NEW DELHI - India has expressed disappointment that a measure by the U.N. Security Council to name the head of the Islamic militant group, Jaish-e- Mohammad (JeM) as a global terrorist, has been blocked by China. The measure was proposed after India and Pakistan came to the brink of war last month following a suicide attack in Indian Kashmir for which the group claimed responsibility.
India has long been frustrated by the repeated block exercised by Pakistan’s close ally, Beijing, on its decade-long effort to blacklist Masood Azhar. New Delhi blames his JeM group for several high profile attacks in India.
In a statement India’s Foreign Ministry vowed to pursue “all available avenues to ensure that terrorist leaders who are involved in heinous attacks on our citizens are brought to justice.”
France, along with the United States and Britain, proposed the move to name Azhar a global terrorist after India mounted a diplomatic offensive to put pressure on Pakistan to act against militant groups following the February 14 suicide attack that killed 40 paramilitaries in Kashmir — the deadliest such incident in 30 years.
It was India’s fourth attempt to put Azhar on a U.N. global list of terrorists, which would subject him to an assets freeze, travel ban and an arms embargo.
After putting a “technical hold” on the move to blacklist Azhar, China said it needs more time to conduct a "thorough and in-depth investigation” on the matter. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Beijing is “ready to communicate and coordinate with all sides including India to properly handle this issue.”
China’s block of the man New Delhi considers the “mastermind” of high profile terror attacks in India, has become a festering irritant in its ties with its giant neighbor.
It triggered an angry reaction among social media users in India with the hashtag #BoycottChinaProducts trending on Twitter in India. It was headline news in newspapers and television broadcasts.
The attack for which the JeM claimed responsibility triggered huge anger in India and prompted a dangerous aerial confrontation with Pakistan after New Delhi carried out airstrikes on what it said was a militant base of the group inside Pakistan.
Islamabad says it banned the JeM after the group was blacklisted by the United Nations in 2001 following an attack on India’s parliament, but security analysts say it continues to operate under different names.
Pakistan also said last week that it had detained the son and brother of Masood Azhar as part of a recent crackdown on militant groups. But India, which blames Pakistan for not doing enough to rein in militant groups, has expressed skepticism about Islamabad’s actions.
Masood Azhar founded the militant group after he was released by India in 1999 in exchange for the passengers of a hijacked Indian Airlines plane. Besides an attack on its parliament in 2001, India blames the JeM for attacks on an air base in Punjab and a military camp in Kashmir in 2016.
On Wednesday the Indian foreign minister, while giving a speech on her government’s foreign policy, said that if the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan “is so generous and a statesman, he should give us Masood Azhar.” She also said that India could have a good relationship with Pakistan only if the neighboring country “takes action against terror groups on its soil.”
However, in a sign that tensions between the arch rivals are de-escalating, officials from both countries met on Thursday for discussions on facilitating visits by Sikh pilgrims in India to one of their holiest shrines located in Pakistan.
Held on the Indian side of the Wagah border crossing between the two countries, a joint statement said the discussions were “constructive” and both sides agreed to “rapidly operationalize the project.”
Analysts say it is a positive signal that their recent hostilities did not derail the initiative, which many had hoped would improve ties between the nuclear armed countries. Dubbed a “corridor of peace,” the Kartarpur corridor is set to open later this year.