Hours before United Nations listing, China hints it may block Azhar ban again

Clay Curtis
March 14, 2019

In a note sent to the UN Security Council, China on Wednesday said it needed more time to examine the sanctions request targeting Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) leader Masood Azhar, diplomats said.

The deadline to "seek clarification" - the United Nations jargon for "raising objection" - was 3 pm NY time Wednesday, which is 12.30 am IST on Thursday.

China has vetoed Azhar's resolution thrice earlier - 2009, 2016, 2017, however in recent days pressure has grown to list Masood as a "global terrorist" after France backed India's stand on the issue. In response to a question on China's stance on banning Masood Azhar at the 1267 committee of the UNSC, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said Beijing wanted a closure of the issue, based on consensus achieved through dialogue.

Masood Azhar is the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), which carried out a deadly suicide bombing killing 40 troops in Indian-administered Kashmir. China has time and again blocked the ban on Azhar. "China should not prevent the Committee from doing the job the Security Council has entrusted it to do", another security council diplomat was quoted as saying by PTI. In 2017, Beijing also blocked a move by the U.S., the United Kingdom and France to designate Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN. China gave no reason for the hold, which places the request in limbo.

Yet another attempt on the JeM chief's designation, led by the United States, France and Britain, has begun following the February 14 Pulwama auto bomb attack that killed more than 40 CRPF personnel.

"China will continue to adopt responsible attitude and participate in the deliberations in the UNSC 1267 Committee", Lu said on Wednesday.

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Hectic diplomatic and political parleys have preceded the closely-watched March 13 deadline as New Delhi reached out to member countries of the UNSC.

On Monday, India's foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale met U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo to press the terror issue.

In the wake of the February 14 terror attack in Pulwama, India launched a major diplomatic offensive against Islamabad, holding briefing for envoys of 25 countries, including from the five permanent UNSC members - the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and France - to highlight Pakistan's role in using terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

On Monday, India and the United States called on Pakistan to take "concerted action" to dismantle terror infrastructure and deny safe haven to all terror groups, reflecting the growing pressure on Islamabad to crack down on terror after the Pulwama suicide bombing.

JeM has however attacked Pakistani military targets and even made an attempt on former leader Pervez Musharraf's life in 2003, despite India's accusations that Pakistan harbours the group. It also took credit for dialing down tensions between the two nuclear-armed states in the subcontinent, based on "extensive and in-depth communication with both parties".

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