Masood Azhar, the chief of the Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-E-Mohammed (JeM) has finally been listed as a global terrorist in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) 1267 Committee sanctions list. This means that Azhar will face freezing of assets, travel ban and an embargo by all the UN member states. India’s Ministry of External Affairs welcomed the decision and termed it “a step in the right direction to demonstrate the international community’s resolve to fight against terrorism and its enablers”. Due to the persistent efforts of India’s diplomatic corps at the UN, engagement at the highest level and more recently, increase in the interaction between India and China, the much-awaited goal in fighting terror networks has been achieved.
This is undoubtedly a diplomatic victory for India. It was in 2009 that India initiated the process of listing Azhar, who is one of the prime accused of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks; in the 1267 Committee sanctions list. However, due to technical holds repeatedly put by China, India was not able to achieve its goals although countries such as France and the United States have been supportive of it.
In this context, the improvements in India-China relations are noteworthy. Though India did not participate in the Second Belt and Road Forum (BRF), just four days before the Forum, Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale was on a two-day visit to China. The official agenda of the meeting was declared as ‘regular diplomatic consultation’. Although no official declaration was made, but one of subjects discussed was negotiations on the listing of Azhar in the UNSC.
Beijing had put on ‘technical hold’ India’s fourth bid to ban Azhar in March 2019, post the Pulwama attack, the responsibility for which was claimed by the JeM. China has shown seriousness on improving ties with India on its part. India-China relations are on the upward trajectory since the Wuhan informal Summit between the top leadership of both countries in April 2018. In fact, Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councilor, Wang Yi, just a few days before Mr. Gokhale’s visit, remarked that China is preparing for the second informal summit between the Indian Prime Minister and Chinese President, which would be taking place in India later this year.
Meetings such as Wuhan have played a significant role in improving the ties and allowed the leadership to have free-flowing discussions. India and China have a long-standing border dispute, which demand careful and sustained negotiations for resolution. What is imperative for both sides is to maintain the peace and stability in the border regions. Other issues will only be resolved through regular dialogues. Such interactions pave the path for future resolution of the protracted issues.
Another reason for China’s decision to put off its technical hold on Azhar is that the international community has also been criticizing China’s stand. India gained international support from countries such as the United States, France, and United Kingdom on its side. China’s decision may also be motivated by the desire to limit the international criticism amid controversies surrounding the BRI. China has also vowed to make BRI more inclusive and follow financial transparency.
Terror outfits like JeM are not just a problem to India but are a global challenge. Sri Lanka became the recent victim of terrorism where more than 250 lives were lost. China’s decision to show sensitivity towards India in her fight against terrorism will help maintain regional stability and global peace. The decision highlights the fact that India has been a victim of state-sponsored terrorism, and that there is a need for the international community to put pressure on Pakistan to not breed terror outfits like the JeM. Listing of Azhar will strengthen India’s fight against terrorism. The Indo-China ties have succeeded in breaking an important deadlock, and are poised to move forward in a more constructive manner.
Script: Sana Hashmi, Strategic Analyst on Chinese and Eurasian Affairs