China had told its ‘iron brother’ Pakistan nearly a month back that it would no longer be able to stall the black-listing of JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN Security Council, given the irrefutable evidence submitted by India about the terror activities of his dreaded network, diplomatic sources said on Thursday.

‘’The die was cast much before Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale went to Beijing last month for the final round of talks on Masood Azhar with the Chinese side…Beijing had unambiguously conveyed to Gokhale its decision to lift in early May its technical hold on the listing of Azhar,’’ said a source in the department.

The Chinese leadership had also conveyed its decision to lift the technical hold to the Pakistani side when Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan recently visited Beijing. Pakistan was disappointed with its key global ally but could do little in the matter since all other major powers were already breathing down Islamabad’s neck on the issue of terrorism.

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It has now come to light that ever since China put on hold the listing of Azhar at the UNSC 1267 Sanctions Committee for the fourth time on 13 March, Beijing had been under intense pressure from the global community to reconsider its action since the larger message going around was that it was shielding a global terrorist just to save its ‘all weather’ ally Pakistan from facing global embarrassment.

China realised it was on a sticky wicket at the UNSC soon after the US, backed by the United Kingdom and France, moved a resolution at the world body in March-end for designating Azhar as a global terrorist. These three countries had also given an ultimatum to Beijing to either lift its technical hold at the 1267 Sanctions Committee or they would press their resolution at the UNSC.

At the UNSC, even if China had desired to use its veto power to stall the black-listing of the JeM leader, it would have had to give reasons to justify its action. This would have clearly sent a message that China was protecting a dreaded terrorist, much against the wish and demand of the entire global community.

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Sources said Pakistan had realised that China would no longer be able to shield Azhar from global sanctions and, therefore, reluctantly agreed not to come in the way. However, Pakistan wanted China to ensure that the formulation in the proposal to ban Azhar at the Sanctions Committee did not link JeM with the Pulwama terror attack or the ’legitimate Kashmiri struggle’. China could only ensure that these references were not there in the Sanctions Committee proposal.

The Indian sources said Pakistan was mischievously attempting to salvage something out of this huge diplomatic setback for it by diverting the narrative. ‘’Our objective was the designation of Masood Azhar and that objective has been achieved,’’ said one of the sources, pointing out: ‘’Pulwama happened to be the latest act of terror but the designation was not based on a specific incident but on the basis of evidence shared with members of the 1267 Sanctions Committee linking Masood Azhar to terrorism. It is not supposed to be a bio-data of a terrorist that all acts of terrorism committed by him would be listed in the notification. However, all acts of terrorism, including Pulwama, were relevant to the lifting.”

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Observers believe China was also concerned over the negative impact of its refusal to act against Azhar on Sino-Indian relations, particularly on trade ties. The clamour for boycotting ‘Made in China’ products was growing in India. It would have been difficult for China to expect any trade concessions from a new government in India after the Lok Sabha polls, given the overwhelming public opinion against Beijing in the backdrop of the issue of Azhar’s black-listing.

China’s decision to lift the technical hold is bound to have an impact on the remaining three phases of polls in India. It is not without reason that the BJP is projecting it as a major diplomatic triumph of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.