Countering Terrorism Through International Cooperation

The horrific terrorist attack on a Central Reserve Police Force convoy last week at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir killed 40 policemen and injured many more. The Jaish-e-Mohammed or JeM, a Pakistan-based terrorist group claimed that it was behind the attack. The incident has reiterated the imperative need for effective international cooperation to counter terrorism.

As a functioning democracy, India has relied on her governance policies to counter terrorism within her territory. However, faced with terrorism emanating from across her borders, India has been an early advocate of effective international cooperation to counter terrorism.

At the UN General Assembly, this is evident in the negotiations on a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism or CCIT. The proposed convention enshrines the legal principle of “prosecute or extradite” as an obligation for UN member-states. Pakistan is prominent among the countries opposing the adoption of the CCIT.

Since the 9/11 terror attacks of 2001 on the United States; the United Nations Security Council has assumed an active role in international efforts to counter terrorism. The Council has relied on its resolutions, which are binding on all member-states of the United Nations under the UN Charter, for this purpose. The five permanent members of the Council with their veto power determine these decisions. Security Council measures can include comprehensive economic and trade sanctions, as well as targeted measures like arms embargoes, travel bans and financial or commodity restrictions applied to individuals and groups listed on the Security Council’s Sanctions Lists.

For India, the litmus test of the Security Council’s effectiveness on countering terrorism directed against India came after the 26 November 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai conducted by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba or LeT. The Council listed LeT’s leader Hafiz Saeed and Zakiur Rehman Lakvi for sanctions measures on 10 December 2008.  However, more than ten years after the Mumbai terror attack, India’s attempts to make the Security Council enforce sanctions measures on these listed individuals have not succeeded. This is due to the strong support extended by China to Pakistan in not taking these enforcement measures.

JeM’s leader, Masood Azhar, along with two others, was handed over to the Taliban in Afghanistan in December 1999 in exchange for 155 Indian civilians hijacked in Indian Airlines flight IC-814. The JeM, which claimed the Pulwama attack, has been targeted by Security Council sanctions measures since October 2001, including for its terrorist activities against Afghan and international forces in Afghanistan in coordination with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. It has launched terrorist attacks on India’s democratic institutions, including the Legislative Assembly in Srinagar in October 2001 and Parliament House in New Delhi in December 2001.

Following the JeM’s terror attacks on the Pathankot airbase in January 2016 and at Uri in September 2016, most Security Council members have advocated accepting India’s request to list Masood Azhar, the leader of the JeM, in the Security Council’s Sanctions List. This effort has been repeatedly blocked by China in the Council.

To be effective in countering terrorism, the Security Council must follow up its listing of individuals and entities with a determined effort to enforce its sanctions measures. This will effectively isolate countries that currently violate the Council’s resolutions. The likelihood of the Security Council as it is currently constituted doing so appear remote. The Council has failed to act against terrorists who have targeted UN peacekeepers deployed under the Council’s mandate in Asia and Africa.

The Council’s veto-wielding five permanent members are divided on responding to the JeM’s claim in carrying out the Pulwama attack. While the United States, Russia and France have named the JeM in their official condemnation, the United Kingdom and China have so far remained silent.

For India, the key to effective international cooperation on countering terrorism through the UN Security Council therefore lies in implementing the early reform of the Council, as mandated by world leaders in 2005. That will “enhance its effectiveness and the legitimacy and implementation of its decisions”.

Script: Amb. Asoke Mukerji, Former Permanent Representative Of India To The United Nations