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United Nations turned battlefield as India took on China, Pakistan | India News

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NEW DELHI: India’s diplomatic battleground through most of 2019 turned out to be the UN, particularly the UN Security Council, as it countered repeated challenges from China and its all-weather ally Pakistan.

The year closed with China being compelled to withdraw a request for a discussion on Jammu & Kashmir in the UNSC, but this was only the latest in a string of provocations. The year opened with a request by Pakistan to the UNSC’s counter-terrorism committee to delist Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed from the 1267 terror list.

It took a critical report by the committee’s ombudsman as well as support by four of five permanent members for the UNSC to reject the delisting. However, in September, Pakistan succeeded in getting the UNSC to allow Saeed to access his bank accounts which had been frozen following the sanctions against him.

After the Pulwama terror attack on February 14 by Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists, it took the UNSC an unprecedented one week to issue a condemnation. But when it did, it was the first time ever that the UNSC criticised a single terror attack in J&K, which actually targeted security forces and not only civilians.

The statement itself reflected the heavy lifting that had to be done by Indian diplomats and India’s friends. In May, with the prospect of renewed conflict between India and Pakistan continuing to loom large, the UNSC decided to list JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. Four attempts in the past decade were unsuccessful in getting Azhar on the list, as China stayed the course in blocking the listing.

“Big, small, all join together. Masood Azhar designated as a terrorist in UN sanctions list. Grateful to all for their support,” India’s representative to the UN Syed Akbaruddin had tweeted.

With the new Modi government making Article 370 a dead letter on August 5, the threat of conflict once again hovered over India-Pak relations. Worse, China came out guns blazing against the reorganisation of J&K into two Union Territories to be run by the central government.

On August 16, China called for closed door discussions on the Kashmir issue, pushing for an “outcome” — diplomatese for a public statement or even a presidential statement condemning India’s actions. It was the first time Kashmir was being discussed in the UNSC in decades, which was seen as a dampener for India.

While India did a lot of the heavy lifting, the US led two other permanent members — France and Russia — to bat for India and prevented any public outcome of the discussions. China, in an unprecedented move, actually read out their national statement for TV cameras, compelling Akbaruddin to address the media, also very unusual, after the meeting where India was not actually in the room.

This was high stakes diplomacy but it showed, among other things, a growing convergence between India and a new strategic partner, Indonesia. With Indonesia a member of the UNSC this year, India has relied on it to play the role of a “bridging power” in the world body, often on its behalf.

That China was not going to take this lying down was made clear. In December, China attempted once again to open a discussion on J&K under an informal agenda item. It was the US, which is president of the UNSC this month, to tell the Chinese it saw no reason for such a discussion, forcing China to withdraw its request.

Pakistan was very active in the UN and its affiliated bodies all of 2019. Pakistan wrote 14 letters to the UN calling for action against India through the year. Pakistan also tried to list four Indian nationals, all working in Afghanistan, as terrorists with the UNSC, without success. At every stage, Indian diplomacy and its clout was tested.



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