With his stature as a global leader, Modi has succeeded in designating the Devil – Masood Azhar – as an international terrorist, which China, Pakistan’s all-weather ally has been protecting for a decade
The he designation of Masood Azhar as an international terrorist by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) 1267 Committee crowns India’s hectic diplomatic efforts since 2016 to achieve this end. This success is at several levels. One, India has been able to successfully mobilise international support from key countries to support its case. In the past, our key western and other partners have been reluctant to openly side with India on the issue of Pakistani sponsored terrorism against us. They have tended to treat Pakistan with relative softness for various reasons: Pakistan’s status as a major Islamic country armed with nuclear weapons; the need to obtain Pakistan’s cooperation to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table to allow the US to withdraw from Afghanistan without the appearance of defeat; Pakistan’s past services to the United States (US) as an ally against the Soviet Union; and, to maintain a balance in their relations with Pakistan and India.
A man beating the picture of Masood Azhar with his slipper
Two, over the last few years India has begun to be seen as a valuable strategic partner of the West, apart from the growing attraction of India as an economic partner. Pakistan has become during this period an increasing dysfunctional state, mired in terrorism within and promoting terrorism abroad. There has been a Pakistani footprint in terrorist attacks across the world, with often those involved with terrorism having spent some time in Pakistan. Major western countries have been subject to terrible acts of terrorism by Islamic terrorists, and this has made them much more sensitive than before on the issue of terrorism anywhere. And hence their greater understanding and support for India’s case on terrorism.
JeM Terrorists Hijacked Indian airlines Flight IC 814
Three, India and countries like the US and France have stepped up their cooperation on counter-terrorism, and this has helped in bolstering our case against Pakistan. The US has openly castigated Pakistan on its terrorist affiliations in recent years and has imposed some limited sanctions to induce Pakistan to deal firmly with jihadi organisations on its territory. On the Masood Azhar issue, the US has taken the lead to get him designated as an international terrorist.
“Today is a day that would make every Indian proud! I thank the global community and all those who believe in humanitarian values for their support. India’s fight against terror will continue. We will work towards peace and brotherhood in our planet “— PM Narendra Modi
Four, not only the West, even the Gulf countries have begun extending us support on the issue of terrorism, including in the case of the Pulwama attack, knowing its links with Pakistan. This marks a major diplomatic success of India under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi. Support from major Gulf countries on the issue of brings pressure on Pakistan directly and indirectly. All are aware that India’s problem with terrorism emanates from Pakistan and hence robust joint statements with them on combating terrorism implicates Pakistan.
“This is a significant outcome, we have been at it for several years, today the goal stands achieved’. Grateful to many countries who supported us i.e. the USA, UK and France and also several others in the council & outside the council; Would like to thank permanent representative of Indonesia”— Syed Akbaruddin, India’s Ambassador & Permanent Representative to the United Nations China has been the only obstacle to Masood Azhar’s designation as decisions in the 1267 Committee are taken by consensus. China has shown that on the issue of terrorism it has the same double standards that the West has exhibited in the past. China combats Islamic terrorism in Xinkiang which has links with Pakistani territory, but protects an Islamic terrorist in Pakistan. Jaish-e-Mohamed is already on the UN list of international terrorist organisations since 2001. Masood Azhar’s antecedents- his release by India after terrorists hijacked an Indian airliner, the Taliban facilitating his escape to Pakistan where he obtained a safe-haven and subsequent Jaish-e-Mohamed’s attacks on Indian targets in J&K and rest of India-are well known. Yet, China has been brazenly partisan, treating its relations with Pakistan as more important than its own international credibility on the issue of combating terrorism and the repercussions of its negative position on relations with India. It has treated India’s reaction with disdain and toyed with us diplomatically with a sense of impunity. Finally, faced with the prospect of a resolution moved by US, France and UK in the Security Council where the issue would have been decided by an open vote and countries would have to make their position clear to the international community, China has chosen to avoid being isolated and cut its losses by lifting its objection to Azhar’s designation in the 1267 Committee itself.
“After careful study of the revised materials and taking into consideration the opinions of relevant parties concerned, China does not have objection to the listing proposal” — Geng Shuang, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Putting China on the mat finally has been the fifth element in India’s diplomatic success. The Modi Government has to be congratulated for scoring a major diplomatic victory in forcing China to retreat from its obstructive position. China’s backing out sends a clear message to Pakistan, in that Pakistan can longer count on China as its “iron brother” to stand by it in a multilateral forum no matter what the cost. Pakistan will have to factor this in its future policies on terrorism. Some wedge has been created in the relations between China and Pakistan. Pakistan has had to finally face the situation that it could no longer keep pressing China to protect Masood Azhar so that Islamabad escapes a further slur of supporting terrorism and has had to convey to China that it will no longer seek a Chinese veto in the 1267 Committee. Pakistan is threatened with blacklisting by the FATF if it does not put its house in order by combating terrorism and eliminating domestic support to jihadi groups. Pakistan has been given a long list of action points by the FATF, and if Pakistan fails to act it will get more squeezed internationally on the financial front, which it cannot afford in its present dire financial situation when it badly needs an IMF bail-out. This is the sixth element in India’s successful manoeuvring in the FATF to keep the heat on Pakistan.
Our political circles and the media must be careful not to give any credit to China for backing away from its earlier position. China has not made a friendly gesture to India; it has simply buckled under pressure at a time when apart from the Masood Azhar issue it has to handle the trade war with the US. For the US, putting China on the Masood Azhar issue would have been another way to pressure China on a broader front as we currently see. The US would have calculated that there would be some benefit to them in putting stress on the exceedingly close Pakistan-China ties as juxtaposed with increasingly close US-India ties.
China has been the only obstacle to Masood Azhar’s designation as decisions in the 1267 Committee are taken by consensus. China had blocked similar proposals to designate Azhar in 2009, 2016 and 2017 One should however be realistic about the consequences about Masood Azhar being designated as an international terrorist. We have won a battle, but not the war. After all, Hafiz Saeed has been an internationally designated terrorist since 2008 but is allowed by the Pakistani authorities to carry out his jihadi tirades against India and has not been punished for master-minding the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. The designation of Jaish-e-Mohamed chief is a step in the right direction by the international community but its success depends on Pakistan’s conduct. Pakistan can, as in the case of Hafiz Saeed, take cosmetic action against Masood Azhar and after the heat on it dissipates, it can continue its past duplicitous policies. The crucial question is pressure on Pakistan’s government. China will continue to support Pakistan bilaterally and will find some way to compensate it for the Azhar designation so that any damage to ties is controlled.
Whatever it is, India has certainly scored a diplomatic victory, all the more welcome as it comes during the election period. It will contribute to boosting the Prime Minister’s image as a leader who is making India’s voice heard more strongly on the international stage.
(The writer is is a former Foreign Secretary)