Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's re-election bid received a big fillip on Wednesday after a UN Security Council committee blacklisted Masood Azhar, the head of a Pakistan-based militant group, a decade after New Delhi first demanded such an action. Azhar's Jaish-e-Mohammed or JeM claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack in Indian-administered Kashmir in February that killed 40 Indian paramilitary police. JeM was also blamed for a high-profile attack on India's parliament in 2001, and local media often calls Azhar the country's "enemy No. 1".
The UN sanction against Masood Azhar is being viewed as a major diplomatic win for India in its drive against cross-border terrorism.Azhar was listed by the UN’s 1267 Sanctions Committee on Wednesday for his association with the Al-Qaeda and his role in financing, planning and facilitating terror acts by JeM.
However, there was no mention of the deadly terror attack in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir, an incident for which responsibility was claimed by JeM, in which 40 Indian paramilitary personnel were killed on February 12.
After the UNSC designation of Azhar as a global terrorist, he will be subjected to assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo. An assets freeze under the sanctions committee requires that all countries freeze without delay the funds and other financial assets or economic resources of designated individuals and entities.
Azhar, along with four other hardcore terrorists from Pakistan, were freed by India in return for safe release of more than 100 passengers of an Indian Airlines plane which was hijacked from Kathmandu to Kandahar, Afghanistan, in December, 1999. At that time, a BJP government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee ruled India.
The news about UNSC designation of Azhar a global terrorist which caps India’s efforts for this for a decade was broken by India's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Syed Akbaruddin who tweeted "Big, small, all join together. Masood Azhar designated as a terrorist in @UN Sanctions list. Grateful to all for their support."
"This is for us a significant outcome because we have been at it for several years. The first effort that we made in this regard was in 2009. More recently, we have been persistent diligent and in a subterranean manner making all our efforts towards this goal. Today that goal stands achieved," Akbaruddin said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed as a “huge win” for India the UNSC designation of Azhar as a global 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,” Modi tweeted.
Later, addressing an election rally in Jaipur on Wednesday afternoon, he said the United Nations' decision to list Azhar as a global terrorist was a "big victory" in the fight against terror and claimed that it will serve as the first step in his government's plan to bring the curtains down on those targeting India. "From now on, whenever the country faces danger of any kind from anybody, we will enter their homes and eliminate them. If they fire bullets at us, we will fire bombs at them," Modi said.
"The world has begun listening to India over the last few years. We cannot be ignored anymore. And I would like to say openly that this is just the start. Just wait and see what happens next," PM Modi said, even as the crowds cheered. A spokesman of the India External Affairs Ministry said the 1267 Sanctions Committee’s decision to designate the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad, Masood Azhar, as a UN proscribed terrorist “is a step in the right direction to demonstrate the international community’s resolve to fight against terrorism and its enablers.” Commenting on the action against, Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said Islamabad “will immediately enforce the sanctions imposed on Azhar. He also rejected the world body's move as a "victory for India and validation of its stance" as projected by the Indian media.
A veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has been repeatedly blocking the 15-nation body’s bid to blacklist Azhar as all decisions of the committee are taken through consensus. As recent as March 13 this year, China had put the hold on the proposal to blacklist the JeM chief. The proposal was the fourth such bid at the UN in the last 10 years to list Azhar as a global terrorist.
However, in recent days, there had been indications that China is likely to come around and will lift its hold on the Azhar proposal when Beijing Foreign Ministry spokesman said a couple of days ago that the issue will be resolved soon. The US welcomed the listing of Azhar and sought "sustained actions" from Pakistan against terrorism, consistent with its international obligations."We expect all countries to uphold these obligations," a spokesperson for the US Mission in UN told PTI, noting that the JeM is a UN-designated terrorist group, and Azhar, as the founder and leader of JeM, clearly met the criteria for designation by the world body.
France also welcomed the UN move to designate Azhar as a global terrorist, saying it "signals the successful realisation" of its efforts. For many years, French diplomacy has been relentlessly pleading for sanctioning Azhar, "head of the terrorist group responsible, notably, for the Pulwama attack", said a statement issued by the French Foreign Ministry.
France had moved a resolution in the United Nations 1267 sanctions committee, after the February 14 Pulwama attack, to list Masood Azhar as a terrorist.
India had made the first move to blacklist Azhar in 2009. In 2016 again, India moved the proposal with the US, the UK and France, the three permanent members of the UNSC, in the UN's 1267 Sanctions Committee to ban Azhar who is also the mastermind of the attack on India’s parliament in December 2000 and financial capital Mumbai in November, 2008 and on an Indian Air Force base in Pathankot in January, 2016.
In 2017, the P3 nations moved a similar proposal again. However, on all occasions China had blocked India's proposal from being adopted by the sanctions committee While the US was backed by the UK and France in its endeavour, India engaged separately with China to strengthen its case during its Foreign Secretary’s Vijay K Gokhale’s visit to Beijing in April this year when he met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Xi.
Russia, the other UNSC permanent member, also played a quiet role by urging China to accede to India’s request to blacklist Azhar in the backdrop of Pulwama terror attack to earn India’s goodwill. Indonesia, which has the world’s Muslim population, also played an important role as chair of the UN’s 1267 Sanction Committee. .
Sources said China finally gave in to mounting pressure from the US, France and the UK to act against Azhar and Beijing feared global isolation on the issue if it failed to fall in line with the others given the consensus against terrorism.