Pakistani cleric Maulana Masood Azhar (L) who was freed in exchange for hostages on a hijacked Indian plane adjusts his watch during a news conference February 4. Azhar announced the establishment of a new party by the name of Jaishe Muhammad ( the army of the prophet Muhammad) to fight Indian rule in disputed Kashmir region. At right is prominent Pakistani moslem scholar Mufti Shamzai. - PBEAHULNVDI
Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) on February 14 claimed responsibility for the suicide bomb blast on a CRPF convoy in Awantipora, Pulwama. At least 40 jawans were martyred.
The terrorist outfit, led and founded by the notorious Masood Azhar, has been responsible for some of the most dastardly terror attacks in India, including the attack on the Indian Air Force Base in Pathankot in January 2016 and the attack on Parliament in December 2001.
Despite its nefarious activities, China has consistently blocked India’s bid to get JeM chief Azhar declared as a designated ‘global terrorist’ at the United Nations (UN).
On the record, China has condemned the attack in Pulwama, with spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Geng Shuang telling mediapersons, "We firmly oppose and strongly condemn all forms of terrorism. We hope relevant regional countries will cooperate to cope with the threat of terrorism and jointly uphold regional peace and stability."
However, off the record, China has refused to end its “technical hold” on the ban on Azhar, blocking India’s attempts to declare him a “global terrorist”, twice this year alone.
In fact, just last week, China’s vice foreign minister Li Baodong sought to justify Beijing’s position on the ban on the UN ban on Azhar saying, “China is opposed to all forms of terrorism. There should be no double standards on counter-terrorism, nor should one pursue own political gains in the name of counter-terrorism", Mint reported.
When did India’s attempt to ban Azhar start?
The most recent effort began after JeM claimed responsibility for the attack on the Air Force Base in Pathankot. India demanded that Azhar be declared a global terrorist under the aegis of the UNSC (United Nations Security Council) 1267 committee. China, which is one of the five permanent members and hence has the power to veto, intervened at Pakistan’s behest and stalled the process in the garb of a “technical hold” in March 2016 and then in October 2016. A day before the technical hold ended, China used its veto power to block the proposal banning Azhar in December 2016.
In January 2017, China again employed a technical hold and blocked the proposal put forward by the US, the UK and France, three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Azhar was released by the A B Vajpayee government in December 1999, along with Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar and Omar Sheikh, in exchange for release of the passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC-814.
Why is China supporting Masood Azhar?
China and Pakistan are believed to be 'all-weather friends', and Beijing often views New Delhi as a competitor and, even a threat. Supporting Azhar could be a way to needle India and appease Pakistan.
Besides, China and Pakistan share a quid pro quo relationship, representing each other in official groups of nations where the other has a scarce representation. For instance, Pakistan stands up for China in Non-Aligned Movement (where Beijing has a scanty representation) and in return, Pakistan gets China’s veto power in the UNSC.
Another reason could be China holding a grudge against India for giving asylum to Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama in 1959, after China occupied Tibet in 1950. “For the Chinese, the Dalai Lama is sort of the equivalent of (Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist group leader) Hafeez Saeed for India," an Indian diplomat who was posted in Beijing told Mint.
In addition, China has recently pledged $51 billion in investments and development projects, including One Road One Belt (OROB) plan. The project, when completed, is said to provide China alternate routes to connect to Africa and West Asia, whilst providing infrastructural development to the most backward regions of Pakistan including insurgency-hit Baluchistan.