WASHINGTON: The recent decision by China to block a bid at the United Nations to list Maulana Masood Azhar, chief of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militant group, as a global terrorist, is doing "material harm" to its ties with India, top American experts said today.
Last week, China had blocked a bid at the United Nations by the US, France, and Britain to list Azhar as a global terrorist, citing a lack of consensus among the members of the UN Security Council.
A veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has repeatedly blocked IndiaÂ’s move to designate Azhar a terrorist under the Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council.
"I think it's an unfortunate move on China's part and I question the logic of continuing to block sanctions on known Pakistan-based terrorists at the United Nations," Jeff Smith from the Heritage Foundation told PTI.
Smith said that China was "clearly" seeing its action as a favour to its all-weather friend, Pakistan.
"But the policy is increasingly undermining China's own strategic interests and stated foreign policy objectives," he said, noting that in September, China had, for the first time, relented to including specific criticism of JeM and other Pakistani terror outfits in the statement issued at the BRICS summit in Xiamen.
"It grievously undermines an increasingly prominent Chinese narrative about the need to take a tougher line on terrorism broadly, and in Afghanistan specifically," Smith said.
"It's actions are also doing material harm to the health of a China-India relationship already under duress," he said.
The Permanent Mission of the United States to the United Nations said that the Committee discussions over whether to add an individual or entity to the 1267 sanctions list are confidential to the committee.
"However, we would support efforts to list Azhar, Jaish-e MohammedÂ’s founder and leader, on the 1267 Sanctions List and would encourage others to support his listing as well," a spokesperson for the US mission in New York told PTI.
According to Rick Rossow from Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), an American think-tank, China's latest move affirmed Delhi's belief in Sino-Pakistani collusion.
"By supporting this decision, China could have taken an important step to restart its ties with Delhi, yet Beijing chose a different path," Rossow told PTI.
Rossow alleged that China continued to use the international system where it saw fit, "such as this vote", while undermining the international system in other areas, "such as maritime law".
"The timing is significant, coming on the heels of WashingtonÂ’s stronger rhetoric against PakistanÂ’s support for terrorism. Much like the announcement of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, this decision was another Chinese lifeline to Islamabad at a precarious time," Rossow said.
Director of Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia at Hudson Institute think tank, Aparna Pande, said she was not surprised by Beijing's decision.
"While China worries about Islamist radicals it is concerned primarily with Uyghurs and on that front it will apply pressure on Pakistan," she noted.
"When it comes to Jihadis that target India, China does not see it as in its interest to force Pakistan. Further, being seen as PakistanÂ’s benefactor in the international arena is another benefit for Beijing," Pande told PTI.
The JeM, founded by Azhar, has already been in the UN’s list of banned terror outfits.
Last year in March, China was the only member in the 15- nation UN Security Council to put a hold on IndiaÂ’s application.
The other 14 members supported New DelhiÂ’s bid to place Azhar on the sanctions list that would subject him to an assets freeze and travel ban.
Azhar is accused of several terrorist attacks in India, including one on the Pathankot air force station in January 2016.