OPINION | Why did China relent on Masood Azhar?

OPINION | Why did China relent on Masood Azhar?

BJP supporters prepare to burn photos of Pakistan based terrorist Masood Azhar, in Ahmedabad on May 2, 2019, following the United Nations Sanctions Committee to include Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar in its list of global terrorists. (AFP File Photo)

Finally, Jaish-e-Mohamed chief Masood Azhar has been designated an international terrorist by the United Nations Security Council, after China withdrew its ‘hold’ on the listing. What made China take this action after opposing his being designated for almost a decade?

First, it must be understood that reversing its decision on Azhar did not in any way compromise or hurt China’s own fundamental national interest. China was basically protecting and promoting Pakistan’s interest and it was able to reverse its decision on the subject, the moment the costs of opposing the listing of Masood Azhar outweighed the benefits. So the question we need to answer is, what were the circumstances in which the costs were too high for China to continue to stick to its decision of opposing the designation of Azhar as a terrorist.

The resolution in the 1267 Committee of the United Nations Security Council to list Azhar was moved by France, the United States and the United Kingdom. It was not moved by India since we are not currently a member of the Security Council. The move was made by three powerful countries who are India’s friends and partners. China’s opposition to the listing, made these three countries furious thereby raising the cost for China. The US even threatened to move another Resolution in the Security Council which would call for open voting on the subject at which China would have been forced to spell out its reasons for not wanting to designate Masood Azhar a terrorist. This would have been very embarrassing for China whose official position is that it opposes terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

Even the other member states of the UN Security Council were in favour of the listing. China was the only country of the 15-member Council to ‘hold’ the designation process. Fourteen of the fifteen countries were in its favour. Other members of the UN Security Council were convinced by the case made by India and the three proposing countries linking Azhar to Daesh and Al-Qaeda. This included Indonesia which strongly supported the designation of Azhar. So, China was also going up against them and would have had to pay some kind of price for such a stand. Hence, China’s position of being the lone holdout on listing Azhar was becoming increasingly difficult to explain internationally – to so many countries.

Finally, China’s own relationship with Pakistan is now one where China is our western neighbour’s only ally in the world. Even Afghanistan and Iran are complaining about terror attacks on their soil by Pakistan based terrorist groups. India is not alone in making this complaint. So Pakistan is increasingly dependent on its lone ally – China. This makes it easier for China to explain away its fundamental change in position to Pakistan. However, we must understand that this decision by China would have come as a shock and great disappointment to Pakistan.

India has been trying to get Masood Azhar designated as an international terrorist for almost 10 years. The fact that we have now achieved this objective of ours constitutes a diplomatic victory for India. However, we should not expect this one success to end all terrorism aimed at us from across our borders. We have won one battle. The war on terrorism continues. All of us Indians have to make our own little contributions to India’s efforts to win that war against cross border terrorism.


Better ties with China possible: India

Azhar blacklisting: a win for India

India says huge setback for Pakistan


(Gautam Bambawale is India’s former Ambassador to Bhutan, Pakistan and China. He is currently Distinguished Professor at Symbiosis International University, Pune)

Views expressed above are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.

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