Sunday, March 19, 2023
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Let China block Masood Azhar listing at UN, India must carry on with Wuhan spirit

New Delhi’s carefully worded disappointment over Beijing’s stand is in line with India’s engagement with China before and after the Modi-Xi meeting in Wuhan.

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There is nothing new or surprising in China’s refusal to support the resolution in the United Nations Security Council to designate Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. And, India would do well to not let this dent the Wuhan spirit.

In fact, the external affairs ministry’s carefully worded disappointment over Beijing’s stand seems to be in line with the process of India’s engagement with China before and after the Modi-Xi Wuhan summit in April 2018.

Advocating a muscular policy, calling for boycott of Chinese goods, putting out a series of tweets and mocking Narendra Modi’s foreign policy initiatives may be good street shows, especially in the election season, but these will not serve our long-term strategy.

The Wuhan spirit

In the background of emerging trade war between the US and China, Beijing going full steam ahead with its China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, and the unsavoury standoff in Doklam, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping held a historic meeting in Wuhan.

Also read: India and China needed Wuhan, but it will not be enough

Both countries decided to bury not one but many hatchets, including the Doklam standoff. The Wuhan meeting paved the way for a reset of bilateral relations derailed by some ‘not-so-friendly’ actions on both sides (India’s support to Dalai Lama and China’s assurance to support Pakistan’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group). The ‘Wuhan spirit’ is meant to guide the ongoing and future engagements between the two countries.

In this background, New Delhi has the option of re-kindling that spirit while continuing to carry forward its diplomatic onslaught against Pakistan. Beijing is fully aware of the fact that India’s diplomatic efforts are not only leading Pakistan towards isolation, they are also hyphenating Beijing with Islamabad, especially on the issue of terrorism.

It is easy to dismiss China blocking the fourth such attempt at the UN as a defeat of India’s diplomacy. But the fact that four out of five permanent members of the UNSC were on India’s side and that Pakistan has been globally condemned for its inability to reign in non-state actors using its soil to perpetuate acts of terror is in itself a great victory and vindication of India’s stand.

China’s strategic interests

It is no secret that China needs Pakistan and, more importantly, its army in its quest for strategic entry into the Indian Ocean and carry on trade from this sea port. The main entry point of CPEC from Chinese border town to Hasan Abdal in Karakoram Highway is heavily protected, jointly by the Pakistani army and China’s People’s Liberation Army. Pakistan’s railway network is to be connected to Kashgar in China’s southern part of Xinjiang province.

Also read: This is how India can ‘punish’ China for protecting Masood Azhar at UN

Masood Azhar holds considerable influence in this area in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Stepping on the toes of Masood Azhar will antagonise the Pakistani army, which China can do only at the cost of CPEC and forgo its hold on Gwadar.

In fact, in a bid to insulate Masood Azhar, the Pakistani army is said to have encouraged Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, a US-designated terrorist and founder of the terrorist organisation Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) and a close associate of Masood Azhar, to join Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). This political safeguarding of Masood Azhar by way of one of his key associates will no doubt help China’s ‘work in progress’ in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Anti-terror sentiment

India’s continued attempts to get the Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar listed in the UN’s designated terrorists’ list have met with resistance from China, mainly on “technical grounds”. China has cited “lack of consensus” in the UN sanctions committee as an important reason for the public stand it has taken.

Also read: Seen as US’ successor in Afghanistan, China can take any stand it wants on Masood Azhar

But China did give jitters to Islamabad when its foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang condemned the Pulwama terror attack. “China has noted the reports of suicide terrorist attack. We are deeply shocked by this attack. We express deep condolences and sympathy to the injured and bereaved families. We firmly oppose and strongly condemn all forms of terrorism. We hope relevant regional countries will cooperate to cope with the threat of terrorism and jointly uphold regional peace and stability,” the official had said.

Needless to say, Beijing is fully aware of the sentiments in the region and also in the many countries around the globe that are facing the wrath of terrorism. In the Global Terrorism Index of 50 countries, Iran is the most affected (9.75 on the scale of 0 to 10), India is seventh (7.57) while China is placed at 36 (5.11).

A calibrated and well-crafted China strategy will help India build more pressure against terrorism in the region, and not risk destroying the Wuhan spirit.

The author is the former editor of ‘Organiser’.

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  1. It might not want to step in on Chinese toes, but robust economic signalling like favouring western firms to Chinese firms on tech might help and also make US/France very happy

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