Jaish-e-Muhammed Terror group chief & Pathankot airbase attack accused Masood Azhar

India will pursue its case for an international ban on Masood Azhar with the US in the upcoming '2+2' dialogue. Azhar is the chief of the terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Muhammed and chief accused in the Pathankot airbase attack. China initially blocked and later terminated a US-backed proposal to get Azhar designated a global terrorist by the UN last year

NEW DELHI: India will pursue its case for an international ban on Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) chief and Pathankot airbase attack accused Masood Azhar with the US in the 2+2 dialogue to be held here on September 6.

Emboldened by US willingness expressed in recent exchanges to continue this pursuit, India is expected to press again for an early move to designate Azhar. The government seems keen to pursue the Azhar issue as it believes it will also act as an early test for the Imran Khan government's stated willingness to take two steps for every one India takes for normalisation of ties.

While no fresh proposal for proscribing Azhar was introduced at the UN after China blocked the one sponsored by the Americans last year, India has been assured by the US that it is working to ensure that Beijing drops its opposition to a ban, whenever it is proposed, on Pakistan based Azhar.

The much delayed 2+2 dialogue for which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James Mattis will travel to India next week for a comprehensive review of bilateral ties with special focus on defence and security partnership.

As a permanent member of UNSC, China initially blocked and later terminated a US backed proposal to get Azhar designated a global terrorist by the UN last year. India has since quietly worked with the US, UK and France to convince the Chinese that opposing the ban on Azhar betrays a selective approach to terrorism since the organisation he heads, JeM, is already proscribed by the UN.

India and the US launched last year a new consultation mechanism on domestic and international terrorist designations listing proposals. Earlier this month, the US State Department named 3 Pakistan nationals linked with LeT as Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Welcoming the move, India said it vindicated its position that internationally designated terrorists continued to operate with impunity in Pakistan. The US and India are also working to ensure global terrorists are also included in the UNSC sanctions committee list.

India has repeatedly also taken up the issue with Beijing in bilateral engagements this year while seeking to improve relations with China. The government will hope that China will take a more considerate view at a time it is talking about opening a new chapter in ties with India. The Azhar issue, along with China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Beijing's opposition to India's NSG membership, has acted as a real impediment in improving ties with China in the past few years.

The government will also closely follow Pompeo's visit to Pakistan on his way to India, expecting him to deliver a strong message to Islamabad on terrorism. In his recent phone conversation with Khan, he was said to have sought "decisive action" against all terrorists operating on Pakistan soil. Pakistan though later denied this accusing US of having issued a factually incorrect statement and claiming there was no mention of terrorists operating in Pakistan during the conversation.