New Delhi: Withholding the vast Indian market from Chinese telecom players looking to ace the 5G race, and courting a “rebel” territory of the dragon: India has several interesting options to get back at China for not letting the UN Security Council list Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, members of the strategic and diplomatic community told ThePrint.
Former intelligence official and China expert Jayadeva Ranade said India should immediately reject any proposal from the Chinese to roll out 5G technology, the next frontier in faster internet connectivity, in this market.
Chinese telecom giant Huawei had said last month that India would be its biggest market after China for 5G, which is likely to be launched this year or by 2020.
“We have to be stronger in our approach. We cannot continue to have such a soft approach with China,” former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal added. “We cannot keep our markets open to them always.”
Ranade also suggested that while India maintains its ‘One China’ policy — whereby it doesn’t have formal ties with Taiwan, which Beijing considers a breakaway province despite Taepei’s claims of independence — it can take significant measures to seek greater investments from Taiwan and open up India’s market to Taiwanese technology.
An Indian official told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity that the Modi government was under severe pressure in his domestic constituency on how it should “punish” China in light of Beijing’s latest bid to keep Azhar off the UNSC 1267 ISIL and Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee list, which identifies individuals and entities associated with the two terror groups and puts them under punishing sanctions.
Earlier this week, China placed a ‘technical hold’ on a proposal moved by the US, the UK and France — its fellow permanent members of the UNSC — to get Azhar ilisted as a global terrorist by the committee, a tag that would put him under a travel ban, assets freeze and arms embargo.
The proposal came after the Pulwama attack that killed 40 CRPF soldiers last month. The Pakistan-based JeM, which has been proscribed by the committee, had claimed responsibility for the attack, among the bloodiest in Kashmir since a JeM terror strike in 2001 killed 39 people at the J&K assembly in Srinagar.
The hold placed by China will be valid for up to six months, after which it can be extended by another three months. If Beijing does not act within this nine-month period, the hold will automatically convert into a block on the proposal.
This is the fourth time China, a key Pakistan ally, has foiled international efforts to get Azhar on the UNSC sanctions list.
“The Chinese technical hold on the listing of Azhar is a cautionary reminder of China’s deep strategic commitment to Pakistan, which continues to complicate our ties with China,” said Ashok K. Kantha, director of the Delhi-based Institute of Chinese Studies.
“It is also a reality check regarding the limitations of the understandings reached at Wuhan,” the former Indian ambassador to China added, referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China President Xi Jinping’s first informal summit in China last April.
“There are structural challenges in India-China relations which need to be addressed and not wished away … border-related issues, too, must be managed well even when they cannot be resolved in the foreseeable future,” he added.
‘New Delhi’s disappointment’
The statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs after China put the technical hold expressed New Delhi’s “disappointment” at the move even as it refrained from naming the country.
This was the first time that India didn’t name China in such a statement.
The UNSC development has spurred calls for retribution against China, with hashtags such as #BoycottChineseGoods, #Chinasupportsterrorism and #ChinabacksMasood trending on Twitter.
It has also become a political hot button, with the opposition alleging that the Chinese decision suggested the Narendra Modi government had failed to take a tough stand against terrorism.
Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh, however, hit back at critics, tweeting a veiled jibe at the BJP-led government’s Congress predecessors Wednesday.
Is China’s stance on Mazood Azhar a reflection of the soft position that some leaders & political parties have taken?
Blocking us for the 4th time at the UN, China is not setting the right example for the global fight against terrorism.
— Vijay Kumar Singh (@Gen_VKSingh) March 14, 2019
Meanwhile, China said Thursday that it had placed a hold on the decision in order to seek more time on the matter so that a “lasting solution” acceptable to all can be found.
Check out My543, our comprehensive report card of all Lok Sabha MPs.