The designation of Masood Azhar, the leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), the group behind most of the recent big attacks in India from Pathankot to Uri and the February 14 bombing in Kashmir that killed 40 CRPF jawans, is a diplomatic victory for India. Efforts to have him listed by the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee set up under resolution 1267 began 10 years ago after the Mumbai attacks, at the same time Hafiz Saeed and other members of Lashkar e Toiba were included in the list. India later made attempts to tag him in 2016 after the Pathankot attack, and in 2017, months after the Uri attack. Though JeM itself had been designated as early as 2001, Azhar managed to escape the global terrorist tag mainly due to China’s “technical hold” against such listing, including earlier this year, when France moved a resolution in early March, with the US and UK as co-sponsors, after the Pulwama attack. But with several shifts in world politics, and despite its own determination to stand by Pakistan in this matter, Beijing had clearly begun to realise the diminishing returns of shielding Azhar, especially as he was fast becoming known as “China’s favourite terrorist”. After the failure of the France-UK-US proposal, the US took the lead in forcing Beijing’s hand with a resolution in the Security Council. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has claimed Azhar’s designation “a victory for American diplomacy and the international community against terrorism, and an important step towards peace in South Asia”.
For India, the inclusion of Azhar in the UNSC 1267 list by itself does not bring closure on a chapter that began in 1994 with Azhar’s arrest in Kashmir, the hijack of IC 814 to Kandahar, his release in exchange for the passengers, and his setting up a terrorist shop in Pakistan, which then went on to plan and carry out the 2001 attack on Parliament. Pakistan has to take the next steps required under UNSC 1267, which means it must freeze Azhar’s assets, impose a travel ban on him, and put in place an arms embargo against him. Such measures have not proved to hinder Hafiz Saeed, founder leader of LeT/Jamat ud dawa. Despite being listed as a global terrorist organisation, the JeM has flourished. Only when the Pakistan security establishment takes steps to shut down the group, in a manner that will convince the world, will this chapter come to an end.
The designation is another reiteration that Pakistan houses many of the listed global terrorists in the world. But Islamabad’s search for a face-saver in the omission of “political references” to the Pulwama attack and “maligning the legitimate struggle of the Kashmiris” in the reasoning for the designation shows that the road ahead is long when it comes to convincing Pakistan that terrorist groups cannot be used as instruments of state policy.