China has indicated it will once again block India’s request at the United Nations Security Council to declare Masood Azhar, leader of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) extremist group, a global terrorist.
This is not the first time China, considered an all-weather ally of Pakistan, has halted India’s efforts against Azhar at the U.N. Security Council.
As one of the five permanent and veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, China has utilized its veto power twice this year to block India’s proposal of designating the JeM leader a terrorist.
The proposal is on "technical hold" by China and the deadline for the hold expires Thursday.
“As for the listing application by the relevant country [India], there are disagreements. China put the technical hold so as to allow for more time to deliberate on this matter. To our regret, the committee so far has yet to reach consensus,” Hua Chunying, spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a recent press conference.
Chinese authorities said they will move forward with the application only when there is full consensus among the UNSC members.
"China always maintains that on the listing matter, the 1267 Committee [Security Council Committee] shall uphold the principle of objectivity, impartiality and professionalism, and make its decisions by consensus among its members on the basis of solid evidence,” Hua added.
Given that the so-called "technical hold" cannot be extended when it expires Thursday, China is expected to block the request permanently.
Jaish-e-Muhammad is designated as terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. India accuses its leader, Azhar, of launching several terrorist attacks on its soil, including a deadly assault on the country’s Pathankot Airbase in January 2016 and a terror attack on its parliament in 2002.
Following the Pathankot attack, India initiated the move to include Azhar on the U.N. terrorist list, which would subject him to a travel ban and have his assets frozen. All 15 members of the Security Council, except China, supported India’s bid.
China put a six-month hold on the request and extended it by another three months when it expired in September 2016. India renewed its request in December 2016, which China again blocked.
In January 2017, the United States, with the support of France and Britain, initiated another move to blacklist Azhar and China again put a technical hold on it, which expired in August and was extended for the last time until November 2 (Thursday).
India called China's latest statement on the issue "incomprehensible."
“This does not reflect well on the determination that the international community needs to display to decisively defeat the menace of terrorism,” India’s External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.
India has in the past repeatedly accused China of using its power at the United Nations Security Council to block India’s efforts to get a permanent seat in the Security Council and also to put terror groups that pose a threat to its security on the world body’s terror list.
Meanwhile, Pakistan rejects India’s allegations against Azhar that he masterminded last year’s Pathankot attack.
Pakistan said it had launched a comprehensive investigation, and detained and interrogated Azhar and several of his associates following India’s allegations, but found no evidence linking Azhar to the airbase attack.
Azhar, the founder of JeM, is an Islamist hard-liner and is considered to be a longtime foe of India who believes in the liberation of the Indian part of Kashmir.
JeM has already been blacklisted by the United Nations.