Azhar blacklisting: a win for India

Maulana Masood Azhar, head of Pakistan's militant Jaish-e-Mohammad. Reuters

Masood Azhar, chief of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), has been labelled a global terrorist finally. The mastermind behind a string of major terrorist attacks in India, including the attack on the Parliament in 2001, the Indian Air Force station at Pathankot in 2016 and a Central Reserve Police Force convoy at Pulwama in February this year, Azhar has been blacklisted by the United Nations 1267 Sanctions Committee for his association with al-Qaeda and his role in financing, planning and facilitating terrorist attacks by JeM. All UN member-states will now have to freeze his assets and halt the sale or supply of weapons to him. He is also forbidden from travelling to or transiting through member-countries. Azhar’s blacklisting has not come easily. India had been struggling to get him labelled a global terrorist for over a decade, but China had repeatedly blocked its efforts. It’s therefore a triumph for Indian diplomacy and the Narendra Modi government. Support from the US, UK and France for Indian efforts played an important role in getting the UN to tag him a global terrorist.

However, Azhar’s sanctioning by the UN will not by itself put him out of business. Pakistan will have to carry out its responsibilities as a UN member-state for that to happen. Past experience indicates that this is not likely to happen. JeM was designated a terrorist entity way back in 2001. Still, it has been functioning freely and in the public eye, engaging in all the activities a blacklisted entity is supposed to be unable to indulge in. Similarly, Hafeez Saeed has been an UN-sanctioned terrorist for a decade now, even carrying a US bounty on his head, but that hasn’t restricted his terrorism-related activities, either.

China’s repeated blocking of India’s efforts to get the UN to sanction Azhar had ruffled feathers in Delhi. It was seen here as an unfriendly move, especially at a time when the Sino-Indian relationship was improving. It was seen as contrary to the Wuhan spirit. China claims to be opposed to all forms of terrorism. Its stonewalling on Azhar’s blacklisting was contrary to its stated opposition to terrorism. Beijing’s position on Azhar was no doubt prompted by its friendship with Pakistan. The decision to support his blacklisting now seems to have come under strong international pressure, especially in the wake of JeM’s suicide attack on the CRPF convoy at Pulwama. A shift in China’s position was long overdue. It has finally happened. Now, India must focus its diplomatic energies to get Beijing to nudge Pakistan to crackdown on Azhar and shut down all of its terror factories. 

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