The man who India claims planned the Kashmir bomb attack that brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war has been designated a terrorist by the United Nations Security Council after China dropped its objections.
India welcomed Wednesday’s move against Masood Azhar, head of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). The Indian government holds the group responsible for the February suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 paramilitary soldiers.
The addition of Azhar to the sanctions list came after China dropped its long-held objections to the move. Beijing put a “technical” hold on a UN resolution in March – the fourth time it had scuttled India’s attempt to sanction the man it holds responsible for multiple terror attacks in India.
Azhar, who lives in Pakistan according to Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, will be subjected to a travel ban and arms embargo and his assets will be frozen.
The Indian Foreign Affairs Ministry welcomed the decision, which came after weeks of diplomatic arm-twisting involving France, the US and the UK.
“The 1267 Sanctions Committee’s decision to designate the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad, Masood Azhar, as a UN proscribed terrorist is a step in the right direction to demonstrate the international community’s resolve to fight against terrorism and its enablers,” said a statement by the Indian government.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the listing a “victory for American diplomacy and the international community against terrorism.”
Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), which translates to the Army of the Prophet Mohammed, has been considered a terrorist organization by the US State Department since 2001. It seeks to unite the Indian-controlled sector of Kashmir with Pakistan.
Azhar was sanctioned for his association with terror organizations such as Al-Qaeda and for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities” associated with JeM, the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee said in a statement.
Azhar’s alleged association with the bombing in February, an attack on the Indian parliament in 2001 and other incidents in the Kashmir valley have not been listed in the statement.
The announcement is seen as a political win for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in the middle of a tightly contested election.
During election rallies, Modi has frequently brought up his country’s armed strikes in Pakistani territory this year, in retaliation for terror attacks in Uri in 2016 and the Pulwama bombing in Kashmir in 2019.
“Today is a day that would make every Indian proud! I thank the global community and all those who believe in humanitarian values for their support. India’s fight against terror will continue. We will work towards peace and brotherhood in our planet,” Modi tweeted Wednesday.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has focused its election campaign on national security and maintaining a tough stance on Pakistan.
“This new India will enter your home and kill you. We will respond to a bullet with a cannon,” Modi told an election rally Wednesday.
Azhar’s listing will reinforce his party’s rhetoric that India needs a strong government to keep the country safe from terrorism.
The attacks earlier this year took the India-Pakistan relationship to a new low, with Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan exchanging regular barbs.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947. Violence in the state of Jammu and Kashmir has claimed more than 47,000 lives since the start of the insurgency in 1989.
Modi has described Pakistan as a “terror factory” that exports extremism to surrounding nations and has insisted that peace talks are off the table until it tackles terrorist activities on its soil.
Less than two weeks after the February attack, India said its fighter jets had violated Pakistan airspace and claimed they launched missiles targeting terror camps run by JeM.
Pakistan vehemently denied involvement in the Kashmir bombing and said the Indian missiles hit only empty forest.
The next day, Pakistan jets attempted to violate Indian airspace and dropped bombs at the de facto border shared by the two countries.
In a subsequent dogfight, India lost a plane and its pilot in Pakistan territory. As a goodwill gesture, Pakistan released the pilot the next day.
Over the past two months, India has conducted raids in parts of the Kashmir Valley in an attempt to weed out militants associated with the attack.
“In Pulwama they martyred 40 of our soldiers and after that attack in that region itself till now – and while I am saying this the count might have gone up – till now we have killed 42 terrorists. This is our way of doing the job,” Modi told a rally last week.