Pakistan has told its all-weather ally China to lift the technical grip on the United Nations listing of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist on the condition that India carries out a military de-escalation on the border and resumes bilateral dialogue with Islamabad on all outstanding issues including Kashmir, people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.
The time for China to give specific reasons for its technical hold runs out this week after which the US will exercise other options, including discussing the matter in the open UN General Assembly – a move that could embarrass China.
Azhar’s JeM has taken responsibility for the February 14 Pulwama terror strike in Kashmir that left 40 Indian troopers dead.
According to Indian and US diplomats based in New York, China is understood to have conveyed Pakistan’s preconditions to the US but the Trump administration was not impressed and Washington told Beijing that the listing of Azhar and the resumption of the India-Pakistan bilateral dialogue are not linked in any way.
After China put a technical hold on Azhar listing for the fourth time (this time on a US-France-UK proposal on March 13), the three key members of P-5 of the UNSC asked Beijing to come up with specific reasons for the hold in two weeks. This deadline expires this week and US counter-terror representatives have signaled their intent to designate Azhar as a global terrorist, the diplomats combined.
Pakistan’s position on Azhar has seemed in flux over the past few weeks, with Rawalpindi GHQ telling New Delhi, through back channels on February 27, that Islamabad will ask Beijing not to put a hold on Azhar’s listing.
However, Islamabad consequently changed its stance, with a military spokesperson denying that Azhar or JeM were present and active in Pakistan.