China again blocks bid to have Masood Azhar designated 'global terrorist': Why is JeM chief so important to Beijing?

China blocked a US-backed proposal, again, to have Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar declared a "global terrorist" at the United Nations, saying "there is no consensus" within the members of the sanctions committee to do so. It was the fourth time China has blocked this bid.

Azhar, the Pathankot attack mastermind, is currently in Pakistan, and has been at the center of a diplomatic tussle between the three nations. In March last year, China was the only member among the 15-nation body not in favour of India's application to have him designated a global terrorist. The other 14 members of the council had agreed to place him on the list, which would subject him to an assets freeze and travel ban.

India worries that China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, would stand by Pakistan, its nuclear armed arch-rival. On Thursday, India reacted sharply to the latest development, saying "accommodating with terrorism for narrow objectives was short-sighted and counterproductive".

File image of Masood Azhar. Reuters

File image of Masood Azhar. Reuters

External affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, in a strongly-worded statement, said, "We are deeply disappointed that once again, a single country has blocked international consensus on the designation of an acknowledged terrorist and leader of UN-designated terrorist organisation, Masood Azhar."

Kumar said that "double standards" and "selective approaches" will undermine the international community's resolve to combat terrorism.

Why is Masood Azhar so important to China?

As per a report on Livemint, India providing shelter to the Dalai Lama hasn't gone down well with China, and by defying India over the Masood Azhar issue may be Beijing's idea of "payback".

The Dalai Lama has long been a thorn in China's side, and it has held it against India. "For the Chinese, the Dalai Lama is sort of the equivalent of Hafeez Saeed for India," an Indian diplomat who was posted in Beijing recently was quoted as saying in the report.

Furthermore, India also opted out of China's ambitious 'One-Belt-One-Road' summit earlier this year. Japan and the US had both attended the summit, making India the most conspicuous absentee.

Considering how important OBOR was to China and given how Beijing bent backwards to try and accommodate India, as argued by Firstpost earlier, New Delhi's boycott would have left a sour taste. Already, several experts had claimed that China's bullish stance on Doka La was in part due to the snub it received regarding OBOR. The stance it has taken up on the Masood Azhar case could be a continuation of the same.

More importantly, however, is the fact that Pakistan has been China's ally, and has had Beijing's back at summits like the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement, where China has no representation. As argued in Financial Express, Beijing sees Pakistan as a means of countering India's rapid rise.

At a time when India and the US are moving ever closer — Washington has backed India on both the Masood Azhar issue and on OBOR — China would not want to antagonise Pakistan. And if all it takes to keep Pakistan happy is block a bid to have Masood Azhar designated a "global terrorist", it would be happy to do this.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Nov 03, 2017 13:54 PM

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