Masood Azhar Sanctioned: The Cost Benefit Analysis

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Global Terrorist Maulana Masood Azhar

Nearly three months after Pulwama attack India’s diplomatic efforts fructified as China lifted its objection/technical hold paving the way for Jaish E Mohammad to be designated as a global terrorist by UNSC Sanctions Committee under resolution no. 1267. India had been working on getting Masood Azhar sanctioned since 2009, later in the year 2016 & once again in the year 2017 when it was blocked by China using its VETO power. China again blocked a similar resolution moved recently by France, US & UK to sanction Masood Azhar on 13th March 2019 which lead to further intensification of pressure on it to relent on the same.

American, French and British had threatened to go public with a resolution to sanction Masood Azhar with a public debate at UNSC in a bid to corner China over Pakistani sponsored terrorism. The Chinese being mindful of the implications of such a move and the dire needs of Pakistani state for a bailout from IMF seem to have relented with a condition of Pulwama attack not being mentioned as part of the listing at UNSC. In that sense, this is a big diplomatic victory for India and its foreign policy to be able to build a coalition of countries against Pakistan sponsored terrorism and got China to agree to the listing of Masood Azhar as a global terrorist.

While the sanctioning of Masood Azhar is another big step forward in curtailing and finally dismantling the Pakistani terror factory yet there is still a long way to go ahead of this symbolic sanctioning. India had earlier got Jamaat Ud Dawa and it’s chief Hafiz Sayed listed as a global terrorist in 2009 after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, yet the terror attacks by Pakistani based terror groups continued unabated. Thus Masood’s sanctioning by itself won’t yield substantive results, unless these efforts are complemented further with steps like blacklisting of Pakistan by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which is scheduled to conduct a review of Pakistan’s terror-sponsoring in the June plenary.

The UNSC listing of Masood Azhar boost India’s bid to get Pakistan blacklisted by FATF, yet it will be a herculean challenge as China currently holding the Vice Presidency at FATF will assume its Presidentship from the United States this year. The Pakistanis are equally lobbying hard for an IMF bailout for a tottering economy which is suffering runaway inflation at around 10% and a sinking Pakistani rupee against the US dollar. IMF has already put conditions on Pakistan for a bailout to be extended and China will lobby hard to achieve it, as well protect its iron brother from any immediate blacklisting by FATF. Thus it will be a long journey before we could see tangible results of India’s efforts to counter Pakistan sponsored terrorism and its Military Industrial complex as explained in our earlier piece.

While India can bask in the diplomatic victory it has achieved by getting Masood Azhar listed as a global terrorist, the move comes at a certain cost which India seems to have paid to get this done. Washington intimated New Delhi last month that in return of its efforts to get Masood Azhar sanctioned, it seeks a trade-off from India on taking the Iranian Oil imports to zero. While there was no official comment from New Delhi on this, on May 2nd, the Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said, “as we have said, we are prepared to deal with the impact of the decision, there will be additional supplies from other major oil-producing countries based on a robust plan that has been drawn up by the ministry of petroleum and natural gas. The aspects related to the amount of oil which will be imported by India from other countries are all matters of operational details”, Kumar was answering questions regarding US sanctions on Iran’s oil exports.

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However, India can breathe a sigh of relief as the US State Department spokesperson made it clear on 24th April 2019 that Iran Oil sanctions won’t cover or hit the Chabahar Port investments as that is covered under an exemption issued under reconstruction effort for Afghanistan. Though the exemption for Chabahar reduces the cost India seems to have paid for Masood’s sanctioning, however further escalations in the near future cannot be ruled out. The Americans have already banned and sanctioned Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) which is the backbone of the Iranian economy and its military Industrial complex. It is pertinent to note that the construction of additional berths at Chabahar Port was carried out by Khatam Al Anbia, a conglomerate owned by IRGC, and a number of subcontractors including a state-run Indian company. The sanctioning of Iranian Revolutionary Guard and prospective move in the pipeline of sanctioning of Iranian banks, businesses, and secondary sanctions on dealings with Iran by the US could end up hurting Indian strategic investments in Iran.

Thus the tradeoff made by India with the US for Masood Azhar sanctioning could entail limited costs in short term with Iran, though it could have long term implications on Geopolitics in the region and the world. With China relenting on Masood Azhar’s sanctioning, the leverage India had with China over Pakistan is essentially diminished with China now being de-hyphenated from Pakistan’s Jihad against India on the face of it. This also means that China could now double its effort of low-cost containment of India by using a rent a terror group policy from Pakistan without getting the flak for any of its actions.

The Chinese decision is strategically timed, providing relief to Pakistan with IMF Bailout, FATF and critical Afghan talks with teh US who are equally involved in negotiation with the Taliban and thus by effect Rawalpindi. The Chinese also aim to tide over the current crisis in the region between India & Pakistan and hoping for a de-escalation soon. It, however, must be stressed that Chinese were wanting to delay the sanctioning by few weeks for the Indian elections to get over, however, it seems the Americans and the French forced the Chinese hand on it relent it now. The Chinese calculus behind the hesitation was to not benefit Indian PM Narendra Modi in the middle of critical ongoing elections.

Thus Masood Azhar’s sanction and cost-benefit analysis portend a larger geopolitical narrative at play in the region and the world. In our 2016 book The New Global Order and subsequent pieces on Asian Warrior, we had categorically stated that the Multi Alignment would ultimately lead to emerging bipolarity in the world between a US lead bloc and a China lead bloc with Indo-Pacific being the battleground for the same. In the emerging bipolar global order, countries like India would have to play a critical role on the frontline being a natural ally and strategic defence partner of the US, France etc and has signed various military agreements like DTTI, LEMOA, COMCASA & BECA (in near future) which would significantly tilt India towards the US block in due course of time as Sino-Pak Axis solidifies.

As the trade war between America and China escalates with intermittent pauses, more and more companies, industries will be shifting base from China to India, Vietnam etc with prominent ones being like Apple. Thus a reduced trade deficit with China in the near future, a booming economy and robust military-industrial complex would pivot India to be a global power, yet it would entail certain costs that would come along with it like being squeezed out of Iranian Oil or such strategic investments as a natural consequence of being a US partner in Indian Ocean Region vis-à-vis China. The Indian lion is finally coming of age and is ready & willing to take its rightful position as the leader of the free world.


  • India has secured additional oil supplies to tide over Iran sanctions
  • US to India: Helping you on Masood Azhar, so end Iran oil imports
  • Imran Khan’s attempt to woo western audience to boost economy in despair
  • China wanted to delay terror designation of Masood Azhar citing Lok Sabha elections but US prevailed
  • Timeline of major events leading to Masood Azhar’s designation as global terrorist
  • UNSC listing: India silence on China’s BRI helped seal Azhar dea
  • India has secured additional oil supplies to tide over Iran sanctions
  • Iran Opens Extension Of Key Port
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