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Dangerous gambit

In the past few days, China has claimed that it is actively engaged in defusing tensions between India and Pakistan. Tensions have simmered following the Uri terror attack and surgical counter-strikes conducted by the Indian security forces on terrorist launch pads. China has so far persisted with its position that India and Pakistan need to engage directly to resolve their differences. It is a clear attempt to protect its economic interests in the region.

The $46-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir--a region known to house terror camps. Beijing’s decision to finance Pakistan with infrastructure projects and weapons comes at a cost to India’s security. 

Further evidence of the same came on Saturday when China continued stall India’s efforts to get Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar designated a terrorist by the United Nations. China has been using its powers in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to keep Azhar off the designated list of terrorists through a “technical hold”, despite clear evidence of his role in the attack on Parliament in 2001, Pathankot airbase earlier this year and the Indian Army camp in Uri two weeks ago. 

New Delhi has remained firm in its bid to apprise the UNSC’s 1267 committee that Azhar has close links to the Taliban and consequently to Al Qaeda. The “technical hold” placed at Beijing's behest gives the committee more time on deliberate on Azhar. 

Back in April, China had requested the UN committee to keep the designation on hold. This six-month hold period lapsed on Saturday, but the country decided to extend it. The hold will now remain for six more months, after which the UNSC will need to take a final call. In the aftermath of the 26/11 terror attack in 2008, China vetoed India’s proposal to slap UN sanctions on Azhar. It remains the only country among the UNSC’s 15 nations to object to India’s proposal. But one must also understand the finer nuances of China’s policy.

 In a recent column, Praveen Swami, a leading Indian analyst on international and security affairs, writes: "Although the world sees China as a fire-breathing dragon, its leaders know their power rests on pillars of the most fragile porcelain. The armies massing (ISIS) in West Asia, Beijing fears, could bring the roof down on their half-century-long effort to build a great power. 

Facing a serious transnational terrorism threat, China’s security establishment finds itself under-resourced and ill-prepared. Its intelligence services don’t have the global reach of the US. Beijing, moreover, is sceptical of America’s expensive way of war. Instead, Beijing seeks to use regional clients like Pakistan to contain the threat.” As the Americans have found out, using Pakistan as a buffer to contain transnational terror is a strategy fraught with great risk. 

India must find a way to drag China away from its foreign policy misadventure in Pakistan. There have been reports of a growing tide of fighters from its troubled Xinjiang province to jihadist groups in the Middle East and Central Asia. Pakistan’s track record of using “non-state actors” to fulfil their strategic goals will come back to haunt the Chinese. Until such a time comes to pass, the Chinese government will continue to behave in a manner inimical to India’s security interests. 

According to a secret American diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks in 2010, China blocked efforts in the UN Security Council to slap sanctions against JuD and its leader Hafiz Saeed before the horrific Mumbai terror attack. The cable dated August 10, 2009, stated that a US request to list Hafiz Saeed on a sanctions list was put on hold before 26/11.
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