Why is China backing terrorist Masood Azhar, founder of Jaish-e-Mohammad?

Updated: March 14, 2019 4:35 PM

India’s foreign ministry, without mentioning China by name, had expressed “disappointment” with the turn of the events at the 1267 committee.

china, masood azhar, jaishe mohammad, pulwama attacks, terrorism, united states, Xiamen, india pakistan tensions, Nuclear Supplies Group, UN security councilAll in all, China’s move is likely to be a major set-back to the bilateral relations for a number of reasons. (IE)

By Srikanth Kondapalli

By vetoing once again a fourth time the listing of Masood Azhar on March 13, 2019, the founder of Jaish-e-Mohammad, which is not only involved in the recent Pulwama attacks but also a number of other terrorist incidents, China had in a way conveyed to the world that it is selective, if not explicitly supportive, in its approach to terrorism issue.

This is despite the mounting global opinion and the active opposition of the United States, UK, Germany and France who have stridently opposed terrorist groups and actively campaigned for their proscription at the 1267 committee in the United Nations.

India’s foreign ministry, without mentioning China by name, had expressed “disappointment” with the turn of the events at the 1267 committee. Nevertheless, the repercussions of this incident on the India-China relations are expected to unfold over many months and years to come. All in all, China’s move is likely to be a major set-back to the bilateral relations for a number of reasons.

Also read| China openly supports terrorism! Blocks ban on JeM chief Masood Azhar at UN

Firstly, despite this issue being raised in the joint communiques, at the Xiamen meeting of the BRICS in September 2017, Wuhan summit meeting in April 2018 and at the recently held Russia-India-China trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers, China has sided with its “all-weather friend” Pakistan to the detriment of any genuine counter-terror cooperation with India. China’s above double standards in addressing terrorism issue, despite suggesting that it opposes all forms of terrorism, is going to be costly for it in the neighbourhood.

Secondly, despite a number of counter-terror cooperative mechanisms between the two countries, such as in the seven Hand-in-Hand joint operations conducted so far between the armies or the Home Ministry led counter-terror cooperation, the current Chinese objections at the 1267 committee on “lack of evidence” suggests that there may not be meaningful and effective counter-terror operations between the two sides in the coming years.

Thirdly, given the popular outburst against the killings of over 40 paramilitary personnel at Pulwama and support for the Balakot strikes across India and the world at large, China’s objections at the 1267 committee are expected to further deplete its appeal in India in the coming years and affect its already problematic image in the country, thus affecting its soft power in India in the coming years.

Fourthly, China’s efforts to suggest that it is acting at the 1267 committee from its national interests perspective of weaning away the Jaish from either intervening in the Uighur insurgency or to protect its assets in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, are not going to cut much ice with New Delhi or other capitals as since the 911 incident, it became imperative to have multinational cooperation against terrorism rather than acting in silos on this issue. By its actions at the 1267 committee, China is invariably suggesting that it does not care about the multilateral efforts.

Fifthly, resembling similar Chinese responses at the Nuclear Supplies Group and on the United Nations Security Council membership for India, Beijing’s posture at the 1267 as well suggest to India that the latter need to insist on reciprocity in the bilateral relations and look at fresh any commitments that New Delhi made regarding similar “core interests” of China. For New Delhi, if Beijing does not care about India’s concerns – here related to the growing unpopular terrorist incidents – then India as well could care less about China’s concerns. Subtle political messaging from New Delhi in this regard could go a long way in conveying effectively to Beijing, India’s concerns.

Sixthly, India needs to factor that after the Balakot incident, China is likely to play a more pro-active role in Pakistan in the coming years in terms of military and intelligence back-up for Islamabad. While the Indian armed forces since 2009 have configured in their operational principles of a “two-front war under nuclear threshold”, they now also have to factor the sub-conventional (terror) incidents in the coming years. This is expected to complicate issues between India and China in the coming years.

Seventhly, listing Masood Azhar in the 1267 committee or any other individual may be a symbolic gesture in counter-terrorism campaign without addressing effectively the terror infrastructure raised by the Pakistan, China and the United States since the 1970s Soviet presence in Afghanistan – as some have argued – China’s stance at the 1267 committee suggests that India could up the ante on such “symbolic” issues such as on Tibet, Taiwan, South China Sea or on Senkaku Islands in the coming years. Or India could be less “sensitive” on matters dear to Beijing such as on visas to Uighurs, for instance, in the coming years. Such a path could be costly for both countries in the coming years and could affect their bilateral and multilateral interactions in the coming years.

(The author is Professor in Chinese Studies at JNU. Views expressed in this article are his personal)


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