The United States on Wednesday circulated a draft resolution to the UN Security Council that would blacklist the leader of a Pakistan-based Islamist group as a terrorist, setting up a potential clash with China over the move. China earlier this month put on hold a request to put Masood Azhar, leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) on the UN sanctions list, over his alleged ties to Al-Qaeda. That request stalled in a UN sanctions committee, prompting the United States to turn directly to the Security Council with the proposed resolution blacklisting Azhar.
Jaish-e-Mohammad has claimed responsibility for the February 14 attack in Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops and stoked tensions between India and Pakistan. The draft resolution obtained by AFP condemns the suicide bombing and decides that Azhar will be added to the UN Al-Qaeda and Islamic State sanctions blacklist.
That would subject Azhar, considered the founder of JeM, to a global travel ban, an assets freeze and an arms embargo. It remained unclear when a vote would be held on the draft resolution, which could face a veto from China, one of the five permanent council members along with Britain, France, Russia and the United States.
There have been four attempts through a UN sanctions committee to add Azhar to the blacklist. China blocked three previous requests and put a technical hold on the latest one, which could last up to nine months. JeM itself has been on the UN terror list since 2001.
Azhar is linked to terrorism for "participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities" carried out by JeM, according to an annex to the draft. The draft resolution is backed by France and Britain, which joined the United States earlier this month in pushing for sanctions against Azhar in the Al-Qaeda and Islamic State committee.
China has been accused by Western diplomats of protecting Pakistan's interests in the latest standoff with India. But Beijing has defended its decision by arguing it had adopted a "responsible attitude" in dealing "with this issue with relevant parties via thorough consultation," foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.
The Chinese mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Tensions between India and Pakistan have soared since last month's attack in Kashmir that prompted tit-for-tat air raids, fueling fears of all-out conflict between the two nuclear-armed countries.
Pakistan has denied any role in the Pulwama attack, and Prime Minister Imran Khan offered cooperation in the investigation if credible evidence was provided by India. Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947.
Both claim the Himalayan territory in full and have fought two wars over it.