China’s veto on Azhar – focus shifts to reforms on UNSC

  • Tue,19 Mar 2019 09:54:30 PM

by Florine Roche

Mar 20: Once again China, a veto wielding permanent member of U N Security Council, has blocked the UNSC resolution to designate Jaish-e-Mohammed founder Masood Azhar as a global terrorist on technical grounds. Though it was a setback for India it has brought to the fore the much required UNSC reforms including the question of the veto power of the permanent members of United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

Once again the debate on the UNSC reforms have assumed importance as there have been repeated instances where a vast majority is being held up by one or two members by using or rather misusing the veto power. More often than not this undemocratic instrument called veto has been wielded by the powerful 5 with an axe to grind setting aside all other considerations of human rights and international law.

The recent resolution on Masoor Azad at the UNSC fell through the drains because of the veto power exercised by China. This is despite the fact that resolution had the support of 14 of the 15 UNSC members. UNSC is the world body that has the responsibility of maintaining international peace and security and its decisions can impact international peace and security. There have been efforts to bring about reforms to the UNSC to enhance the UNSC’s legitimacy, credibility, effectiveness and representation in consonance with the ground realities of the 21st century.

This is the fourth time in 10 years China has put a ‘technical hold’ on the proposal to include Maslood Azhar in the global terrorist list saying it needs more time to examine the proposal. Following the February 14, Pulwama terrorist attack India diplomatic efforts resulted in the US, the UK and France moving to the United Nations to declare Masood as a global terrorist as JeM had claimed responsibility for the attack. China put forward the technical hold issue with the 1267 sanctions committee that has the authority to impose strictures against individuals and organization associated with Al-Queda and the Islamic state. On several earlier occasions also China had blocked earlier attempts by India to designate Azar as a global terrorist. But it is said that this is the first time China has come anywhere close to reconsidering the Azhar issue and that gives some hope that China might succumb to international pressure and fall in line.

India has termed China’s move as a big disappointment even though the impact of the resolution, if passed would have been only symbolic. There would not have been any drastic changes unless Pakistan is compelled to take credible steps in this direction and stop supporting terrorist groups on its soil. Moreover, Lashkar –e Taiba chief Hafeez who is in the UNSC global terrorist black list, still roams free and continues with his terrorist activities.

Unfortunately, China’s veto has also led to the politicization of the issue in India which is expected at a time when the country is all set to face the crucial general elections. After the resolution failed Congress leader Rahul Gandhi went to the extent of saying ‘a weak Modi is afraid of Chinese President Xi Jinping’ little realizing that China has been doing the same for the last two decades. The BJP has countered it saying China got the permanent membership of UNSC because of Nehru’s largesse as he had declined the offer of a permanent UN seat that was offered to it.

A victory despite setback

Though it was expected that China might use its veto against this effort to list Azhar, it is viewed as a victory of a sort for India for many reasons. For one, it was a combined effort as 14 of the 15 members of UNSC supported India’s proposal while seven countries cosponsored the resolution to enlist Azhar to the global terrorist list. Even the US tried its best to convince China on the issue of Azar and adopt a more pragmatic approach but without success. India has also succeeded in convincing the world community that Pakistan supports terrorist groups by providing them logical support. Following China’s obstinate response there were indications that the original co-sponsors of the resolution on Azhar issue will be forced to exercise their responsibility by weighing other options to pressurize China change its stand.

Now there is some good news on this front for India. In a major development the US, France and UK are soon planning to make another joint effort if the soft talks with China fail to yield desired results. The three permanent members are planning to move a resolution list Azhar to the UNSC which will be preceded by an open debate and then follow it up with a vote. An open debate means China will find the going tough to defend a terrorist publicly and may even face global isolation on the issue of fighting terrorism.

More importantly, China’s obdurate stance has once again raised questions about the working style of the UNSC and the need to the long overdue UNSC reforms. The issue of increased council membership is at least two decades old without any breakthrough. For over a decade now the Group of Four (G-4) nations comprising Brazil, Germany, India and Japan have been trying their level best calling for UN reforms. In September 2018 foreign ministers of G4 countries including India met on the sidelines of the 73rd annual General Assembly session of the United Nations held in New York and once again asserted that it is time to effect UNSC reforms not just to make the world body relevant but for the very survival of the Unite Nations.

Changes according to ground realities

Since the birth of the United Nation 74 years ago the composition of the Security Council has remains unchanged. Many members have called for the need to correct the regional imbalances mainly because there is no representation to Africa, over-importance is given Europe which has only 6 per cent of the world population and veto power given to the powerful 5 that treats UNSC as its personal turf and is being used to promote self interest. Expansion of the UNSC by increasing representation of both the permanent and non permanent categories of membership is therefore required to correct these lacunae. This correction would make the UN unbiased and efficient in taking actions in times of crisis. The issue of increased council membership has been in the agenda of the UNSC for over two decades without any positive outcome.

UNSC was formed on the basis of the ground situation 74 years back. It was done in a way to reflect the world order that came into effect following the dreadful effects of World War II. Those who were with the victorious powers of the world war were given permanent membership and veto power thus giving a carte blanche. We have enough examples to show how these 5 permanent nations have misused the veto power to hold the overwhelming majority back. The misuse of veto, lack of accountability and iniquitous representation has emasculated the UN. The unfair system if not set right is sure to threaten the moral foundation on which UN was built.

Apart from setting right regional imbalances and a pragmatic approach to using veto power to overrule the adoption of draft resolutions, reforms are needed in terms of membership, enlarged Council and its working methods and improved relationship between the UNSC and the General Assembly. With these reforms United Nations can make itself relevant in the changed world order.


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