China’s former diplomat calls for change of stance on Masood Azhar

A blog by Mao Siwei, China’s former Consul General in Kolkata on his WeChat account, elaborately argued for a course correction by China on the Azhar issue.

Updated - January 02, 2017 03:08 am IST

Published - January 02, 2017 03:06 am IST

A file photo of Maulana Masood Azhar, Jaish-e-Mohammad chief. File photo

A file photo of Maulana Masood Azhar, Jaish-e-Mohammad chief. File photo

Beijing Shortly before the Chinese government decided to block the India-backed listing of Masood Azhar, the head the Pakistan based Jaish-e-Mohammad group on a UN terror roll, a senior former Chinese diplomat had argued vigorously for a turnaround in Beijing’s position. A blog by Mao Siwei, China’s former Consul General in Kolkata on his WeChat account, elaborately argued for a course correction by China on the Azhar issue, signaling that on the question of terrorism, an internal debate maybe brewing within the establishment on China’s undiluted support to Pakistan. India has sought a UN ban on the head of the JeM chief following last year’s attack on the Pathankot air base.

The former diplomat highlighted that the problem of Masood Azhar has become “a major issue that impacts China-India relations, and also constitutes the major element of the decline in the China and India relations in 2016”. Mr. Mao, while backing special ties with Pakistan , does point to the necessity for establishing some markers that slamabad should recognise in its dealings with Beijing. “China cherishes the strategic partnership with our iron brother, but please do not stir up issues,” he says, while explaining the positive fallout on Islamabad, New Delhi and the rest of world, in case China did not stand in the way of Azhar’s inclusion in the UN 1276 committee list. In 1999, the Security Council passed resolution 1267, in a bid to impose sanctions on Al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan

In his article, Mr. Mao has focused on the timing and implications of the Pathankot attack, in derailing the possible restart of an Indo-Pak rapprochement. He points out the attack took place after a week of Prime Minster Narendra Modi’s unexpected Christmas call in Lahore on his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif’s birthday and granddaughter’s wedding, which could have reignited a peace process between New Delhi and Islamabad. The incident successfully stalled a budding rapprochement between the two neighbours.

The former envoy adds citing reports that in the coalition of evidence on the attack presented on December 19 by India’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States had provided crucial support including the Facebook log of the Pakistani handlers of the attack. Besides, Indian intelligence agencies had intercepted phone calls between the gunmen and their relatives.

The writer then records the negative impact of China’ role in the UN 1267 committee, also called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Al Qaeda sanctions committee, on Sino-Indian ties. “On February 2016, India applied to the UN Security council that the ISIL and Al Qaeda sanctions committee that the JeM military chief Masood Azhar should be listed in this sanctions list. By the end of March, right before the motion by India came into effect, China stood in between and intervened. Half-a year later China once again stalled this motion due to technical reasons. India, is massively dissatisfied with China’s interventions.”

Mr. Mao points to Masood Azhar’s links to three major events: the circumstances of his arrest in Kashmir in 1994, the killing of five foreign hostages that followed a year later, and his release in 1999 following the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane, to establish the JeM chief’s undisputable connection with terrorism. He highlights that after his release, India suffered major terror attacks, including the targeting of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly building in October 2001, which was quickly followed by the infamous parliament attack, bringing India and Pakistan to the brink of war.

Elaborating on China’s role in the UN 1267 committee, Mr. Mao, cited media reports saying that, in the past, China was involved in at least three sanctions cases related to Pakistan.

Pointing to foreign media reports, the former diplomat observed that on two occasions — April 2006 and May 2008 — China stalled proposals by the United States, United Kingdom and France to put Hafez Saeed and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) on the 1267 list, citing insufficient evidence.

However, China did not stop the listing of JuD and its leaders, Hafez Saeed and Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, on the 1267 roll, following the devastating 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai.

Following the listing, Pakistan closed more than 100 JuD offices, arrested more than 50 senior functionaries and imposed travel bans on 11 individuals.

In Mr. Mao’s view, in case Beijing carefully studies and adjusts its position on logging the JeM chief in the 1267 list, it would send a message that “China’s wish for developing a friendly relationship with India is sincere and it attaches great importance to the sentiments of 1.3 billion people”.

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