China again vetoes sanctions on JeM chief, India ‘disappointed’

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 Azhar a “global terrorist” and impose sanctions on him.

United Nations, Publish Date: Mar 15 2019 2:17AM | Updated Date: Mar 15 2019 2:17AM
China again vetoes sanctions on JeM chief,  India ‘disappointed’File Photo

China has again vetoed sanctions against Masood Azhar, the chief of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), evoking a sharp reaction from India.

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 Azhar 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 (MEA) expressed disappointment over the outcome.

“This has prevented action by the international community to designate the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a proscribed organisation which has claimed responsibility for the militant attack in Jammu and Kashmir on 14 February 2019,” the MEA statement said.

India affirmed that it will continue to pursue all available avenues to ensure that militant leaders “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.

A spokesperson in the American embassy said Thursday that Washington will continue to work with the UN sanctions committee to ensure that the designation list is “updated and accurate”.

“As the United Nations sanctions committee deliberations are confidential, we don’t comment on specific matters, but we will continue to work with the sanctions committee to ensure that the designation list is updated and accurate,” the official said.

“With respect to China, the United States and China share a mutual interest in achieving regional stability and peace, and a failure to designate Azhar would run counter to this goal,” he added.

The Council’s sanctions committee on the Islamic State and al-Qaeda and linked groups—known as 1267 committee after Council resolution’s number—needs a consensus for its decisions.

China had shown some flexibility last month on the issue of JeM, 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 that it would not have a formal vote.

However, Azhar has been the redline for Beijing and it has for a decade allegedly protected him.

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 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.

Meanwhile, China Thursday defended its fourth "technical hold" on the designation of Pakistan-based JeM chief Masood Azhar as a “global terrorist”, saying the move would give it time for a “thorough and in-depth assessment” of the case and help the parties concerned to engage in more talks to find a “lasting solution” acceptable to all.

The proposal to designate Azhar under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council was moved by France, the UK and the US on February 27, days after a suicide bomber of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) killed 40 CRPF soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama, leading to a flare-up in tensions between India and Pakistan.

The Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee members had 10 working days to raise any objections to the proposal. Just before the deadline ended, China put a "technical hold" on the proposal seeking "more time to examine" it.

The proposal was the fourth such bid at the UN in the last 10 years to list Azhar as a global terrorist.

Asked why China once again resorted to block the move, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a media briefing here that Beijing's decision is in line with the rules of the committee.

China "sincerely hopes that relevant action taken by this committee will help relevant countries to engage in dialogue and consultation and prevent adding more complicated factors into regional peace and stability," he said.

"As to the technical hold at the 1267 Committee our action is to make sure that the committee will have enough time to study the matter so that the relevant sides will have time for dialogue and consultation," Lu said. 

"Only a solution that is acceptable to all sides could fundamentally provide a chance for a lasting solution to the issue. China is ready to communicate and coordinate with all sides including India to properly handle this issue," he said.

The Security Council 1267 Committee has clear standards on the procedures of designating terrorist organisations and individuals, Lu said.

"China conducts thorough and in-depth assessment of these applications and we still need more time, so that is why we put forward the technical hold," he said.

India Wednesday expressed disappointment soon after China put a technical hold on designating Azhar. 

Without naming China, MEA said the UN's 1267 Sanctions Committee was not able to come to a decision on the proposal for listing Azhar on account of a member placing the proposal on hold.

To another question on the Wuhan summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping last year to improve the bilateral relations, Lu said, "Xi and Modi met four times. Particularly Wuhan summit made great progress. China is full of sincerity and ready to work with India to build on the consensus of our leaders for greater progress in the bilateral relations."

On the Kashmir issue, Lu said China's position on it is clear and consistent.

"This is an issue that is left over between India and Pakistan. We hope that the two sides will engage in friendly dialogue consultation and solve this issue and other related issues," he said.

Meanwhile, commenting on China's move blocking Azhar's listing at the UN, Chinese analysts said that Beijing needs solid proof to back the proposal.

Long Xingchun, non-resident fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China, told state-run Global Times that China is concerned about the recent attacks in Kashmir and feels sympathetic toward the victims but "this will not alter China's consistent stance toward the status of Azhar".

"If India cannot offer new evidence, China will not change its position. If China does, it will be a repudiation of its previous stance and leave the impression that it was deliberately blocking India's bid in the past. This will have a much wider impact on China's diplomacy," he said.

Zhang Jiadong, director of Centre for South Asian Studies, Fudan University, said: "China's position on Azhar is consistent as India failed to provide updated evidence. China and India should eye the bigger picture and prevent differences over concrete issues coming in the way of bilateral relations; otherwise, it will hurt the interests of both countries, especially India".

Liu Zongyi, senior fellow of Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said whether to list Azhar as a global terrorist has been a long-lasting dispute between China and India. In 2017, New Delhi's demand was partly behind the Doklam standoff.

"If New Delhi succeeds in having both JeM and its leader blacklisted, Islamabad would be branded as a state sponsor of terrorism and isolated on the international stage. This is what India wants to pursue till the end," he said.

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