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale and transfer from their territories or by their nationals outside their territories, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and related material of all types, spare parts, and technical advice, assistance, or training related to military activities, to designated individuals and entities. Hectic diplomatic and political parleys have preceded the closely-watched March 13 deadline as New Delhi reached out to member countries of the 15-member UNSC.
In the wake of the terror attack in Pulwama, India launched a major diplomatic offensive against Islamabad, holding briefing for envoys of 25 countries, including from the five permanent UNSC members -- the US, China, Russia, the UK and France -- to highlight Pakistan's role in using terrorism as an instrument of state policy. India also handed over to Pakistan a dossier on "specific details" of involvement of the JeM in the Pulwama terror attack.
Days before the March 13 deadline on Azhar's possible listing, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale met Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi said in a statement that Pompeo expressed his "understanding" of India's concerns on cross-border terrorism. "They agreed that Pakistan needs to take concerted action to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and to deny safe haven to all terrorist groups in its territory. They also agreed that those who support or abet terrorism in any form should be held accountable," the MEA said.
On Wednesday, the US said Azhar meets the criteria to brand him as a "global terrorist" by the UN and China's opposition to the move to "update" the designation list went against the interests of Washington and Beijing in achieving regional stability and peace. "The United States and China share a mutual interest in achieving regional stability and peace, and that a failure to designate Azhar would run counter to this goal," State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said in response to a question on previous successful attempts by China to block the UN designation of Azhar.
Meanwhile, an inkling of China's stand on the issue came during Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang's press conferences on Monday and Wednesday in Beijing when he was asked about the proposal to list Azhar as a global terrorist by the UNSC.
"The UN Security Council and its subsidiary bodies are run on strict rules…. We already stressed China's position on the listing of terrorist organisations and individuals in the UN Security Council 1267 Committee on many occasions," Lu said on Monday. "China will continue to adopt a responsible attitude and participate in the deliberations in the UNSC 1267 Committee," Lu said on Wednesday.
On the issue of listing Azhar, he said, "I want to say that China always adopts a responsible attitude, engage in consultations with various parties and properly deal with this issue." "The discussions, I want to say must follow the rules and procedures of the relevant bodies and only the solution that is acceptable to all sides is conducive for resolving the issue," he said, indicating that Beijing may again block the move to list Azhar as a global terrorist.
(With inputs from agencies.)