Masood Azhar
File image of JeM chief Masood Azhar | PTI
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New Delhi: China will lift the technical hold on the ban on Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar at the United Nation Security Council’s 1267 al-Qaeda and ISIL Sanctions Committee, diplomatic sources have told ThePrint.

The development comes amid Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale’s visit to Beijing for diplomatic consultations.

Gokhale, who is on a two-day visit there, met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi Monday, followed by the Chinese vice-foreign minister Kong Xuanyou, the deputy director of the foreign affairs, commission of the Communist Party of China, Liu Jianchao, and executive vice-foreign minister Le Yucheng.

Gokhale’s visit comes at a time when India has upped the ante on counter-terrorism against Pakistan following the 14 February Pulwama attacks, which was allegedly carried out by the JeM. China is the only country on the UNSC list of permanent and non-permanent members to oppose a move to blacklist Azhar.

“We have shared with China all evidence of terrorist activities of Jaish-e-Mohammad and its leader Masood Azhar,” said Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs. “It is now for the 1267 Sanctions Committee and other authorised bodies of the UN to take a decision on the listing of Masood Azhar.”

Kumar added that India 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”.

The issue of banning Azhar remains a topmost priority for India, which, if it goes through, will be seen as a “major achievement” by the Modi government that is facing one of the most fiercely fought elections at the moment, official sources told ThePrint.

Diplomatic sources said the US, France and the UK — all members of the Permanent-Five in the Security Council — have been talking to the Chinese leadership to persuade it to lift its objections to lifting the censure, or the so-called “technical hold” on banning Azhar at the 1267 Sanctions Committee.

The sources said they were confident that China could agree, both to assure the Modi government that it wanted to abide by the “Wuhan spirit” and also to not be seen to be the only major nation worldwide which refuses to block a terrorist.


Also read: Masood Azhar issue moving towards settlement, says China


China’s technical hold

China had on 13 March placed a ‘technical hold’ at the UNSC, which was seeking to blacklist Azhar by way of a travel ban, assets freeze and arms embargo. Of the 15 permanent and non-permanent members of the UNSC, it was only Beijing that had opposed the move.

It was the fourth time that China thwarted such a move. It had done so before in 2009, 2016 and 2017.

The decision had invited sharp objections from the US, which along with UK and France, moved an unprecedented new draft resolution on 29 March.

While at the UNSC 1267 al-Qaida Sanctions Committee there is a time-frame to act on a resolution — and many can be introduced and defeated over the years — at the council it’s open-ended. This is because the committee functions on the principle of consensus while at the council it is based on the vote.

The only difference between the previous attempt to list Azhar as a global terrorist and now is that this is the first such attempt made by the US, and China has never publicly voted against Azhar or explained the rationale for a vote.

The US, the UK and France had given China a deadline of 23 April to lift the ban in the 1267 Committee, which Beijing has refused to acknowledge.

Chinese Ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui, had said last month that China understands India’s concern and is “optimistic that the matter will be resolved”.

According to Jayadeva Ranade, president, Center for China Analysis and Strategy, “China has come under pressure after the US moved the draft resolution. Thus they are now feeling isolated and have discussed the matter with Pakistan”.

Ranade, a former intelligence official, also said it will now be all the more difficult for China to “look the other way”, especially after the serial blasts that took place in Sri Lanka Sunday.


Also read: US has moved new resolution, but Masood Azhar unlikely to be blacklisted anytime soon


 

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