Podcast | Will China Stand With India Against Masood Azhar Now?

Will China continue to stand in India’s way and prevent Masood Azhar from being designated as a global terrorist?

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Is Jaish-e-Mohammed's leader Masood Azhar dead or not? That was the confusion all weekend.

Masood Azhar as you know is the man sitting at the centre of the current tensions between India and Pakistan. There has been all sorts of unverified reports of him dying over renal failure and then counter reports of him being alive but unwell. But Masood Azhar being alive or dead doesn't solve any problem.

Certainly, his death would affect the morale of his terror outfit but given that most of his family members are also part of Jaish, in the event of his death, he would simply be replaced and Jaish would continue to function.

But all these speculations came at a time when France, UK and the US filed a renewed proposal to list Masood Azhar as a global terrorist which would effectively freeze all his assets and by extension the funds to carry out terrorist attacks would run dry.

But will China continue to stand in India’s way and prevent Masood Azhar from being designated as a global terrorist? Tune in to The Big Story!

India has long been complaining about the fact that Azhar has been enjoying ‘free rein’ in Pakistan, and has repeatedly demanded that Islamabad take stringent action to stop the JeM’s activities on its soil.

And India has enough reasons to complain considering Jaish has carried out several attacks on Indian soil other than the latest one in Pulwama – for instance, the 2001 terror attack on the Indian Parliament, the 2016 Pathankot terror attack, and the 2016 Uri terror attack.

Yet, China has consistently vetoed this proposal again and again at the UNSC. India had first moved the proposal in 2009 and then in 2016 as well. Then in 2017, the three permanent veto-wielding nations that is US, UK and France, moved a similar proposal and China which is also a permanent member has consistently blocked all these proposals.

But things have been slightly different this time around, well for one, in two interviews, Pakistan Foreign Minister Mahmood Qureshi made a slip. In an interview with CNN, he acknowledged that Jaish is based in Pakistan and also said that Masood Azhar was far too sick to even move.

And a few days later, in an interview with BBC, he also admitted that the government was in touch with Jaish.

Other than Mr Qureshi's comments, if we look at China's response on the whole issue it's been a little restrained.

We spoke to former High Commissioner to Canada and South Korea Vishnu Prakash about whether Mahmood Qureshi made a slip or if it means something different.

As far as I see it, the Pakistanis have been cornered. They tried to be in denial but when they saw that wasn’t working, they switched gears. Mr Qureshi is nothing more than a front for the Pakistani army. He will do their bidding. In some of his comments, he was trying to be clever by half, but while he was ready to acknowledge the presence of Masood Azhar in Pakistan, his later comment about being in touch with Masood Azhar’s outfit, Jaish-e-Mohammed – that seemed to have been a slip of tongue, he tried to cover up but it didn’t work.
Vishnu Prakash, former High Commissioner to Canada and South Korea 

But as far as listing Masood Azhar as a global terrorist goes, is there any hope that China won't come in the way yet again? We asked Mr Prakash to weigh in and he was of the opinion that there's a slight chance that China may not oppose it this time.

Jaish had claimed earlier attacks as well but the big difference this time is that Pakistan has acknowledged that Jaish is based in Pakistan. The reaction of the international community has been really strong this time and China’s response has also been muted. China didn’t express the kind of support that Pakistan was seeking. China may certainly try to thwart the UNSC resolution but if they find themselves to be the minority then they might want to weigh the pros and cons because it wants to be perceived as one of the major powers and may not want to be seen as the sole country supporting a terrorist.
Vishnu Prakash, former High Commissioner to Canada and South Korea 

The UNSC has 10 working days to decide on the matter and in the meantime, India has furnished evidence on the activities of the JeM and its chief to all UNSC members, including the non-permanent ones, so we'll see the outcome of this proposal in the coming days.

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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