India is wasting both time and energy in its bid for a UN ban against JeM chief Masood Azhar. Repeated attempts by India to get the United Nations Security Council’s sanctions committee to declare him a global terrorist has failed, thanks to China.
The JeM is already a UN-declared terrorist group. The attempt by India is to target Azhar individually. This would mean a freeze on his financial assets and an international travel ban.
The JeM was founded by Azhar after he was released from an Indian jail in 1999 in exchange for passengers of a hijacked Indian airlines plane from Kathmandu. The swap took place in Kandahar, when Afghanistan was under Taliban control.
This happened during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s era and became a major political talking point - whether it was a wise move to let-off the dreaded terrorists.
Repeated attempts by India to get the UN Security Council’s sanctions committee to declare him a global terrorist has failed, thanks to China.
Since then Jaish, like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, has been in the forefront of the anti-India groups stirring trouble in the country, especially Kashmir. Backed by Pakistan's army and the ISI, the terror outfits enjoy free run to plot terror strikes. For this, Masood’s financial assets need not come into play nor does he need to travel outside Pakistan to plan these attacks.
Would proscribing Masood Azhar make any difference, considering the fact that the JeM has carried out several attacks in India despite being banned by the UN?
There are strong evidence of JeM's hand behind major strikes, including the 2001 Parliament attack and the car bomb explosion in J&K Assembly. JeM is also believed to have played a role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks as well as the assault inside the Pathankot air force base in 2016, which brought all peace talks between India and Pakistan to a halt.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had initially tried to restore ties with Islamabad, but groups like JeM and LeT made sure that the peace moves were thwarted. Following the Pathankot attack, India-Pakistan relations have deteriorated further.
The JeM, along with the Lashkar, is active in Kashmir and responsible for strikes on security camps and patrolling parties in the Valley. None of this can be stopped by the UN sanctions. Experts believe since the terror outfits have the backing of the Pakistan Army, there is little that the UN can do, considering it has no presence on the ground in Pakistan.
After all, it will depend on Pakistan to enforce whatever sanctions the UNSC declares on Azhar. Pakistan's "disregard" for the UN sanctions list is well-known - placing Azhar and others like him under house arrest whenever the pressure increases and letting them free once the international attention gets diverted.
Getting Masood Azar declared a global terrorist would play well with the domestic audience in India, but will make little difference on the ground.
The fact is even if China comes around and decides to support India’s move to designate Azhar a terrorist under the sanctions committee of the UNSC, it will not make India or its citizens any safer.
China, as a veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council, has repeatedly blocked India’s move to designate Azhar a terrorist.
Earlier, China cited technical reasons to stop India's bid. However, this time around, it has said there is no consensus on the issue. New Delhi knows it very well that China, Pakistan’s all-weather friend, will bat for Islamabad. Perhaps India is hoping to embarrass China over its double standards on terror.
"India strongly believes that double standards and selective approaches will undermine the international community’s resolve to combat terrorism… accommodating terrorism for narrow objectives is both short-sighted and counter-productive,’’ the MEA said in response to China’s latest move.
China, however, knows where its core interests lie. China and Pakistan’s interests are integrated now more than ever. While it has been supporting Pakistan in the past mainly for strategic reasons to checkmate India, the relationship for the first time has major economic interests, especially with its massive investments and development initiatives in Pakistan, including the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
Coming back to Masood Azhar, it is the Pakistan Army and the ISI that controls him and the JeM . So, till the time that doesn't change, it will not make a whit of a difference. It's clear as day, Pakistan is in no mood to rein in the terror outfits.