In yet another setback to India's bid to designate Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed's chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, China on Wednesday put a technical hold on a proposal in the UN Security Council to ban him following the Pulwama terror attack.
A diplomat at the UN told PTI that China put a "technical hold".
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 44 CRPF soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama, leading to a flare-up in tensions between India and Pakistan.
A US Embassy spokesperson told CNBC-Tv18 that JeM is a United Nations-designated terrorist group and Azhar is the founder and the leader of JeM and he clearly meets the criteria for designation by the United Nations.
"JeM has been responsible for numerous terrorist attacks and is a threat to regional stability and peace. We will continue to work with the sanctions committee to ensure that the designation list is updated and accurate. With respect to China, the United States and China share a mutual interest in achieving regional stability and peace," the spokesperson said, adding the failure to designate Azhar as a global terrorist would run counter to this goal.
The Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee members had 10 working days to raise any objections to the proposal. The no-objection period deadline was scheduled to end at 3 PM local time (New York) Wednesday.
Just before the close of the deadline, China put a hold on the proposal.
The diplomat said China asked for "more time to examine" the proposal.
The proposal was the fourth such bid at the UN in the last 10 years to list Azhar as a global terrorist.
The Committee makes its decisions by consensus of its members.
All eyes were on China, which has in the past blocked India's bids to get Azhar listed as a UN-designated global terrorist thrice.
According to the listing rules of the Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee, if no objection is received by the end of the no-objection period, the decision will be deemed adopted.
As it has done in the past, Beijing put a technical hold on the proposal just as the deadline was about to end.
An inkling of China's stand on the issue came during Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang's press conferences on Monday and Wednesday in Beijing when he was asked about the proposal to list Azhar as a global terrorist by the UNSC.
"The UN Security Council and its subsidiary bodies are run on strict rules. We already stressed China's position on the listing of terrorist organisations and individuals in the UN Security Council 1267 Committee on many occasions," Lu said on Monday.
"China will continue to adopt responsible attitude and participate in the deliberations in the UNSC 1267 Committee," Lu said on Wednesday.
On the issue of listing Azhar, he said, "I want to say that China always adopts a responsible attitude, engage in consultations with various parties and properly deal with this issue."
"The discussions, I want to say must follow the rules and procedures of the relevant bodies and only the solution that is acceptable to all sides is conducive for resolving the issue," he said, indicating that Beijing may again block the move to list Azhar as a global terrorist.
According to sources, the statement of the case of the latest proposal by France mentioned that JeM had taken responsibility for the Pulwama suicide attack on February 14 in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed.
The statement also noted that Azhar is a former leader of the terrorist group Harakat al-Mujahadin and he had given a call to volunteers to join the fight in Afghanistan against Western forces.
In 2009, India moved a proposal by itself to designate Azhar. In 2016 again 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 UN Security Council, blocked India's proposal from being adopted by the Sanctions Committee.
An assets freeze under the Sanctions Committee requires that all states freeze without delay the funds and other financial assets or economic resources of designated individuals and entities.
The travel ban entails preventing the entry into or transit by all states through their territories by designated individuals. Under the arms embargo, all states are required to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale and transfer from their territories or by their nationals outside their territories to the designated individuals and entities.
Hectic diplomatic and political parleys had preceded the closely-watched March 13 deadline as New Delhi reached out to the UNSC member countries.
In the wake of the Pulwama terror attack, India launched a major diplomatic offensive against Pakistan, holding briefing for envoys of 25 countries, including those from the five permanent UNSC members -- the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and France -- to highlight Islamabad's role in using terrorism as an instrument of state policy.
India also handed over to Pakistan a dossier on "specific details" of involvement of the JeM in the Pulwama terror attack.