In a huge diplomatic victory for India, the United Nations on Wednesday designated chief Masood Azhar as a "global terrorist" after China lifted its ‘technical hold’ on a proposal to blacklist the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief.
The much-awaited ban on Azhar came a decade after New Delhi approached the world body for the first time on the issue.
The UN committee listed Azhar on May 1, 2019 as being associated with Al-Qaeda for "participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of", "supplying, selling or transferring arms and related material to", "recruiting for", "otherwise supporting acts or activities of", and "other acts or activities indicating association with" the JeM.
However, there was no mention of the deadly Pulwama attack in Jammu and Kashmir, which was claimed by the Jaish.
Pakistan said it would "immediately enforce the sanctions" imposed by the UN on Azhar and agreed to his listing after all "political references", including attempts to link him to the Pulwama attack were removed from the proposal.
Pakistan foreign office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said Pakistan would "immediately enforce the sanctions" imposed on Azhar.
"Formal action will be taken on three counts: assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo. That is the requirement...Pakistan is a responsible state and we will take appropriate action," he said.
A UNSC designation will subject Azhar to an assets freeze, travel ban and an arms embargo. An asset freeze under the sanctions committee requires that all states freeze without delay the funds and other financial assets or economic resources of designated individuals and entities.
However, ANI quoted sources saying that Azhar has been shifted to a safe house in Islamabad from his residence in Bahawalpur by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
China said it took the decision after it found no objection to the listing proposal by the US, the UK and France following a careful study of the “revised materials”.
China earlier removed its hold on the proposal moved by France, UK and the US in the UNSC's 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee in February just days after the deadly Pulwama terror attack.
A veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council, China was the sole hold-out in the 15-nation body on the bid to blacklist Azhar, blocking attempts by placing a "technical hold". All decisions of the committee are taken through consensus.
In recent days, there had been indications that China is likely to come around and will lift its hold on the Azhar proposal.
Beijing put the hold on the proposal on March 13, scuttling yet another attempt 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.
In 2009, India moved a proposal by itself to designate Azhar.
In 2016 again India moved the proposal with the P3 - the US, the UK and France in the UN's 1267 Sanctions Committee to ban Azhar, also the mastermind of the attack on the air base in Pathankot in January, 2016.
In 2017, the P3 nations moved a similar proposal again. However, on all occasions China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, blocked India's proposal from being adopted by the sanctions committee.
Keeping up the international pressure to designate Azhar as a global terrorist, the US, supported by France and the UK, moved a draft resolution directly in the UN Security Council to blacklist him.
Beijing lifting its hold is a massive diplomatic win for India, which had relentlessly pursued the matter with its international allies.
The Jaish-e-Mohammad chief was a close associate of Osama bin Laden, terror motivator in several African countries and also known by many as the Pakistani cleric who brought jihad into the religious discourse at mosques in the UK, the official said.
The influence of the 50-year-old overweight terrorist mastermind was so huge that, when he was released by India in exchange for freeing the hijacked Indian Airlines aircraft IC-814 on December 31, 1999 in Kandahar, Laden hosted a banquet for him the same night
Global terrorist for Azhar a big success for India: PM Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the UN decision to declare Azhar a global terrorist is a big success for India's efforts to root out terrorism and proved that the country's voice can no longer be ignored on the global stage.
"It is a matter of satisfaction that a consensus has developed in the world on designating Masood Azhar a global terrorist. Der aaye, durust aaye (Better late than never)," Modi said at an election rally here.
"It is a big success for India's efforts to root out terrorism," he said.
The PM said India's voice is being heard globally and its views can no longer be ignored. "This has been proved today."
He said under the previous "remote-controlled" government, even the voice of the prime minister was not heard, but now the voice of 130 crore Indians is making an impact at the United Nations.
"I want to say it loud and clear that this is just the beginning. Wait for what happens next," Modi said.
The prime minister said he was thankful to the world community for standing with India in its fight against terrorism.
Major powers welcome ban on Azhar
The international community led by the US welcomed the designation of Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN and sought "sustained actions" from Islamabad against terrorism emanating from the country.
The US noted that the JeM was a United Nations-designated terrorist group, and Azhar, as the founder and leader of JEM, clearly met the criteria for designation by the United Nations.
"The United States welcomes the addition of Masood Azhar to the UN 1267 ISIL and al-Qaida Sanctions list.
"This listing requires all UN member states to implement an assets freeze, a travel ban, and an arms embargo against Azhar. We expect all countries to uphold these obligations," a State Department spokesperson said.
While welcoming the publicly stated intentions of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, the spokesperson said, "We are encouraged by initial steps taken by the Government of Pakistan..."
"We appreciate Pakistani Prime Minister Khan's stated commitment that Pakistan, for the sake of its own future, will not allow the operation of militant and terrorist groups from its territory.
"We look forward to further and sustained actions from Pakistan as outlined in its National Action Plan, and consistent with its international obligations," the State Department spokesperson emphasised.
France, which also backed the proposal to ban Azhar, welcomed the United Nations' move, saying it "signals the successful realisation" of its efforts.
"We welcome the designation today, by the UNSC 1267 Sanctions Committee, of Masood Azhar on the UN's ISIL (Da'esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions List," according to a statement issued by the Foreign Affairs of France.
In London, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said the UN's designation of Azhar was a positive development for the South Asian region.
"The listing of Masood Azhar, leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist group, is very welcome and long overdue,” an FCO spokesperson said.
"The UK has consistently called for this action to be taken, and we worked closely with our international partners to ensure the right result. This is a positive development for the security and stability of the South Asia region,” the spokesperson noted.
(With PTI inputs)
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