China blocks move to ban Masood Azhar for the fourth time at UN

China exercised its veto for the fourth time since the 2016 Pathankot terror attack, to place a hold on the move to ban Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar. It was an attempt to list him as a “global terrorist”.

Despite hectic diplomatic engagement by India and the United States, China sided with its “all-weather friend” Pakistan. The initial proposal to designate Masood Azhar was moved by the US, UK, and France after JeM claimed responsibility for the Pulwama terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir.

In an unprecedented move, this time around 11 countries co-sponsored the move. Sources told India Today TV that seven were member states from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which included four of the five permanent members (P5)- barring China and all the European nations in the Security Council. The other four were prominent nations from outside of the Security Council.

This is vastly different from the past proposals, where there have been maximum three co-sponsors and none from outside the UNSC. This shows an “exponential” change from last time said an official. The signals from Beijing were that they are “consistent” on their position and they wanted a solution “acceptable to all”. It was becoming clear which way they were headed.

Meanwhile, India expressed “disappointment” over China’s move. “We are disappointed by this outcome. This has prevented action by the international community to designate the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a proscribed and active terrorist organization which has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir on 14 February 2019”, said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in a statement.

Explaining the play of China and Pakistan and that on international issues they remain on the same page, sources told India Today TV: “China is an extended arm of Pakistan on international issues. It just shows the depth of their so-called iron-clad brotherhood.”

While Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks of acting against terrorism, when it comes to real action, Islamabad shied away from the most basic thing to do against a terrorist that openly declares war against a neighbouring state, to ban him.

Meanwhile, India also thanked all those countries that came out in support of India and denounced terrorism.

“We are grateful for the efforts of the Member States who moved the designation proposal and the unprecedented number of all other Security Council members as well as non-members who joined as co-sponsors”, the MEA said.

India’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Syed Akbaruddin hinting at China, in a tweet, said, “Big, Small & Many. One big state holds up, again. One small signal @UN against terror. Grateful to the many state – big and small, who in unprecedented numbers, joined as co-sponsors of the effort.”

India maintains that it will continue to “pursue” all available “avenues” to ensure that terrorist leaders who are involved in heinous attacks on Indian citizens are “brought to justice”.

This also puts a larger question of the warped structure of the United Nations that begs reforms.

India’s former Ambassador to the UN Asoke Mukerji said, “Time has come to focus on the veto power of China in the Security Council being used cynically to oppose global counter-terrorism measures. Draft text of a UNGA resolution on all five areas of Security Council reform including the question of the veto must be tabled now in the negotiations.”

While India and the international community’s efforts are laudable, some experts believe that the move to ban Azhar has a larger diplomatic dimension that is beyond India and Pakistan. It is the power tussle between the US and China that was also at play in which open statements against China by Washington DC might have been a little counter-productive.

China might be more open to the concept of “Quiet diplomacy”, but when it comes to Pakistan any amount of diplomacy fails.

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