New Delhi: India could make a fresh bid to tag Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar, the alleged mastermind of the Pathankot attack, as a global terrorist. The move will serve as a test for China, which had blocked an earlier Indian proposal to this effect at the United Nations Security Council in 2010 at the behest of Pakistan.
The government is considering reviving the request as it feels the current situation – where the evidence points to Jaish’s hand in the terror strike, and with Pakistan itself detaining some members of the outfit – will make it difficult for China to oppose India’s demand.
Given the strategic interests that bind China and Pakistan, including their militaries, Beijing will find it difficult to go against Pakistan’s interests. But at the same time, China has condemned the attack on the Indian airbase, and is having to deal with Islamic extremists radicalised and trained in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
China has expressed concern over links between the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and Pakistani extremists, and though military operations and drone attacks have thinned the ETIM’s leadership, the outfit’s impact on China’s Uighur region, and even urban centres where stabbing attacks have taken place, is worrying.
Previously, China is understood to have raised queries about India providing “insufficient information” relating to Azhar and two other top terror operatives, Abdur Rehman Makki and Azam Cheema of Lashkar-e-Taiba.
This time around, India is preparing the ground against Azhar and his senior lieutenant Rauf Azghar through electronic evidence linking the fidayeen who attacked the IAF base with their JeM handlers in Pakistan. The phone numbers and identities have been shared with Pakistan.
If sanctions are imposed on Azhar and others under the UNSC resolution 1267, all countries will be required to act against them, deny them any sanctuary, and freeze financial assets.
Though India had given Pakistan leeway to act against Jaish, and kept the Lahore peace initiative alive by agreeing to defer a proposed meeting of foreign secretaries, it will not wait too long before seeking international action against Azhar.
The government expects fairly concrete action against Azhar from Pakistan, and this will remain a stumbling block in terms of domestic opinion in India as well as impatience with Islamabad’s suggestion that India should “move on” after every terrorist outrage.
The window of opportunity prised open by PM Narendra Modi’s Lahore diplomacy has been kept ajar due to his investment in the peace process and his relationship with his Pakistani counter Nawaz Sharif, and a desire to not let the gains go down the drain in the face of yet another jihadi strike.
But the generous acknowledgement of Pakistan’s efforts to track Jaish and the new preparedness of its army brass to sign on to a pro-India initiative will only go so far if clear progress on the Pathankot attack is not evident soon.