Masood Azhar Episode
By Dr. D.K. Giri
(Prof. International Politics, JMI)
After 10 years of diplomatic endeavours by India, lately backed by France, UK and USA, Massod Azhar, the Jaise-e-Mohammad Chief was declared on 1st May by UNSC as a global terrorist. After JeM claimed they masterminded the 26 February Pulwama attack on our security personnel killing 50 of them, the three powerful permanent members of Security Council pressed for declaring him a global terrorist under 1267 Sanctions Committee. They diplomatically clobbered China to lift the technical hold on the proposal to the Committee. Remember, Beijing had vetoed the proposal to list Azhar as international terrorist and had put a technical hold on 1267 Committee proposal.
Notably, US threatened to move a resolution in UNSC, should the technical hold not be lifted by China. If a resolution was moved in UNSC, and if China were to veto it again, it would have been seen as supporting terrorism. This would have been detrimental to China’s insatiate ambition of being a global power. Besides, China is in throes of trade war with USA, and the vibes are, it is losing out to the latter. China took on the US too soon in haste to secure global dominance. Apparently, Xi Jinping did not realise that China was not yet ready for a trade war with America. He overshot. Anyway, this is topic for another discussion.
What does this declaration mean for the terrorist, Pakistan, India, and China, the main stakeholders in South Asian Security? For Masood Azhar, the terrorist, it would mean three things: his assets would be frozen immediately. He would be divested of all the bank accounts where he was perhaps receiving donations for sponsoring terror attacks. Second, there will be a travel ban imposed on him. His movements will be restricted, and monitored; he would be kept under house arrest. Third, there will be an arms embargo, which means he cannot acquire or supply arms to any terrorist outfits or groups. These conditions reflect the resolution that designated Azhar as global terrorist— “Azhar is participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing or perpetrating acts or activities of terrorism, or supplying, selling or transferring arms or related material for the same.”
What does it mean for India? It is certainly a diplomatic victory of sorts. Some would say that it is symbolic as Azhar has reached the expiry date for Pakistan. He is ill and ineffective. But, as Syed Akbaruddin, India’s permanent representative to the UN said, “This is for us a significant outcome as we have been at it for years.” France, which is a go-to country for India in UN, replacing Russia, said, “It is a successful realisation of its (France’s) efforts for several years.” It should also be noted that France is advocating for permanent membership in the UNSC of India, Brazil and Japan.
India could claim the victory as it successfully mobilised three big powers and had the support of 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council. It also got support of UNSC’s current Chair, Indonesia, represented by Transyan Djani, who was supported for the post by India in 2018. He pushed for a decision by 1st May, as others had given Beijing a deadline of 23rd April to lift the hold or US would move a separate resolution by bypassing 1267 committee. China capitulated under pressure, although supposedly it managed some face-saving by dropping reference to Pulwama attack and so on.
The 1267 Committee decision would cast a shadow on Pakistan, which will come under increased scrutiny by the world as a haven for terrorists. Pakistan, expectedly, sought to play down the 1267 Committee decision as it claimed to have taken several actions against Azhar. This is a hoax. At any rate, the spotlight will now turn towards 138-odd UN listed terrorist sheltered in Pakistan. Further, the Financial Action Task Force, which monitors terrorist funding, will blacklist Pakistan, having been put in the grey list before. Pakistan will suffer heavily despite China’s calculated benevolence, as international funding will stop.
The third player in Azhar episode, China’s international credibility has nose-dived. It was seen supporting a wrong cause, even if it wanted to play Pakistan against India. Beijing has been plotting to hold India back, so that the latter does not ever question China’s hegemony in Asia or elsewhere.
The US played a significant role too. It wants to have India on its side, keep China on its toes. It wants India to help counter Chinese ambition to emerge as a super-power and challenge American supremacy. It took the initiative in moving a resolution after the Pulwama attack, which read: “The Security Council condemns the Pulwama attack and asks all States to cooperate with India and counter threats to international peace.” The US was adamant in putting 23rd April deadline. The 1st May episode has also confirmed that it is still the reigning super-power, and China has a long way to go.
In March this year, at the behest of the US, P-3 of UNSC had moved the proposal in 1267 Sanctions Committee, which was created in 1999 to impose sanctions on Al Qaida. The Committee comprises 15 members including P-5 of the Security Council, and takes decisions on the basis of a consensus. Any member can put a hold for seeking more time or greater clarification, information etc. Invoking this procedure, Beijing has been blocking the decision. The hold can last up to six months.
What next for India’s diplomacy vis-a-vis China-Pak axis in South Asia? New Delhi has so far been targeting Pakistan. Even in the current Lok Sabha elections, anti-Pakistan rhetoric is the staple diet in the campaign of the ruling BJP. It is easier to build a nationalism narrative by declaring Pakistan as enemy number one. But, is that really the case? As I have argued in this column, it is China, not Pakistan that New Delhi should make the reference point in its foreign policy.
New Delhi must realise in its bones that by blocking our move for 10 long years to nail Masson Azhar in UNSC, China has demonstrated its unholy alignment with Pakistan, and that India is not its friend. Second, China has all kinds of fantastic claims on India’s territories, like it has with several other countries. The Azhar episode also has demonstrated that New Delhi will have the support of many other countries that are wary of China’s model of politics — authoritarian, ambitious and aggrandising.
The move to clinch it in the Sanctions Committee was also hastened by the gruesome terror attacks in Sri Lanka. I have argued that New Delhi should have actively engaged with Sri Lanka in handling the aftermath of the attack. If India is leading in advocacy against terrorism in the world, it must fight against it in its neighbourhood. On the other hand, China seen on the side of terrorists would alienate countries including India, which it is wooing. As some observes apprehend, if here is any quid pro quo between India and China, we will know after 23rd May when a new government will be in place.
Leaving those conjectures aside, the world wants India to replace China in Asia as the major power. It gave India the chance in 1950s which India scuppered. Will India be able to grab this opportunity now?—INFA