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US move not conducive to peace in South Asia: China

Updated April 04, 2019

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Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) founder Masood Azhar. — AFP/File
Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) founder Masood Azhar. — AFP/File

WASHINGTON: The United States vowed on Wednesday to utilise “all available avenues” to ensure Masood Azhar was held accountable but China warned Washington that this attitude could complicate an already tense situation in South Asia.

“We can confirm that we circulated a draft UNSC resolution with UK and French support,” said a US State Department spokesperson when asked how the United States planned to deal with this issue.

On March 27, the United States circulated a draft resolution to the 15-nation UN Security Council (UNSC) to blacklist Azhar and subject him to a travel ban, an assets freeze and an arms embargo.

Official says Beijing has taken a ‘reasonable stand’ on issue of JeM chief

“We hope South Asia could maintain peace and stability and we hope India and Pakistan will engage in dialogue and through dialogue and consultation resolve outstanding issues,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang while explaining China’s policy on the dispute.

Last month, India accused Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) group of carrying out the Feb 14 suicide bombing at Pulwama in India-held Kashmir (IHK) that killed 40 paramilitary troops and urged Pakistan to hand over Azhar, who was already under house arrest.

Pakistan rejected the Indian claim, pointing out that the attack was carried out inside IHK and there’s no Pakistani involvement.

On March 13, China put a technical hold on a French proposal to list Azhar under the UNSC 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee and asked for more consultations before bringing the matter to the UNSC for a vote.

The State Department spokesman insisted that Washington also wanted to route its move to brand Azhar a UN-designated terrorist through this committee but it was not against using other options.

“While we strongly prefer that UNSC designations take place through the committee process, the United States and its allies and partners, including those on the UN Security Council, will utilise all available avenues to ensure that the founder and leader of the UN-designated terrorist organisation JeM is held accountable by the international community,” the spokesman added.

Mr Geng, however, said that the US threat to use “all available avenues” was not helpful particularly when JeM’s involvement in the Pulwama attack had not yet been proven.

China, he said, had taken a “constructive and reasonable stand” on the issue while the US stance was not conducive to peace and stability in South Asia.

On Monday, Mr Geng said that the US decision to go directly to the UNSC to designate Azhar aimed to scuttle China’s efforts to resolve the issue amicably. China, he said, had already made “positive progress” towards its goal.

Mr Geng said the vast majority of UNSC members believed that terrorist designations should be routed through the sanctions committee and should be resolved through consultation instead of pushing the draft resolution at the UNSC.

“Also China has been working hard with relevant sides and is making positive results. The US knows that very well. Under such circumstances the US still insists on pushing the draft resolution, doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

Mr Geng said Washington’s action was not consistent with the UN rules and customary practice and sets a bad precedent. “It is only complicating the issue and not conducive to peace and stability in South Asia,” he said.

“China will continue to adopt constructive and responsible attitude to participate in discussions and deliberations on the designation issue,” he said. “We hope this issue will finally be resolved properly,” he said.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2019