Defying global opposition to terrorism, China has vetoed sanctions against Masood Azhar, the chief of the terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), extending cover to him and Pakistan that protects him.
On Wednesday, China was the only Security Council member to oppose the proposal spearheaded with renewed vigour by France with British and US backing at the al-Qaeda sanctions committee to declare him a global terrorist and impose sanctions on him.
Wednesday was the deadline to take a decision in the current cycle and because of Beijing’s veto – officially known as a technical hold – the proposal will remain on hold for at least three months.
In New Delhi, the External Affairs Ministry expressed disappointment over the outcome.
“This has prevented action by the international community to designate the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a prescribed and active terrorist organization which has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir on 14 February 2019,” the statement said.
India affirmed that it 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 US had said on Tuesday that China’s opposition to designating Azhar as an international terrorist runs counter to the mutual goal with the US of regional stability.
As the founder and leader of JeM, Azhar “meets the criteria for designation by the United Nations” for a global terrorist subject to its sanctions, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said.
The Council’s sanctions committee on the Islamic State and al-Qaeda and linked terrorist groups – known as 1267 committee after Council resolution’s number – need a consensus for its decisions.
China had shown some flexibility last month on the issue of JeM last month, when it went along with a Council statement condemning in “strongest terms” the Pulwama attack calling it a “heinous and cowardly suicide bombing” and noting that the JeM claimed responsibility for it. Because of the growing revulsion against terrorism, Beijing felt boxed in. Partly to assuage it, the Council made it a statement, rather than a resolution so it would not have a formal vote.
However, Azhar has been the red line for Beijing and as it has for a decade protected him.
Although Pakistan flouts the other decisions of the committee by allowing various terrorist groups under sanctions like the JeM itself to operate, adding Azhar would have increased pressures on it over support for terrorism.
Before Azhar’s case was taken up by the committee, Beijing indicated it would block the sanctions on him.
Using convoluted diplomatic language, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters in Beijing, “China will continue to adopt a responsible attitude and participate in the deliberations in the UNSC 1267 Committee” and “engage in consultations with various parties and properly deal with this issue”.
Last week, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou visited Pakistan for talks with that nation’s leaders. He declared that Beijing was Islamabad’s time-tested friend and would stand by it.