Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar was on May 1 listed as a "designated" global terrorist by the United Nations Security Council which means there will be a travel ban, an arms embargo on him and freezing of his assets. The official listing talks about Azhar’s ties with Jaish and al-Qaeda but has no reference to his role in Kashmir violence. This was the compromise that India (or its allies at the UNSC) had to make to get Azhar listed.

  • The UNSC has been given the responsibility of maintaining international peace and security and has the power to achieve this objective by adopting a variety of binding measures, including sanctions.
  • Currently, there are 14 sanctions committees under the UNSC, tasked with various responsibilities such as the political settlement of conflicts, nuclear non-proliferation and counter-terrorism.
  • Sanctions committees comprise of all 15 members of the Security Council. The ISIL (Da-esh) and Al Qaida sanctions committee, also known as the 1267 sanctions committee, oversees sanctions measures related to individuals, entities and groups, associated with the aforementioned organizations.
  • The committee can impose measures like asset freezes, travel bans and arms embargoes, and has presently listed 262 individuals and 83 entities in its sanctions regime.

Brief Timeline

  • India first attempted to have Azhar listed by the UNSC Resolution 1267 Sanctions Committee in 2009, after the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks, but China put a technical hold on the proposal.
  • Second attempt by India was made after the 2016, Pathankot terrorist attack.
  • In 2017, proposal was moved by US, UK, and France.

(Significance - It signaled that India was acting as part of a global effort, not pushing an India-Pakistan bilateral issue onto a multilateral forum.)

  • In 2019, after the Pulwama terrorist attack, India again pressed to have Azhar listed but China blocked it again for the fourth time in 10 years.
  • France, United Kingdom and United States co-sponsored a new listing application, which was also blocked by the China. However, when its hold expired, China raised no fresh opposition, leading to the listing of Azhar.

Note : India is not currently a member of the Security Council.

Major Issues With The Functioning of Sanctions Committee
  1. Requirement to undertake decisions by “consensus”; this means that a decision is adopted if no objection has been raised against it. It places the onerous condition of obtaining the concurrence of all 15 members of the committee to enable a decision to go through.
  2. Ability of a committee member to place a “hold” on the decision should they require more time and information to consider the matter at hand. As per the guidelines, a hold can last for as long as 6 months at a time, but can be extended further under “extraordinary circumstances”. Apart from this, there is no restriction on repeatedly invoking a hold which is why China had been able to block the decision 4 times.

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Why Did China Oppose?

  • Pakistan Factor - China has huge geostrategic and economic stakes in Pakistan, and is heavily invested in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of BRI.
  • Showcase its hegemony - China often through its stand at multilateral and international organisations attempts to showcase its hegemony in the prevailing multipolar world to gain greater bargaining power and dependency of the third world.

Why did China change its position now?

  • Wuhan Spirit - In an informal summit at Wuhan, India and China have manifested their desire to deepen bilateral ties and be sensitive to each other’s concerns.
  • Consolidating Support For BRI - China’s most ambitious project BRI would secure more support and confidence at global level especially from India, if China showcases its unequivocal support against global wrongs.
  • Shifting Priorities - China had shown in recent past that it is ready to do business with India even overlooking Pakistan’s sensitivities. For example, it dropped its opposition to adding Pakistan to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list.
  • Avoid International Criticisms - Azhar issue has cast shadows on China’s commitment to fighting terrorism. Jaish, has been an internationally designated terrorist outfit. And its role in multiple terrorist attacks in India has been well established.
  • Escaping Shameful Hypocrisy - China has its own terror problem. Abusing over a million Muslims at home (Xinjiang) while protecting “violent Islamic terrorist groups from sanctions at the U.N
  • S. Factor - U.S.A distributed a draft resolution at the UNSC (outside the 1267 Committee) to ban Azhar. China then would have to either back it or use its veto power, further isolating itself among global peers.
  • No Pulwama reference - Without completely abandoning Pakistan, china can claim its changed position was not under any pressure but based on the “revised” listing request.

  Significance of the Listing

  • Bonhomie between China & India: Eased atmosphere through positive manoeuvring  has created goodwill for the two sides to work on their differences, and build on their convergences.
  • Pressuring Pakistan to deliver on Afghanistan - It would now be relatively easy for US to concede pakistan to its terms on Afghanistan thereby securing interests of India as well.
  • Focus attention on Pakistan and the terrorist groups it harbours - Masood Azhar is one of about twenty 1267- sanctioned terrorists who have Pakistani nationality.
  • Weight on the Pakistan-China ties - forcing the latter to choose between the two to some extent.
  • Diplomacy Diversification - It would encourage India to develop more robust and profound bonds with France and U.K through diplomacy diversification and new ventures with more predictable partners.


  • Pakistan’s actions against others on the 1267 list have been far from effective, and in many cases obstructionist. For example Hafiz Saeed who roams free, addresses rallies, and runs a political party.


  • Constant focus - from India, and a push from the global community, to ensure that Masood Azhar is not just starved of funds, arms and ammunition as mandated, but that he is prosecuted in Pakistan for the acts of terror he is responsible for.
  • Financial and political pressure - should be maintained on Pakistan to bring the hard-fought designation of Masood Azhar to its logical conclusion.
  • Curb terror financing in a comprehensive manner - It should be effectively pursued, as front organizations would soon emerge to evade the effect of such listings. Here, role of FATF is very crucial.
  • UN Reforms - It is necessary for India and the rest of the UN membership to press for the need to reform the guidelines of sanctions committees and strive to make it more credible, legitimate and efficient.
  • Global consensus on the definition of terrorism - as envisaged by India through its proposed changes in the comprehensive convention on international terrorism (CCIT) must soon be adopted to avoid such delays/hurdles in the future.

The new leadership in Pakistan must use the UNSC resolution to show its sincerity in the fight against terror by taking effective measures against the terror networks in the country. That would not only help Pakistan come out of its global isolation, but also create a conducive atmosphere for breaking the logjam with India.  Source 1 Source 2

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