China blocks UN move to ban Masood Azhar

International efforts to fight terrorism suffered another setback in the UN Security Council when China, for the fourth time, used its veto power to block a move to designate Masood Azhar, chief of the Pakistan-based Islamist group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), as a global terrorist.

Although JeM has been listed as a terror group by the UN since 2001, Azhar had escaped sanctions because of China.

All eyes were on China ahead of the Council vote on Wednesday since there was a clear case against Azhar after JeM claimed the Feb 14 terrorist attack in Pulwama which killed 40 Indian paramilitary personnel.  

China joined other nations in condemning the attack but did not take a stand against him.

The Pulwama carnage prompted France, the UK and US to move a proposal in the Council to designate Azhar as a global terrorist. Russia too supported the move which, if passed, would have subject him to an assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo.

India expressed its disappointment over the outcome of the UN Council vote on Wednesday.

Without mentioning China, India’s ministry of external affairs said the veto blocked international action against Azhar.

The ministry said India will continue its efforts to ensure that terrorists like Azhar who plot heinous attacks on Indians are brought to justice.

China had previously blocked the UN move against Azhar in 2009, 2016 and 2017 to please its all-weather ally Pakistan that encourages groups such as JeM and Lashkar-e-Taiba to target India.

By protecting Azhar, China has sent a strong message to the world that relationship with Pakistan is far more important to them than a few soldiers killed in a terrorist strike in India.    

China’s big talk about regional stability and peace proves hollow. It is only concerned about its investment schemes in Pakistan. By developing Pakistan, China is pushing its own agenda.

Beijing can conveniently ignore the cross-border terrorism India faces and go on protecting Azhar. It will wake up only when terrorists start attacking its own workers engaged in projects like the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. That day may not be far off.