There is a growing interest in the subcontinent and elsewhere on developments at the United Nations Security Council on March 13. Indications suggest that by 3 pm that afternoon, if none of the Permanent Five (P5) members object, Masood Azhar, the chief of Pakistan-based terror organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed, will be declared a “global terrorist.”
But if the move gets stymied, as in the past, it will certainly bring the focus back on China—Pakistan’s main backer—for scuttling the move at the world’s highest security forum. It will then allow the anti-Chinese lobby in India to let out its steam against Beijing. Many will also raise questions on the effectiveness of the Wuhan initiative that Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had agreed to last year to build confidence and trust in the Sino-Indian bilateral ties
However, what happens next if the UNSC initiative successfully designates Azhar as “global terrorist” is a question that is also being seriously looked at by foreign policy practitioners in Delhi and other capitals.
Will it force Pakistan to start serious action against the terror outfits operating from its soil? Or will Islamabad allow the immediate crisis to pass before allowing the terrorists to get back on their feet and go about their business as they have been doing in the past?
There is no doubt that the outcome of Wednesday’s development will impact not only the South Asian neighbours but also their relations with key international players.
The JeM had claimed responsibility for the Pulwama ‘fidayeen’ attack on the CRPF convoy that killed 40 security personnel. Listing Azhar as a “global terrorist” will undoubtedly be seen as a major ’diplomatic victory’ for India. Delhi had been lobbying to build international opinion against the menace that Pakistan-based terror outfits pose for India and the region’s stability.
If it goes according to the Indian script, then the other two members—China and Russia—will also support the initiative of France, the United States and the United Kingdom at the UNSC. China, in the past had raised "technical objection" to Azhar’s inclusion in the list, ostensibly on Pakistan’s behalf. If it allows the smooth passage of the move against the JeM chief this time, it will certainly send a strong signal to Pakistan. But it will also be a signal to India that the Wuhan spirit agreed between the top leaders of the two sides last year, is working well.
The Pulwama attack last month had prompted India to strike at the JeM's facilities at Balakot, deep inside Pakistan. The Indian action led Pakistan to send in its fighter jets into Indian airspace which were chased away by Indian Air Force planes.
The resultant tension in the region between South Asia’s two nuclear-armed nations had prompted major world powers to take various initiatives to diffuse the situation.
India had been arguing that its action was against the terrorist outfit operating from Pakistan. But Wednesday’s development at the UNSC could well be the first step in the fight against terrorism emanating out of Pakistan.
It could well be a “pyrrhic victory” for India, say some sections in the Indian establishment. They argue that without any enabling clause to oversee the seriousness with which Pakistan enforces the UN resolution on the proscribed terrorist, the UNSC initiative will be meaningless. “Former Lashkar-e-Toiba (Let) leader Hafiz Saeed is already a proscribed terrorist. But has that affected his operations in Pakistan?”
A proscribed terrorist or his organisation faces a travel ban preventing him leaving the country, an arms embargo and curb on his financial assistance and funding. However, all these can be easily side-stepped if the country where they are based are not serious in dealing with the challenge.
India is working with the US and other world powers to keep up the pressure on Pakistan and force it to act on the terror outfits based in its territory. The Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale is scheduled to visit Washington soon and discuss the evolving situation in South Asia with key members of the Donald Trump administration.
But irrespective of how things pan out at the UNSC on March 13, it can only be a step towards the long journey ahead in dealing with terrorists who operate from the Pakistani soil.