Britain remains optimistic about the listing of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist even as it has been prodding Pakistan to take “irreversible action” against terrorists working from its soil, UK high commissioner Dominic Asquith said on Friday.
The Easter Sunday suicide attacks in Sri Lanka, which shot eight British nationals, had brought home “how terror affects us” and underlined the need to work together to deal with the menace, Asquith told a news briefing.
The UK and the US had backed a fresh effort by France to designate Azhar at the UN’s Islamic State and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee after the February 14 suicide bombing at Pulwama that killed 40 Indian troops.
That move, like three others before it, was blocked by China through a “technical hold” on the ground that there was a shortage for more evidence. The UK has now circulated a draft resolution on listing Azhar at the UN Security Council and hinted it will be tabled for discussion in order to force China’s hand.
Without naming China, Asquith stated: “On Masood Azhar, it’s at the UN at the moment. We’re waiting to see whether the country that has so far been resisting in agreeing to his listing will lift that objection.
“I remain optimistic that we will get to that conclusion. We have been strong supporters of the listing of Masood Azhar for a decade. So I hope we will get to that conclusion shortly.”
Answering to a question on the UK’s role in reducing tensions between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack, Asquith said his country was “very actively involved” with both sides and had been pushing Islamabad to act against terrorists operating from Pakistani soil.
The UK, he stated, had talked “to a variety of key actors over in Pakistan to make clear what we expected in terms of Pakistani action against those terrorist groups who are operating around the Line of Control in terms of verifiable, effective, publicly declared and irreversible action against those groups”.
He continued, “So don’t mistake natural British modesty in what we say in public with a lack of activity.”
The UK is holding discussions with India on a free trade deal (FTA) to be concluded after Britain exits the European Union this year, Asquith said. “As long as we are in the EU, we can’t talk about tariffs but we can talk about market access, regulatory controls and a variety of non-tariff issues,” he added.