Amid China’s continuing insistence to not name Masood Azhar a terrorist, India has hit out at its neighbour for demanding “solid evidence” against the Jaish-e-Mohammed chief. With the 1267 committee, India has been attempting to place sanctions on Masood Azhar.
What is the 1267 Committee?
In 1999, the U.N. had set up an al-Qaeda/Taliban sanctions committee (UNSCR 1267) to impose strictures on anyone dealing with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. In 2011, the UNSC made it simply the al-Qaeda sanctions committee, separating the Taliban to facilitate talks by delisting Taliban leaders being engaged. In December 2015, the UNSC made a further shift by renaming it “ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee” (UNSCR/2253). It took two years and the 9/11 attacks for the JeM to be designated a terror group by the UNSC 1267 sanctions committee in 2001. In September 2016, India asked the 1267 committee to consider banning Masood Azhar, the head of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, which was already a banned entity.
Who is Masood Azhar?
Masood Azhar was responsible for the January 2, 2016 attack on Pathankot. He is a Pakistani national who was released by India in 1999 in return for hostages of a hijacked aircraft. Azhar was seen live across televisions worldwide. On December 31, 1999, he was exchanged for hostages on the Kandahar tarmac after the hijack of the Nepal-New Delhi Indian Airlines Flight 814 (IC-814). He has recorded this in his own book From Imprisonment to Freedom , details of the terror plot to hijack the plane to Kandahar, and of links to the Taliban who pushed Indian negotiators on the ground (including current National Security Adviser Ajit Doval) into effecting his release. He openly spoke of meeting Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, travelling to Somalia to help recruit for al-Qaeda, and his loyalty to Taliban chief Mullah Omar, whom he described as his “beloved Amir-ul-Momineen (leader of the faithful)”. Among the P5, the U.S., U.K. and France co-sponsored India’s resolution against Azhar, China vetoed it.
The bid to designate Azhar as an international terrorist has run into difficulty, with China extending its technical hold on India’s submission. Seeking reform of the working of the committee, Vikas Swarup, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs External Affairs, said the committee was non-transparent and it had to address procedural shortcomings.
China had blocked India’s attempts to list Masood Azhar in the agenda of the 1267 committee in 2016 neutralising India’s campaign. China cited the absence of consensus among members of a UN committee, as an explanation for its decision to block the ban. China recently expressed hope that its decision to place a ‘technical hold’ on designating Masood Azhar an international terrorist will not have a negative impact on China-India ties. On February 22, 2017 India hit out at China for demanding “solid evidence” for securing the ban on Azhar, saying the extent of his actions were “well-documented” and the “burden of proof” was not on the country. Now, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar is on a high-profile visit to China. He will begin a new round of the strategic dialogue and discuss Beijing’s resistance to Azhar’s ban.
After the Pathankot airbase attack in January 2016, Pakistan said Azhar was under “protective custody”, a claim India never believed. But he resurfaced in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir around October 2016 when he addressed supporters in Muzaffarabad through phone. The JeM, which he formed after his release by India, was banned by the Pervez Musharraf dispensation. Though the ban split the JeM into several groups, their militant activities never stopped. Curiously enough, Azhar was never arrested, and according to Dawn , he lived freely in Pakistani Punjab. Around the time, when Dawn ’s Cyril Almeida reported on a suspected rift between civilian and military leaderships, the government barred him from leaving the country. On January 1, 2017, on the eve of the first anniversary of the Pathankot attack, Pakistan endorsed the block that China has imposed on India’s campaign saying New Delhi’s proposal had “no merit”.
Why is Pakistan important to China?
With its strategic position, Pakistan offers China an opportunity to expand its influence against “South Asian Big Brother” India. Beijing has been showering Islamabad with military and economic goodies from a submarine contract to the $40-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which irks New Delhi as it traverses through PoK. Pakistan’s support to China over the South China Sea issue too has fuelled India’s fears of Beijing’s forays in the Indian Ocean region.