India's stand on Pakistan being the fountainhead of terrorism got a massive shot in the arm on Wednesday after China removed its technical hold on Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) founder Masood Azhar, who was declared a global terrorist by the United Nation Security Council's 1267 Committee.
The almost 10-year-long struggle to get Masood Azhar, who has plotted and executed several spectacular terror strikes in India killing hundreds of civilians and soldiers, finally bore fruit on Wednesday evening.
The UN Security Council Committee statement:
On 1 May 2019, the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida, and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities approved the addition of the entry specified below to its ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions List of individuals and entities subject to the assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo set out in paragraph 1 of Security Council resolution 2368 (2017) and adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations."
QDi.422 Name: 1: MOHAMMED 2: MASOOD 3: AZHAR 4: ALVI
Title: na Designation: na DOB: a) 10 Jul. 1968 b) 10 Jun. 1968 POB: Bahawalpur, Punjab Province, Pakistan Good quality a.k.a.: na Low quality a.k.a.: a) Masud Azhar b) Wali Adam Isah c) Wali Adam Esah Nationality: Pakistan Passport no: na National identification no: na Address: na Listed on: 1 May 2019 Other information: Founder of Jaish-i-Mohammed (QDe.019). Former leader of Harakat ul-Mujahidin / HUM (QDe.008).
Azhar was freed on December 31, 1999, along with two other dreaded terrorists Mushtaq Ahmed and Omar Sheikh by the then government of prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in exchange for the 185 hijacked passengers and crew of Indian Airlines flight IC-814. The trio of Masood Azhar, Mushtaq Ahmed and Omar Sheikh were handed over to the Taliban in Afghanistan's Kandahar where the five hijackers had forced the plane's pilot to land.
Azhar was escorted to Pakistan where he founded the Jaish-e-Mohammad and started to target India. He was the brain behind several terror strikes in India including the 2001 attack on Parliament, 2016 Pathankot Indian Air Force base attack and the February 2019 Pulwama suicide bombing.
The development is a huge success for India's diplomatic efforts to isolate Pakistan internationally on terrorism as the resolution to designate Azhar as a global terrorist was backed by the major world powers US, UK, France, Australia, Italy and Japan. While China had put a technical hold on the resolution in the past and once again did the same after the Pulwama bombing, it finally removed its objection on Wednesday, dealing a major blow to its "all-weather ally" Pakistan.
The US along with France and UK had moved a proposal to list Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, in the aftermath of February 14, Pulwama terror attack in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were martyred. But on March 13, the last day for the listing of Azhar, China had put the hold on the proposal, citing that it needed more time to understand the issue around the man responsible for the death of hundreds of Indians in terror strikes. Jaish-e-Mohammad had taken responsibility for the Pulwama terror attack, the deadliest on Indian security forces in the last 20 years.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the decision, asserting that in India's fight against terrorism, it is a big victory. He also thanked the nations who stood by India in its battle against terrorism. Calling it a day of pride, PM Modi said, "In our fight against terror, the world stood with us". He said, "This is not just Modi's success, this is the entire nation's success" and "today India has proven its power in the entire world and that is the power of 130 million people of this country."
Welcoming the decision, Ministry of External Affairs, said in a statement, "This is in accordance with India’s position and in line with the information that India has shared with the members of the Sanctions Committee regarding terrorist activities of Masood Azhar and the Jaish-e-Mohammad."
China, who have been blocking the move for the last 10 years, finally backed the listing of Azhar. Reacting to the development, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, as quoted by news agency PTI said, "After careful study of the revised materials and taking into consideration the opinions of relevant parties concerned, China does not have an objection to the listing proposal".
But defending its all-weather ally, Pakistan, Chinese Foreign ministry added, "Pakistan has made enormous contributions to fighting terrorism, which deserves the full recognition of the international community. China will continue to firmly support Pakistan's efforts to combat terrorism and extremist forces."
France which is the co-chair of UNSC was the first country to react to the development. French foreign ministry in a statement said, "French diplomacy has been relentlessly pleading for sanctioning Azhar, head of the terrorist group responsible, notably, for the Pulwama attack last February." Calling the decision by UNSC a "successful realisation" of French efforts, the statement said, "France remains mobilised at all levels and all fora to take effective measures against terrorism."
The UNSC giving the reason for listing said Azhar is being listed for his association with "Al-Qaida for participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts" and "supporting acts... activities indicating an association with" JeM.
The listing of Azhar means that travel and an arms embargo will be imposed on him which means he cannot travel outside Pakistan nor can he buy weapons. His assets will also be frozen globally. But the big message that India has been able to send is that Pakistan remains the epicentre of terror. It is interesting to know that Pakistan hosts the largest number of United Nations listed terrorist.
Reacting to the development, India's permanent representative at the United Nations Syed Akbaruddin said that it is a significant success. "The chairperson of the UN Sanctions Committee did confirm to me that Masood Azhar is on the UN-sanctioned list. The efforts began in 2009. With several efforts being put in, they have paid. It is a significant success. This is only the first step to counter terrorism. US, UK, France and many other countries came out in support of India's effort of putting Masood Azhar on sanctioned list. The goal was set out 10 years ago," he said.
India has been trying to list Azhar as a global terrorist for nearly a decade. It was in first in 2009 that New Delhi tried to get Azhar as a United Nations listed terrorist. India was the lone proposer back then. In 2016, India again proposed the listing and it was co-sponsored by UK, US, France. But the move was was blocked by China.
In 2017, the US, UK and France moved the proposal but China blocked the move again. The move in February of 2019 saw global support with 14 out of 15 members of UNCS backing the move for the listing of Masood Azhar. The proposal was moved US, UK, France and co-sponsored by Australia, Bangladesh, Italy and Japan.
After the Chinese hold in March, France had announced it will be putting a freeze on the assets of Azhar and will raise the issue with the European Union. A joint release by French Foreign, Interior and Finance Ministry said, "We will raise this issue with our European partners with a view to including Masood Azhar on the European Union list of persons, groups and entities involved in terrorist acts, based on this decree."
Currently, a text has been circulated among all members of the European Union for listing of Azhar as a terrorist under EU jurisdiction.
The developments come just one week after Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale visited China and gave evidence regarding JeM's involvement in terror attacks in India. During his visit, Gokhale met Chinese officials including Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.