New Delhi, Dec. 30: China today formally vetoed India's bid to enforce UN Security Council sanctions against Pakistan-based terrorist Masood Azhar, sparking sharp criticism from New Delhi and injecting fresh tension into already stressed relations between Asia's two largest countries.
Beijing had twice before put India's demand for Azhar's listing on "technical hold" that is aimed at allowing members of the Security Council's panel for sanctions against terrorism more time to examine the case and evaluate whether the applicant needs to furnish more details.
The first technical hold lasts for three months and the second for six months. A member of the sanctions panel - known as the 1267 committee after the Security Council resolution under which it was formed - can only use the mechanism twice. China's second technical hold came to an end today.
But instead of letting the hold lapse, China replaced it with what in UN parlance is known as a "block" - a veto suggesting opposition to India's application to place sanctions on Azhar, the chief of the Jaish e-Mohammed.
The move comes at a time India and China are locked in a series of disputes that has left a carefully constructed understanding of mutual cooperation despite competition frayed.
"We note with concern China's decision to block the proposal to list Masood Azhar as a designated terrorist under the 1267 sanctions committee of the UN Security Council which had been presented nine months ago and had received the strong backing of all other members of the committee," foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said today.
"This decision by China is surprising as China herself has been affected by the scourge of terrorism and has declared opposition to all forms of terrorism."
China has repeatedly argued that it views India's request for the listing of Azhar under the Security Council sanctions' regime as a bilateral matter between New Delhi and Islamabad.
Beijing has prodded both New Delhi and Islamabad to try and agree on the future of Azhar.
But India has argued at the 1267 committee - whose members are identical to those on the Security Council - that Azhar's listing is already overdue. It has pointed out that the sanctions panel had already proscribed the Jaish, which Azhar heads, as a terrorist organisation.
UN Security Council sanctions freeze bank accounts of proscribed groups and persons, and bars nations from allowing their transit or travel.
By banning a terror group but not its leader, the Security Council, India has argued, is effectively allowing Azhar to garner funds for his organisation and strengthen it further.
India has accused Azhar and the Jaish of masterminding multiple terror attacks in India, including the January 2016 Pathankot attack.
"The international community is aware that the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed, which is proscribed by the UN, has been responsible for innumerable terrorist attacks on India including the Pathankot air base attack," Swarup said today.
"The inability of the international community to list its leader Masood Azhar is an unfortunate blow to the concerted efforts to effectively counter all forms of terrorism, and confirms prevalence of double standards in the fight against terrorism."