Masood Azhar Is China’s Favorite Terrorist

Beijing’s U.N. block sent a signal—and a warning—to Pakistan.

Foreign Policy
Date:  March 21, 2019
By: Michael Kugelman

Indian Muslims hold a scratched photo of Masood Azhar as they shout slogans against Pakistan during a protest in Mumbai on Feb. 15. (Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images)

On March 13, China placed a “technical hold” on a resolution calling on the United Nations Security Council to designate Masood Azhar, the leader of the Pakistani militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), as a terrorist. Beijing’s intervention effectively torpedoed the measure. This marked the fourth time that China has prevented Azhar, who enjoys long-standing ties to the Pakistani security establishment, from being officially designated a terrorist by the United Nations.

There had been good reason to believe that this time might be different, and that Beijing would step back and let the resolution get approved. The fact that the fourth time wasn’t the charm speaks volumes about how deep the partnership between China and Pakistan still runs, and how far Beijing is willing to go to defend its “iron brother.”

So important is the China-Pakistan partnership that Beijing was willing to stick its neck out in support of a key terrorist asset of the Pakistani state who garners little sympathy outside Pakistan. At home, Beijing has sent hundreds of thousands of innocent Chinese Muslims to detention centers under the guise of counterterrorism, but it has bent over backwards to protect an actual Islamist terrorist abroad.

The move came even though global pressure has intensified on Pakistan to crack down harder on India-focused terrorists on its soil. The trigger was a February 14 attack on Indian security forces, claimed by JeM, in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir. The assault, which killed more than 40 paramilitary troops, was the deadliest attack on Indian security forces, and in Kashmir on the whole, in years. Nearly 50 countries, including all five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (even China), issued statements condemning the tragedy, and many called on Pakistan to crack down on JeM. Soon after the attack, the United States, with support from fellow Security Council members France and the United Kingdom, proposed the resolution. The Trump administration, according to Indian press accounts, tried to convince Beijing to support it.

And yet China defied all the pressure and refused.    [FULL  STORY]