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UNSC designates Masood Azhar as global terrorist

Masood Azhar

Terrorist leader Masood Azhar finally came under United Nations' sanctions on Wednesday, as China withdrew its objection and stood aside to let the Security Council impose global curbs on the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief, who orchestrated several attacks in India.

A committee of the Security Council designated him as an individual linked to the al-Qaeda, Taliban and the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL), placing him under full-spectrum UN sanctions — assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo. The impasse at the UNSC over the proposal to sanction him ended on Wednesday, as India — backed by the United States, the United Kingdom and France — could make China change its 10-year-old policy of shielding terrorists based in Pakistan.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has already swung into action to highlight it as a major diplomatic success of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government and to reap its political dividends ahead of the last three phases of polling for the Lok Sabha elections.

"Today is a day that would make every Indian proud!" the prime minister posted on Twitter. "I thank the global community and all those who believe in humanitarian values for their support. India's fight against terror will continue. We will work towards peace and brotherhood in our planet," he said, without directly referring to the UNSC's decision to sanction the JeM chief.

The Security Council's sanction on the 51-year-old radical cleric — purportedly ailing — will not put any legal obligation on Imran Khan's government in Islamabad to arrest or prosecute him and he can still live free in Pakistan with some curbs on his assets and financial resources as well as on his travels outside the country.

READ | Who is Masood Azhar?

What, however, made the diplomats of the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi as well as at the UN headquarters in New York rejoice is the success in making China budge from its policy of blocking moves within the international organisation against terrorists based in Pakistan.

New Delhi welcomed UNSC's move, stating that it was “a step in the right direction to demonstrate the resolve of the international community to fight against terrorism and its enablers”.

Sources in New Delhi said that it was not only a "huge diplomatic setback" for Pakistan but also a major development in bilateral relations between India and China, particularly as both the nations had been trying to mend ties which had hit a new low over the 72-day military stand-off at Doklam Plateau in western Bhutan in 2017.

Beijing earlier blocked New Delhi's move to impose UN sanctions on Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Zaki Ur Rehman Lakhvi and Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin — both based in Pakistan. They too played a key role in masterminding several terror attacks in India. China, however, kept on shielding them from UNSC sanctions, ostensibly at the behest of its “all-weather ally” Pakistan.

The communist country blocked UNSC initiatives to sanction the JeM chief four times since 2009. The last time it did so was on March 13, when it put on “technical hold” a proposal moved and supported by all other permanent members of the Security Council — the US, the UK, France and Russia — to bring him under UN sanctions.

Azhar, who hails from and still lives in Bahawalpur in Pakistan, was the general secretary of terrorist organisation Harkat-ul-Ansar when he was arrested in Kashmir by the security forces of India. The BJP government led by the then prime minister A B Vajpayee set him free in Kandahar in Afghanistan in 1999 to secure the release of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC 814.

Azhar floated the JeM a few months later and since then orchestrated several major terror attacks in India, the latest being the February 14 suicide bombing at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir in which over 40 Central Reserve Police Force soldiers were killed.

"India will continue with its efforts through international forums to ensure that terrorist organisations and their leaders who cause harm to our citizens are brought to justice," Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the MEA, said.

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