The UN Sanctions Committee on Wednesday did not come to a decision on naming JeM chief Mohammed Masood Azhar a global terrorist due to China putting the proposal on hold. India expressed its disappointment at the outcome.
In a statement in New Delhi, the External Affairs Ministry said this has prevented action by the international community against the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a proscribed and active terrorist organization which has claimed responsibility for last month’s Pulwama terror attack.
It was the fourth attempt for international action against the JeM founder, all of which have been blocked by China since 2009.
“The ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee (1267 Sanctions Committee), upon completion of the no-objection period on 13 March 2019, was not able to come to a decision on the proposal for listing Mohammed Masood Azhar Alvi under the UN Sanctions regime, on account of a member placing the proposal on hold. We are disappointed by this outcome,” the statement said, without naming China.
India expressed its gratitude for the efforts of the countries who moved the proposal and “the unprecedented number of all other Security Council members as well as non-members who joined as co-sponsors”.
The proposal to designate Azhar under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee was moved by France, UK and the US on February 27 in wake of the horrendous terror attack in jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama that left 40 security personnel dead.
“We will continue to pursue all available avenues to ensure that terrorist leaders who are involved in heinous attacks on our citizens are brought to justice,” the statement said.
In an email to WhatsApp head Will Cathcart, the nation’s IT ministry said the upcoming update to the app’s data-sharing policy has raised “grave concerns regarding the implications for the choice and autonomy of Indian citizens… Therefore, you are called upon to withdraw the proposed changes.”
“Such a differential treatment is prejudicial to the interests of Indian users and is viewed with serious concern by the government,” the ministry wrote in the email, a copy of which was obtained by TechCrunch. “The government of India owes a sovereign responsibility to its citizens to ensure that their interests are not compromised and therefore it calls upon WhatsApp to respond to concerns raised in this letter.”
Through an in-app alert earlier this month, WhatsApp had asked users to agree to new terms of conditions that grants the app the consent to share with Facebook some personal data about them, such as their phone number and location. Users were initially provided until February 8 to comply with the new policy if they wished to continue using the service.
“This ‘all-or-nothing’ approach takes away any meaningful choice from Indian users. This approach leverages the social significance of WhatsApp to force users into a bargain, which may infringe on their interests in relation to informational privacy and information security,” the ministry said in the email.
The notification from WhatsApp prompted a lot of confusion — and in some cases, anger and frustration — among its users, many of which have explored alternative messaging apps such as Telegram and Signal in recent weeks.
In a statement on Tuesday, a WhatsApp spokesperson said, “We wish to reinforce that this update does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook. Our aim is to provide transparency and new options available to engage with businesses so they can serve their customers and grow. WhatsApp will always protect personal messages with end-to-end encryption so that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see them. We are working to address misinformation and remain available to answer any questions.”
WhatsApp, which Facebook bought for $19 billion in 2014, has been sharing some limited information about its users with the social giant since 2016 — and for a period allowed users to opt-out of this. Responding to the backlash last week, the Facebook-owned app, which serves more than 2 billion users worldwide, said it was deferring the enforcement of the planned policy to May 15.
WhatsApp also ran front-page ads on several newspapers in India last week, where it has amassed over 450 million users, to explain the changes and debunk some rumors.
New Delhi also shared disappointment with the timing of this update, which, to be fair, WhatsApp unveiled last year. The ministry said that it was reviewing the Personal Data Protection Bill, a monumental privacy bill that is meant to oversee how data of users are shared with the world.
“Since the Parliament is seized of the issue, making such a momentous change for Indian users at this time puts the cart before the horse. Since the Personal Data Protection Bill strongly follows the principle of ‘purpose limitation,’ these changes may lead to significant implementational challenges for WhatsApp should the Bill become an Act,” the letter said.
On Tuesday, India’s IT and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also offered loud advice to Facebook. “Be it WhatsApp, be it Facebook, be it any digital platform. You are free to do business in India but do it in a manner without impinging upon the rights of Indians who operate there.”