United Nations, April 15: India took aim squarely against the use of secret vetoes to protect terrorists and their backers from UN sanctions, an action that China has repeatedly taken to provide cover for Pakistan-based terrorists and Islamabad.
That secrecy results in a lack of accountability and engenders impunity, India's Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said Thursday facing the wielder of the secret vetoes, China's Permanent Representative Liu Jieyi, from across the Security Council chamber's horseshoe-shaped table. China is the Council's president for this month.
"The general membership of the UN is never ever formally informed of how and why requests for listing terrorists are not acceded to," he said. "Counter terror mechanisms such as the Sanctions Committees that act on behalf of the international community need to build trust not engender impunity by the use of this form of a 'hidden' veto."
Akbaruddin did not name China or Pakistan in his speech. Although word does eventually gets out about who vetoed a measure, that country does not have to explain its action or publicly responsibility for it because of the official secrecy.
China has twice use the veto to protect Pakistan and terrorists based there.
Last month it prevented Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohamed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar, who is behind the January Pathankot air force base attack, from being put on a sanctions list as a terrorist. And Beijing blocked New Delhi`s demand last year for taking action under the Council`s anti-terrorism resolutions against Pakistan for freeing Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the Lashkar-e-Taiba mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attack in which 166 people were killed.
Asked at a press conference about the latest veto, Liu blandly said Azhar did not meet "the Council's requirements" to be considered a terrorist.
Ironically Liu circulated a note to UN members ahead of Thursday's meeting that called for "avoiding double standards in the fight against terrorism."
"All acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable whenever, wherever and by whomsoever they are committed. Terrorism poses a global threat, from which no member state is exempt," his note said. "Cutting off the sources of terrorist financing; the disruption of financing channels is a vital and effective way to degrade and defeat ISIL and other terrorist organizations."
With China providing cover, Pakistan's Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi claimed that her country "is perhaps among the few countries, which has a ministerial-level committee to oversee the implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions."
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon brought up the issue of state-sponsored terrorism. "We must also have the courage to address certain difficult situations, such as the support that violent extremists and terrorists may receive -- directly, indirectly and perhaps even unintentionally -- from governments," he said sitting next to Liu.
"We need to focus on implementing the relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions ... and other resolutions and measures that sanction terrorist groups and individuals," Ban added.
Outlining the magnitude of the global problem, Akbaruddin said, "According to authoritative accounts 2,850 lives have been lost and nearly 4,500 others have been injured in terrorist related violence in 38 countries during the first three months of this year."
While terrorists have "mutated into hydra headed monsters" with an ever-growing footprint, "the international community's counter terrorism efforts are still in an embryonic form," he said.
To meet the challenge he called for the early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. It has been stymied for over 20 years, mainly due to differences in defining what are terrorist organisations and who are terrorists. Some countries want exemption made for groups they consider to be "national liberation movements" rather than terrorist organisations, and terrorists they consider to be "freedom fighters."