India has long known that Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar has been carrying out his terror activities from Pakistan soil with impunity.
For instance, India Today reported that just nine days before the deadly Pulwama attack, Azhar had given a call for jehad against India at a terror rally in Peshawar, the capital of a province governed by Prime Minister Imran Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf party. In fact, he is heard making an intriguing reference to Pulwama in his speech.
But Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told CNN recently that while the JeM chief is indeed in their country, as per his information, Azhar is "unwell to the extent that he cannot leave his house". That was in response to a query about why Pakistan did not just arrest Azhar in the face of current India-Pakistan tensions.
Qureshi also said that Pakistan "would be open to any move that leads to de-escalation", including putting Azhar on the international terrorist list, if India can back it up with "inalienable evidence". On Wednesday, India had handed over to Pakistan a dossier on "specific details" of JeM's involvement in the Pulwama terror attack on CRPF as well as the presence of camps of the UN-proscribed terror outfit in that country. The dossier was handed over to the Acting High Commissioner of Pakistan, who was summoned by the Ministry of External Affairs to lodge a strong protest over Pakistan Air Force targeting Indian military installations, a day after the Indian Air Force's counter-terror action against the JeM.
Qureshi also told the channel that it's not a matter of doubting what Azhar or his outfit have been accused of doing but "there is a legal process and you have to satisfy it" and asked that India "initiate a dialogue" and share any such evidence with Pakistan "so that we can convince the people and we can convince the independent judiciary of Pakistan".
The development comes at a time when diplomatic pressure is mounting on Pakistan over terror groups operating on its soil. India and the US have been critical of Pakistan's shielding of Azhar. But while India has been trying hard to get him named an international terrorist at the United Nations Security Council, Pakistan's all-weather friend China has repeatedly thwarted such attempts.
Why does India want him on the list in the first place? Because this move not only entails a travel and arms ban but also freezing Azhar's funds and financial assets.