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UK optimistic of Masood Azhar's listing as global terrorist by UN


New Delhi, Apr 26: The UK on Friday said it was optimistic that Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar will soon be declared a global terrorist by the United Nations (UN) even as it called for "verifiable" and "irreversible" action against terror groups by Pakistan.

Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar

British High Commissioner Sir Dominic Asquith, talking to reporters, also said that Britain was actively involved in bringing down the temperature between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Pulwama attack and subsequent developments. On overall ties with India, Asquith said the UK would like to further intensify relations with India post-Brexit as it was looking for deeper bilateral trade and investment ties.

He said the UK was keen on a Free Trade Agreement with India and that post- Brexit, his government was going to ease immigration norms for students. Asked about listing of Azhar as a global terrorist, the British High Commissioner said, "We are waiting to see whether the country (China), which has been resisting it, will lift their hold. We remain optimistic of it happening."

[FS Vijay Gokhale meets Chinese Foreign Minister, raises Masood Azhar issue with him]

Last month, China put a technical hold on a fresh proposal to impose a ban on Azhar, the head of Pakistan-based JeM which claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack. It was for the fourth time, China blocked Azhar's listing.

"We are strong supporter of listing of Azhar. We hope there will be conclusion to the issue soon," Asquith added.

The fresh proposal to designate Azhar under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council was moved by France, the UK and the US, in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. Asked whether the UK played any role in de-escalation of tension between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack, Asquith said, "We were very actively involved."

The British government spoke to a variety of "actors" and stakeholders in Pakistan on what it expected from Islamabad, he said, adding Islamabad was conveyed to take "verifiable" and "irreversible action" against terror groups operating along the Line of Control. Talking about ties with India, the British envoy said cooperation between the two countries are on an upswing in several key areas including trade and investment as well as defence and security. "As we are leaving the European Union, we would like to intensify ties with India," he said.

Identifying people-to-people contact as a "living bridge" in Indo-UK ties, he said around 80,000 Indians are expected to visit the UK to witness the World Cup cricket matches beginning next month. He said the television viewership of the tournament is expected to be around 730 million in India. The High Commissioner said those wanting to travel to the UK to watch the tournament will have to have to apply for visas 15 days in advance.

[US moves draft resolution in UN to blacklist JeM chief Masood Azhar]

Asked about allegation of harassment against British national Christian Michel, the alleged middleman arrested in the AgustaWestland chopper scam, Asquith only said it was a matter for the courts and his government's role was to provide consular access to him. Queried on the case relating to fugitive businessman Nirav Modi, he said it was before a British court.

He was arrested by uniformed Scotland Yard officers in central London on March 19 and since then he has been in jail. On Friday, a UK court hearing his extradition case in the USD 1-billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud and money laundering case further remanded him into custody till May 24.


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