UN counter-terrorism meet: From 26/11 site, India & US seek listing of terrorists, China says don’t politicise

With China blocking the listing of five Pakistan-based terrorists in recent weeks, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised the issue of listing planners of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack as global terrorists at a UN counter-terrorism conference in Mumbai Friday.

Representatives of all 15 United Nations Security Council (UNSC) members were present at the conference held at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, one of the sites of the 2008 terror attack.

China’s Yan Hua Wang, a Vice Consul General at the Consulate General of China in Mumbai, who was also present in the room, asked the countries to “avoid mutual accusations and politicising technical issues”.

At the special meeting of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee on ‘Countering the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes’, which is being held in Mumbai and New Delhi on Friday and Saturday, Indian officials detailed the conspiracy and the 26/11 attack.

In a presentation, watched by the current 15 UNSC members and 5 incoming members, senior officials of the Home Ministry played the audio clip of Sajid Mir, one of the attack planners. In the audio clip, he can be heard directing terrorists to shoot at Nariman House.

Sajid Mir’s listing as a global terrorist, an initiative of India and the US, was blocked by China at the UN in September this year.


The Great Wall of China

India has been urging the UNSC to reflect on the signals being sent each time a move to list a terrorist is blocked. China has been blocking US and India’s moves on the listing of Pakistan-based terrorists – Sajid Mir, Abdul Rauf Azhar, Abdul Rehman Makki being the more recent cases.

Photographs of all major accused in different terror attacks on India, including Lashkar-e-Taiba’s Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, were shown on the screen to all the members present. The delegates sat at a replica of the iconic horse-shoe table at the UNSC chamber in New York.

UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation, Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimy, talked about the Nariman House incident where Israelis were targeted and said, “We all saw and heard what happened in Nariman House and we are all too familiar with how radical thoughts lead to radical practices.”

Several survivors of the Mumbai terror attacks, including Vaishali Ombale (wife of slain policeman Tukaram Ombale), Moshe Holtzberg (the Israeli boy whose parents were killed), Devika (who was a 10-year-old girl then) and Taj hotel employee Karambir Kang, also spoke on the occasion. Nidhi Chapekar, a survivor of the terrorist attack at Brussels airport in 2016, also spoke.

Jaishankar said, “In another month, we will be observing the 14th anniversary of these ghastly attacks on Mumbai in November 2008. While one of the terrorists was captured alive, prosecuted and convicted by the highest court in India, the key conspirators and planners of the 26/11 attacks continue to remain protected and unpunished. When it comes to proscribing some of these terrorists, the Security Council has regrettably been unable to act in some cases because of political considerations. This undermines our collective credibility and our collective interests.”

“We need to ensure the effective and transparent functioning of the Security Council sanctions regime and make sure that they are not rendered ineffective for political reasons. Objective and evidence based proposals for listing of terrorist groups, especially those that curb their access to financial resources, must be seen through,” he said.

Blinken, in a video statement, said, “Our accountability efforts are more effective when we act together. Which is why we have worked with India to put forward nominations to designate several terrorists through the UN 1267 Committee. All relevant parties should support these designations. No nation can stand in their way.”

This was an oblique reference to China’s opposition to the listing of terrorists.

The US Secretary of State also said, “…as we reflect on the immeasurable loss of 26/11, let it be a reminder to all of us of our unfinished work and holding accountable the perpetrators… and averting future terrorist attacks on any of our people, anywhere.”

“But we must do more than mourn. We have a responsibility to the victims and the people everywhere to bring justice to the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks, including their masterminds. That’s why the United States has been working together with India and other partners for the last 14 years. Because when we allow the architects of these attacks go unpunished, we send the messages to terrorists everywhere that their heinous crimes will be tolerated,” Blinken said.

Jaishankar said, “We all know that money is the lifeblood of terrorism. Terrorist organisations require funds and resources to maintain their organisational functions and undertake activities. The reality that terrorism continues to exist and expand points to an underlying truth: that terrorism continues to get the necessary financial resources to thrive.”

In this regard, he made a 5-point suggestion for the UN Counter-terrorism Committee’s consideration:

  • “Effective and sustained efforts at countering terror financing is at the heart of the issue of countering terrorism. Normative efforts at the UN need to be coordinated through collaboration with other fora like the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Egmont Group.”
  • “We need to ensure effective and transparent functioning of the Security Council sanctions regime and make sure that they are not rendered ineffective for political reasons.”
  • “International cooperation and concerted action against terrorists and their sponsors, including through dismantlement of terrorist safe havens, sanctuaries, training grounds and financial and ideological as well as political support structures, are critical imperatives to defeat this scourge.”
  • “Terrorism’s nexus with transnational organised crime, illicit drugs and arms trafficking is now well established.”
  • “Over the years, terrorist groups have diversified their funding portfolio. They have also begun to exploit the anonymity afforded by new and emerging technologies such as virtual currencies for fundraising and finances.”

“In this regard, we look forward to the deliberations at the Special Meeting of the Committee tomorrow in New Delhi to provide innovative solutions for the international community to consider,” he said.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said, “We are here because we know that counter-terrorism cooperation must continue to adapt and to evolve to match the new threats and emerging technologies. We must do all we can to prevent attacks, like the one that took place here in Mumbai from ever happening again.”

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