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Azhar's time up?

Azhars time up?

China's technical hold allowed it the time to "examine" the proposal forwarded by the US, UK, and France to designate JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. But of course, the technical hold also allowed China to reassess its undying commitment towards Pakistan and its global position as the core member of UNSC. In fact, China's nod after a long opposition to listing Azhar is not mere compliance but a move for the greater good. There are not one but several factors that outline China's assent trumping its own decade-long dissent. Pakistan's long drawn support for terrorist outfits has attracted uncomfortable attention which is detrimental for its "iron brother" China. The mounting global pressure has, in a way, made China lift the technical hold allowing the UN to blacklist Azhar. Having supported Pakistan all along, being globally isolated due to it was too much of a risk and hence, agreeing to the UNSC 1267 Committee has been a clever move from China. This prevents China's international credibility of combating terrorism from deteriorating. With its own problem of Islamic terrorism in Sinkiang coupled with JeM attacks on its workers and its consulate in Karachi last year, China's reassessment clearly asserts a need to bring down Pakistan's excessive utilisation of terrorists as strategic assets. And, with its flagship Belt and Road Initiative running right across the heart of Islamic terror stronghold (PoK), China's attention is understandably aligned in securing its multi-billion dollar investment project. It certainly does not want Pakistan-sponsored terrorism to inflict any kind of damage on its infrastructural and economic strides in the region. Lastly, if China was considerate enough, its decision also removes the thorn which has abstained New Delhi and Beijing from progressively cooperating. China's assent means a lot to India now since it did not nod even after developments in Wuhan. It also opens up an opportunity for both nations to sit down and discuss prospects of counterterrorism. If the stars are aligned perfectly, a combine of China and India against terrorism would be a lethal crackdown on terrorism in the area. But this development, judging by the recent past, remains a far cry. For all we know, China's decision hardly has India in the fray. It may be more concerned over the strengthened relations of India with the West; Indian efforts to enlist Azhar has definitely played a part in mobilising key western countries such as UK, US, France, and even the Gulf countries to support us in the issue of terrorism at large. Risk-assessment, therefore, has saved China from attracting heightened criticism regarding Chinese support towards terrorism.

Listing Azhar has been a victory indeed but countering terrorism, and especially cross-border terrorism via Pakistan-sponsored terror outfits remains paramount. Yesterday, Pakistan's compliance was directed through its foreign ministry which stated that "the Federal Government is pleased to order that the Resolution 2368 (2017) be fully implemented". Pakistan's compliance is under strict vigil from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which has given a long list of action points to it. And, failure to comply is a grave risk since Pakistan would then be globally more isolated on the financial front. And, that would not augur well for Pakistan given its precarious financial situation. With China being forced to draw an arm's distance from Pakistan, Pakistan has to act. Pressure from the international community should enforce Pakistan to act against Azhar to the extent of prosecuting it for the acts of terror and completely incapacitating JeM. But a single instance of compliance by Pakistan in the crackdown on Azhar and JeM is not enough. Pakistan may revert to its primary tactic of deploying proxy outfits which is repugnant and therefore, it is necessary that sustained international pressure is maintained on it to yield a positive shift on the terror issue. Listing Azhar is the first of crucial decisions that are required to be taken to counter the growing terrorism in South Asia.

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