France is working on a proposal to ban the chief of the UN-proscribed Jaish-e Muhammad (JeM) Masood Azhar and could move it in the Sanctions Committee after it assumes the Presidency of the powerful UN Security Council next month, sources said.
The rotating monthly Presidency of the 15-nation UN Security Council (UNSC) will go from Equatorial Guinea to France on March 1.
France, a permanent member of the Council with veto powers, is working on the proposal (to ban Azhar) and it should be ready soon, informed sources told PTI, adding that the proposal against the JeM chief could perhaps be moved in the Sanctions Committee under the French presidency.
"France is focussed on bringing individual listing requests of JeM terrorists to the 1267 Sanctions Committee soon," they said.
The Pakistan-based JeM claimed the responsibility of the heinous suicide attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district on February 14 in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed, sparking outrage in India.
Following the incident, India bombed and destroyed JeM's biggest training camp in Balakot in Pakistan's restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, about 80-km from the Line of Control early Tuesday, killing a "very large number" of terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action.
The facility at Balakot was headed by Yousuf Azhar, the brother-in-law of the JeM chief.
The proposal, when moved, will be the fourth such bid at the UN in the last 10 years to list Azhar as a global terrorist.
In 2009, India had moved a proposal by itself to designate Azhar. This was followed in 2016 when India moved the proposal with the P3 - the United States, the United Kingdom and France - in the UN's 1267 Sanctions Committee to ban Azhar, also the mastermind of the attack on the air base in Pathankot in January, 2016.
In 2017, the P3 nations moved a similar proposal again. However, on all occasions China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the UNSC, blocked the proposal from being adopted by the Sanctions Committee.
It remains to be seen how China will vote on the proposal this time, following a crucial bilateral meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Wuzhen, where she is participating in the Russia, India, China (RIC) Foreign Ministers meeting.
Swaraj on Wednesday raised the Pulwama suicide attack in her meeting with her Chinese counterpart, a day after India destroyed a major JeM terror training camp in Pakistan.
Stating that the JeM is banned by the UN and other countries, Swaraj told Wang that "this terrorist attack is the direct result of the impunity and cover provided to the JeM and its leaders by the Pakistani side".
"After the Pulwama attack the entire UN has spoken with full voice to condemn it," she said.
The French Presidency of the UNSC comes after the 15-nation UN organ under the presidency of Equatorial Guinea had issued a highly significant press statement strongly condemning the Pulwama terror attack.
China had to sign off on the February 21 UNSC press statement that "condemned in the strongest terms the heinous and cowardly suicide bombing in Jammu and Kashmir, which resulted in over 40 Indian paramilitary forces dead and dozens wounded on February 14, 2019, for which Jaish-e-Mohammed has claimed responsibility".
On the UNSC press statement condemning the Pulwama attack, a UN diplomat here said that what moved the Security Council was that "this is an issue that all the members speak with one voice in the fight against terrorism. Whenever there is an act of terrorism, any where no matter who perpetrates it, it receives the condemnation of not only of the Security Council but of all the international community."
The UNSC press statement was seen not only as a strong condemnation of terror against India but also of international solidarity with New Delhi on its fight against terrorism.
China's lone opposition in the UNSC to any mention of terrorism resulted in a delay of nearly one week in issuance of the press statement by the powerful body on the dastardly Pulwama terror attack, official sources had said.
However, the US assiduously worked as "pen holder" making various adjustments to get the approval by all other members of the Council, they said.
In a statement issued by the acting spokesperson of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs of the Republic of France following the air strikes by the Indian Air Force on the JeM training camp in Pakistan, France said it "stands by India in the fight against terrorism in all its forms" and "is fully engaged in mobilizing the international community to sanction the terrorists responsible for this attack and freezing their financing networks."
Hours after India carried out the air strikes against the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reiterated his "urgent appeal to both the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan to exercise maximum restraint to ensure that the situation does not further deteriorate."
His spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters at the daily press briefing that the UN Chief is "obviously following this situation very closely."