A strategic hold
It should not take ten years to designate an acknowledged terrorist as one. However, the curious case of Mohammad Masood Azhar stands as an exception in this regard. China on Wednesday blocked an initiative to tag Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) – UN-designated terrorist organisation – chief Azhar as a 'global terrorist', again. The 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) was not able to come to a decision on the proposal moved by France, UK and US on February 27 in the wake of Pulwama attack. China, comfortable in its permanent member seat with the veto button, placed a "technical hold" right before the end of the no-objection period on March 13, asking "more time to examine" the proposal. The technical hold stretches up to six months and can be extended by three more. This is the fourth time China has blocked Azhar's listing in the UN Sanctions Regime; the first was in 2009 followed by 2016, 2017, and now 2019. Under the Sanctions Committee, the designated individuals are tied with a travel ban while their assets are frozen by all states. Further, under the arms embargo, all direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms is restricted to the designated individual. So, China's hold means Azhar can continue as a free individual, procuring arms and plotting terror acts while China and Pakistan, meanwhile, plan to upgrade their jointly-produced JF-17 Thunder fighter jet to enhance the its "informatised warfare" capability and weapons which experts say could effectively defend against strong opponents like India. For those rattled about "Informatised warfare", it is a term often used by the Chinese military which broadly refers to the use of information and communication technology in modern wars. China's timely support extended to its "all-weather ally" Pakistan is admirable as is dubious when it comes to its repeated hold on the designation process of Azhar. In its time of global isolation, China has been a friend in need per se for Pakistan and the China-Pakistan nexus precisely explains this equation. India expressed disappointment over China's last-minute hold on the designation as a global terrorist but China does not consider India as the sole sufferer due to terrorism in the area with Pakistan equally victimised. Despite the dossier provided by India on JeM, Pakistan has not presented affirmed crackdown on JeM, falling short of its stance to come down heavily on the terror outfit upon receiving 'actionable evidence' from India. Inquisitiveness peaks over how China has troubles in designating Azhar, especially since Pakistan, dissenting from Indian opinion, has reiterated that JeM has been banned in Pakistan. If a terror outfit has been banned by Pakistan, as it claims, then why is China, an ally of Pakistan, implicitly favouring Azhar by explicitly preventing the Al Qaeda Sanctions from getting slapped on Azhar. The math behind all the diplomacy and strategic equation points to the aforementioned Pakistan-China nexus, which has always troubled India at every crossroad. While the US was quick to note China's hold, it stated its disappointment on how the mutual interest between them of regional stability and peace is encountered by China's failure to designate Azhar as a global terrorist. The fact that China did not let Azhar be listed in the proposal that was moved by the US besides France and the UK has indeed left a sour taste in their mouth. Of course, China has exercised the salient features of the Sanctions Committee which will allow Azhar some more free time before six, and nine at max, months post which the proposal will again be reconsidered which means Azhar, at some point, will be listed. China's Belt and Road Initiative, a 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, has Pakistan in the fray and Pakistan happens to be China's connect to the Muslim world which, strategically, makes Pakistan a top priority for China in global affairs. This explains the backing that China has provided to Pakistan. However, stopping Azhar from getting designated remains inexplicable unless China acknowledges that JeM is based in Pakistan. Having taken a neutral stance in the India-Pakistan cross-border tension, China, through its hold on Azhar's listing, has implicitly acknowledged JeM's Pakistan connection.