Concertina wire forms a barrier on a street as a member of the security forces stands guard in front of a shuttered store in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)

UN Adds Pakistan's Azhar to Terror List as China Drops Objection

(Bloomberg) -- The United Nations Security Council designated the head of the Pakistan-based militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, as a global terrorist after China dropped its attempts to block Masood Azhar’s inclusion on the list.

Pakistan has faced intense criticism for allowing Azhar to live freely after JeM claimed a car bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir in February that killed 40 paramilitary troops and sparked a military clash between the two nuclear-armed powers. The development changes little in material terms, according to Ian Hall, an international relations professor at Australia’s Griffith University.

"Certainly this is a diplomatic win for India, but it is only a minor win," Hall said. "Azhar still has his organization in Pakistan. He still seems to have some backing from powerful elements within the Pakistani society, and probably within the state. This listing isn’t going to affect any of this, at least in the short term."

The U.S. and India have long accused Pakistan of harboring and supporting insurgents who launch cross-border attacks in India and Afghanistan. Islamabad has continually denied those accusations, while China -- Pakistan’s long-time ally -- has previously blocked attempts to list the JeM leader.

Chinese Support

This was the fifth attempt to list Azhar and it came through consensus after the process was divorced from the recent suicide bombing in Kashmir, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal told reporters on Wednesday in Islamabad.

“Our concern was his alleged linkage to Kashmir’s freedom struggle,” Faisal said, referring to the continued dispute over the territory split between India and Pakistan soon after independence in 1947. “Once that linkage was removed, we had no objection,” he said.

The listing means UN member states must impose an asset freeze, a travel ban and an arms embargo against Azhar, said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus in a statement.

“Today’s designation is an important step in promoting a peaceful and stable South Asia,” she said.

February Bombing

In March, France froze Azhar’s assets after his group claimed responsibility for the Feb. 14 suicide attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Islamabad rejected the Indian allegation of being complicit in the attack, and it’s unclear if Azhar has assets in France.

About two weeks later, India said its fighter jets attacked a militant training camp in Pakistan’s northern Balakot region and killed about 300 terrorists. Pakistan denied any camp was hit and the next day downed an Indian fighter plane in a dog fight, the first between the two nations in almost 50 years.

India’s foreign ministry said Azhar’s listing was a “step in the right direction.” However, it may be mostly symbolic as Azhar’s group is already proscribed in Pakistan. India alleges he’s backed by Pakistan’s military, which is headquartered in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, and enjoys freedom of movement.

Azhar was released from an Indian jail in exchange for the safe return of 160 hostages on an Indian Airlines plane hijacked and taken to Afghanistan in 1999. Jaish-e-Mohammed, or Army of Mohammed, was founded after his release and was linked to the murder of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.

"For India, this isn’t much more than symbolic," Griffith University’s Hall said. “The U.S. has put some pressure on lately, and China has shown some signs of being unimpressed by the continued dalliances with militancy, but I still think there is a long way to go before Islamabad and Rawalpindi will feel sufficiently under pressure to change their ways.”

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