France Takes Firm Steps Against Terror

France’s decision to move ahead on its own and declare Masood Azhar, the Pakistan based Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) Chief, as a global terrorist could result in giving a boost to India’s continuing fight against terror. The French decision was announced after the UN Security Council had failed to act on similar lines and call terror by its proper name. The reason for the Council’s failure to adopt the much-debated Indian resolution on the subject was because, once again, China had decided to use its veto power to defeat a collective demand for action against the terrorist and his notorious outfit. All this happened after the international outrage caused by Jaish-e-Muhammad’s self-confessed role in the Pulwama terror attack in which more than forty Indian security men had been killed.

In the background of such grim realities, French President Emmanuel Macron, announced his resolve to freeze all accounts and disallow any financial transactions connected with Masood Azhar and his terror-funding projects. This is the first step, in the larger war to defeat terror. It is unlikely that Masood, whose terrorist operations enjoy considerable support from the establishment in Pakistan, including from the ISI and other entities, would be starved of funds as a result of the French announcement. But, that should not detract from the strategic significance of the French decision. It represents the resolve by a leading member of the international community and a member of the European Union to move ahead and breach the wall of resistance repeatedly put up by Islamabad’s much-talked about “all weather friend” China, and concretize international opinion around its position. After all, it was not the first time that China had used its veto power to shield the Pakistan-based terrorist against action by the international community.

The Chinese use of veto at the last Security Council meeting came as no surprise to analysts of global terrorism. It was for the fourth time in the course of a decade that Beijing had used its veto to shield a Pakistan-based terrorist group from receiving its just deserts. Earlier, Beijing had thwarted similar moves in 2009, 2016 and 2017. The latest move to prevent adoption of the proposal by the Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council was just the latest.

In contrast to the Chinese attempts to defend of the indefensible, France was quite unambiguous in declaring that it “has always been and always will be by India’s side in the fight against terrorism.” The French move was particularly reassuring since it announced that Paris would also seek to canvass support for its position among other members of the  European Union so that the Pakistan-based terrorist group and its chief could be put in the dock. Already, the French move is bearing fruit. In the wake of France’s initiative, Germany too has indicated its willingness to adopt a similar position on the issue.

The French decision represents a move by an important member of the international community also a permanent UN Security Council member to act individually after the world body failed to do so collectively. Until such times as reform of the UN system, including the asymmetries inherent in the use of veto power by the select few, the significance of initiatives by individual countries to create a wider consensus outside the UN system cannot be over-emphasized.

It is possible, that some changes may already be in the air. Even the Chinese may not have failed to notice the untenable logic of their position. A Chinese foreign office statement while seeking to justify its stand in the Security Council sounded quite defensive about it. It said that Beijing had voted the way it did to ensure that the committee has “enough time to study the matter”.  The French initiative may thus, appear to have introduced a silver lining in the dark cloud of global terror that overhangs the landscape. It is hoped that the shine will grow brighter in the days to come!

Script: M. K. Tikku, Political Commentator