In a huge diplomatic win for India, the United Nations on Wednesday designated Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist after China lifted its hold on a proposal to blacklist him under the Security Council's Sanctions Committee.
"Big, small, all join together. Masood Azhar designated as a terrorist in @UN Sanctions list. Grateful to all for their support," India's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Syed Akbaruddin tweeted. When asked whether China has lifted the hold, Akbaruddin told PTI that "yes, done."
The UN committee listed Azhar on May 1, 2019 as being associated with Al-Qaeda for "participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of", "supplying, selling or transferring arms and related material to", "recruiting for", "otherwise supporting acts or activities of", and "other acts or activities indicating association with" the JeM.
A UNSC designation will subject Azhar to an assets freeze, travel ban and an arms embargo. 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.
"This is for us a significant outcome because we have been at it for several years. The first effort that we made in this regard was in 2009. More recently, we have been persistent diligent and in a subterranean manner making all our efforts towards this goal. Today that goal stands achieved," Akbaruddin said.
Diplomats at the UN's principal organ had warned that responsible member-states of the Security Council may be forced to pursue other actions if China continued to block moves to designate Azhar as a global terrorist.
Beijing had staunchly opposed the Azhar listing to be taken directly to the powerful UN body as it would have had to publicly explain its stand on its reservations to list Azhar, whose group JeM has already been designated as a terror outfit by the UN, before exercising its veto.
Sources had told PTI that the statement of the case of the latest proposal by France had mentioned that JeM had taken responsibility for the suicide attack against Indian security forces in Pulwama on February 14 in which over 40 CRPF personnel were killed.
The statement of the case had 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.
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.
"All in all it's been a happy day, a good day for all this who would like to pursue the approach of zero tolerance for terrorism," he said. China earlier removed its hold on the proposal moved by France, UK and the US in the UNSC's 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee in February just days after the deadly Pulwama terror attack carried out by the JeM.
A veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council, China was the sole hold-out in the 15-nation body on the bid to blacklist Azhar, blocking attempts by placing a "technical hold" and asking for "more time to examine" the proposal. All decisions of the committee are taken through consensus.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China lifted technical hold after Beijing found no objection to the listing proposal by the US, the UK and France following a careful study of the revised materials.
"Recently, relevant countries revised and re-submitted the materials for the listing proposal to the 1267 Committee. 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," he said.
The US welcomed the listing of Azhar and sought "sustained actions" from Pakistan against terrorism, consistent with its international obligations.
"We expect all countries to uphold these obligations," a spokesperson for the US Mission in UN told PTI, noting that the JeM is a UN-designated terrorist group, and Azhar, as the founder and leader of JeM, clearly met the criteria for designation by the world body.
France also welcomed the UN move to designate Azhar as a global terrorist, saying it "signals the successful realisation" of its efforts. For many years, French diplomacy has been relentlessly pleading for sanctioning Azhar, "head of the terrorist group responsible, notably, for the Pulwama attack", said a statement issued by the Foreign Affairs of France.
France had adopted national sanctions against Azhar on March 15. A French official at the UN told PTI, "We commend this designation; we have been advocating for the sanctioning of Masood Azhar for many years. This an outcome of these efforts. We will remain committed to the fight against terrorism at all levels, at the UN and in other organisations."
Commenting on the listing of Azhar, Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said, "the current listing proposal has been agreed after all political references, including removal of attempts to link it with Pulwama and maligning" the struggle of the Kashmiris. Faisal also said that Pakistan will immediately enforce the sanctions imposed on the JeM leader.
In recent days, there had been indications that China is likely to come around and will lift its hold on the Azhar proposal. Beijing had said on Tuesday that the vexed issue of designating Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN will be "properly resolved."
Beijing put the hold on the proposal on March 13, scuttling yet another attempt to blacklist the JeM chief. The proposal was the fourth such bid at the UN in the last 10 years to list Azhar as a global terrorist. In 2009, India moved a proposal by itself to designate Azhar.
In 2016 again India moved the proposal with the P3 - the US, the UK and France in the UN's 1267 Sanctions Committee to ban Azhar, also the mastermind of the attack on the airbase 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 Security Council, blocked India's proposal from being adopted by the sanctions committee.
Keeping up the international pressure to designate Azhar as a global terrorist, the US, supported by France and the UK, moved a draft resolution directly in the UN Security Council to blacklist him. Beijing lifting its hold is a massive diplomatic win for India, which had relentlessly pursued the matter with its international allies.