The scene that played out in the UN Security Council seemed eerily familiar- after India and the US brought a joint proposal to designate Rauf Asghar, deputy chief of the Jaish e Mohammad and brother of its chief Masood Azhar, as a global terrorist under UNSC resolution 1267, China placed a technical hold on the listing.
In that speech, Ambassador Khamboj hit out at:
- China- for blocking terrorist designations
- Pakistan- for harbouring terrorists, and for glorifying their acts
- Afghanistan- for the Taliban regime’s support to terror groups
- even the United Nations Secretariat itself, for not including Indian inputs on these groups in its latest situation report that the UNSG presented.
Ruchira Khamboj speech at UNSC:
“An effective functioning of the Sanctions Committees requires them to become more transparent, accountable and objective. The practice of placing holds and blocks on listing requests without giving any justification must end. It is most regrettable that genuine and evidence-based listing proposals pertaining to some of the most notorious terrorists in the world are being placed on hold. Double standards and continuing politicization have rendered the credibility of the Sanctions Regime at an all-time low.”
What is the 1267 Sanctions Committee?
1. The 1267 Sanctions Committee is one of several UN Security Council sanctions regimes that impose restrictions on people considered a global threat
2. In 1999, UNSC resolution 1267 decided on preparing a regularly updated list of members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda that was being sheltered there, chiefly Osama Bin Laden, as well as allied groups. Subsequently the list went from focusing on Taliban to focusing on Al Qaeda, and then Islamic State ISIL
3. Under the resolution, which has been amended several times, especially after the 9/11 attacks in the US, those on the list
-cannot be allowed to travel out of the jurisdiction they are found in and must be prosecuted effectively
- must not be allowed to access their funds, and all terror-linked funds frozen
- must not be allowed to access weapons
4. Since 1999, hundreds of names of individuals and entities have been added to the list- a large number of them are based in Afghanistan, but a very large number, estimated more than 120 is based in Pakistan- including anti-India groups.
5. After the IC-814 hijacking in 1999, and the 9/11 attacks, Jaish e Mohammad was banned in October 2001, and Lashkar e Toiba banned in May 2005, but India has faced an uphill battle in designating their leaders since then- with China, in particular, holding or blocking the designations of Masood Azhar, finally listed in 2019 after the Pulwama attack, and even Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed and LeT commander Zaki Ur Rahman Lakhvi in December 2008 right after the attacks.
6. India had proposed listing Azhar in 2009, then again in 2016 and 2017 before succeeding in 2019. In June this year, China placed a hold on designating LeT deputy chief and Hafiz Saeed’s brother-in-law Abdur Rahman Makki, and now in August has placed a hold on designating Rauf Asghar.
What is the evidence against Asghar?
- When his brother Masood Azhar was in jail in India, Rauf Asghar planned and executed the IC-814 hijacking, taking nearly 200 passengers and crew hostage, and flying them to Kandahar. Remember, the world watched the surrender of Masood Azhar and 2 other terrorists in Kandahar in 1999 by India to Taliban officials, so there is no doubt about the nature of the attack
- Rauf Asghar is Deputy Chief of the Jaish e Mohammad, has been de facto chief when Masood Azhar has been taken into custody. This is a group responsible for
1. IC-814 hijack
2. 2001 Parliament attack
3. 2003 Assassination attempt on Pakistan President Musharraf
4. 2016 Attack on Pathankot Airforce Base
5. 2014-2018 attacks on Army camps in Jammu Kashmir -Kathua, Samba, Nagrota, Tangdhar, Sunjwan, Jhajjar Koti
6. 2019 Pulwama bombing of a CRPF convoy in which 40 paramilitary personnel were killed
- Asghar is wanted for recruiting, radicalising, training terrorists for the attacks, raising funds and liaising with other groups like LeT
- Rauf Asghar is on the US’s Foreign Terrorist list, and India’s most wanted terrorist list, and since 2019 has been convicted in Pakistan on terror related charges
Given all of the above, Indian officials said the evidence against Asghar, as with the case of Makki, wanted for the Mumbai attacks and other LeT attacks on India is “incontrovertible”, and China’s moves show its political agenda in favour of Pakistan and Pakistan-based groups.
What is China’s response?
China says it needs time, and has placed a technical hold, not a complete block on the 2 listings- which will last 6 months apiece, and then can extend the hold for another 6 months. It said it is following the Committees own rules.
What are India’s options?
1. Ramp up international pressure on China to change its position- this has not always been successful, given terror listings are not the biggest priority in various global negotiations with China on Taiwan, trade, indo-pacific tensions, human rights etc.The global war against terrorism has also been diluted after many countries including India have opened ties with the Taliban
2. Deal directly, bilaterally with China to convince it to shift- for China. This is equally difficult, given India’s negotiations with China are focussed on the border standoff since 2020, and other issues. However, if China agrees to the terror designations, it could be a way for a breakthrough in other parts of the relationship
3. A red flag may have been that the two proposals were joint India-US proposals unlike the past, when India had brought more countries on board, and India could amend its proposal to include other sponsors as well
4.Open a dialogue with Pakistan on bringing these terrorists to justice- remember, Pakistan is hopeful of being let off the greylist at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) this year, and any action on terrorism will assist its case. Remember, India’s own review at the FATF also begins this year.
5. India can propose amendments to the UN’s processes on Sanctions committees that don’t allow one member to hold the rest back from terror designations- and push for the adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT), originally proposed by India in 1996. In October this year, India will host a unique Counter Terrorism Committee meeting in Delhi and Mumbai, where all 15 UNSC members will be present, including China, US and Russia.
The war against terrorism is the long haul, and is a fight at the UN that India has waged for more than two decades,with some setbacks, and many successes. While India must continue to push for China to reverse its stand on the listings, it is equally important to focus on the implementation of existing UN mandates on fighting terrorism.
The China - Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics- by Andrew Small tells you about why China continues to support Pakistan, even on these listings
Books on UN and Terrorism
1. A book on the laws since 9/11: 9/11 and the Rise of Global Anti-Terrorism Law: How the UN Security Council Rules the World- essays brought out by Cambridge Press
2. The UN and Counter-Terrorism Global Hegemonies, Power and Identities By Alic Martini is also a very academic book
3. One book that looks at the frustrations of India at the UN Security Council is by Ambassador Khamboj’s predecessor a decade ago: Hardeep Puri’s Perilous Interventions: The Security Council and the Politics of Chaos
Some books on Taliban and groups in Pakistan by foreign authors: 4. The Taliban at War: 2001 – 2021 by Antonio Giustozzi, who is coming out soon with Jihadism in Pakistan: Al-Qaeda, Islamic State and the Local Militants, in 2023 5. In Their Own Words: Understanding Lashkar-e-Tayyaba by Christine Fair
And Pakistani authors who have written on the subject, at considerable risk to themselves:
6. Read Zahid Hussain: No-Win War: The Paradox of US-Pakistan Relations in Afghanistans Shadow, also Scorpion’s Tail and Frontline Pakistan
7. Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 by Syed Saleem Shahzad 8. Talibanisation of Pakistan: From 9/11 to 26/11 and Beyond by Amir Mir