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Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar listed as global terrorist by UN after China lifts technical hold

Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar was on Wednesday designated a global terrorist by the UN after China withdrew its long-standing block to the move, marking a major diplomatic and political victory in the Indian government’s efforts to counter cross-border terrorism.

Azhar was listed by the UN’s 1267 Sanctions Committee for his association with al-Qaeda and his role in financing, planning and facilitating terrorist acts by the JeM, shortly after officials announced in Islamabad that Pakistan would no longer object to his designation – a sign to iron brother China to lift the “technical hold” it had placed on four attempts to sanction Azhar.

Hindustan Times first reported on Tuesday that China was expected to lift its hold on listing Azhar at the UN on May 1.

Following the designation, Pakistan will be required to take three steps – freeze the funds and financial assets of Azhar, enforce a travel ban on him, and cut off his access to arms and related materials.

At 6.30 pm IST, India’s permanent representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin, informed the country’s envoy to the US Harsh Shringla, about the listing and asked him to “brief the boss”. Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been inquiring about the matter since morning, he could not be directly informed by Shringla as the premier was in the midst of an election rally.

Shringla is believed to have informed National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, who rushed to the PMO from Sardar Patel Bhawan and informed Modi of the development on a secure line.

Shortly after the February 14 suicide attack in Pulwama that killed 40 Indian troopers and was claimed by JeM, France, with the backing of the US and the UK, moved a proposal at the 1267 Sanctions Committee to sanction 50-year-old Azhar. After a 10-day period to consider the matter, China blocked the proposal on March 13 by saying more time was needed to discuss the issue.

This angered the US, which threatened to take the matter to the UN Security Council, where discussions are held in public, unlike consultations held behind closed doors by the sanctions committee. The heavy lifting was done by the US as it wanted the terrorist tag for Azhar during consultations on April 23, but China and Pakistan wanted it to happen after the Indian elections as they didn’t want the listing to benefit Modi, people familiar with developments said.

The date was then moved by the US to April 30, though China was insisting on May 15. A compromise of May 1 was reached after the US hinted it would take the matter to the Security Council, the people said.

“This is a win-win situation for both sides in counter-terrorism cooperation, which is not only beneficial to Indian national stability and to promote the peace process between India and Pakistan, while signifying solidarity of SCO members. It will have a very good impact on Sino-Indian ties,” Weng said.

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