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China Avoids Masood Azhar Ban After BRICS Declaration Names His Outfit

Beijing:  China today parried questions on any change in its stand of blocking JeM chief Masood Azhar’s banning by the UN, even as the declaration of the BRICS Summit for the first time named the terror outfit along with other Pakistan-based groups for spreading violence in the region.

A veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, China has repeatedly blocked moves to ban Azhar under the Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the Council. “On participating in international campaign against terrorism, our position is consistent and firm,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a media briefing, commenting on the strong stand taken by BRICS countries, including China, by naming Pakistan-based terror outfits among those spreading violence in the region.

He, however, skirted a direct response to a question on whether the naming of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) by the BRICS in which China is a prominent member marks a change in Beijing’s stand of opposing the ban against Azhar, who heads the group. “I have not seen the BRICS joint declaration and don’t know the specific content,” Chinese official said.

“On the counter terrorism cooperation among the BRICS countries, we are very satisfied with the achievements made by the BRICS. We have a working group on terrorism,” he said.

In the last two years, China has stonewalled efforts by India and then later by the US, the UK and France to declare Azhar as a terrorist, stating that there is no consensus on the issue.

This has led to bilateral discord between India and China as Beijing’s move has been seen as an attempt to shield Azhar on behalf of Pakistan.

Early last month, China had again extended by three months its technical hold on the US, France and the UK-backed proposal to list Azhar for his role in the Pathankot terror attack.

China had in February this year blocked the US move to designate Azhar as a global terrorist at the UN. Earlier, it had also blocked India’s moves to get Azhar designated as a global terrorist.

Also, in a move that could cause consternation in Pakistan, the BRICS declaration named Lashkar-e-Taiba besides the JeM for spreading violence. The inclusion of both the groups followed a tough stand against Pakistan enunciated by US President Donald Trump in his recent policy statement on Afghanistan and South Asia.

The BRICS  expressed “concern” over the security situation in the region and the violence caused by the Taliban, ISIS, al-Qaeda and its affiliates including Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Hizb ut-Tahrir. 

This was in contrast to a vague reference to terrorism in last year’s BRICS Summit at Goa that had called on all nations to adopt a “comprehensive approach in combating terrorism”. At the Xiamen Summit, the BRICS leaders called for swift and effective implementation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) international standards worldwide.