Perhaps still smarting under the designation of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as global terrorist, China tried to block India’s leadership of key terrorism-related UNSC subsidiary committees, according to diplomatic sources.
While India, as announced last week, will still head the counter-terrorism committee and also Taliban and Libya sanctions committees, China’s opposition seems to have prevented India from heading the all important Al Qaida sanctions committee that has in the past sanctioned international terrorists like Azhar and Hafiz Saeed and also terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
China had on several occasions in the past, at the behest of Pakistan, blocked Azhar’s listing by the same committee before finally removing its hold on the UN ban on the Pathankot attack mastermind. This was in 2019 after the Pulwama terror attack, under renewed pressure from the US, France and UK.
A diplomatic source from a P-5 country, speaking on condition of anonymity, said China was against India’s chairing of the Al Qaida sanctions committee. “There was a tussle because of China’s opposition leading even to a delay in the announcement of the committees but India will chair the counter-terrorism committee next year,” said the official.
Another diplomatic source said China was the only UNSC member to oppose India’s chairing of the sanctions committee for Al Qaida and affiliates.
This meant that for the first time the Taliban sanctions committee and the Al Qaida committee will be chaired by different countries. While India will head the Taliban sanctions committee, Norway will lead the Al Qaida and affiliates sanctions committee.
The countries which have headed the Taliban sanctions committee since 2011, when the original Al Qaida and Taliban committee was split into 2, have all also chaired the Al Qaida sanctions committee simultaneously. These include Indonesia, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Australia and Germany.
Chairing the sanctions committee for Al Qaida and affiliates would have been significant for India at a time it seeks support from the international community for holding Pakistan accountable for its support to cross-border terrorism.
This committee has the mandate to not just oversee the implementation of the sanctions measures but also to designate individuals and entities who meet the listing criteria set out in “relevant resolutions”. The committee also conducts “periodic and specialised” reviews of the entries on the sanctions list and reports annually to the Security Council on the implementation of the sanctions measures. Pakistan had earlier, with help from China, sought the listing of 4 Indians for alleged terrorist activities by the same committee.
It’s significant for India though that it is chairing the Taliban sanctions committee at a time the intra-Afghan negotiations for peace are taking place. However, while this committee too can designate individuals and entities, a lot of what it does will hinge on the outcome of the peace process in Doha.
While the counter-terrorism committee, which India will chair only next year, also has a global mandate and is said to focus on specific “thematic areas” like violent extremism, foreign terrorist fighters and terror financing, it cannot sanction terror entities.
Before it finally dropped its objection to the designation of Azhar in 2019, China had at least on 4 occasions blocked the ban on the man widely recognized as the chief of JeM, a UN designated terror group. In response, India had accused China of maintaining “double standards” on terrorism.
After India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, China backed Pakistan’s attempts to internationalise the Kashmir issue by seeking discussion at the UNSC on India’s action. These close-door, informal meetings though ended without any outcome and with other member-states agreeing that Kashmir was a bilateral issue that didn’t merit the attention of the UNSC.