Days after Beijing blocked India’s move to get the United Nations to ‘ban’ Pakistan-based terrorist Masood Azhar, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong had the temerity to accuse India of pursuing “political gains in the name of counter-terrorism.” Despite the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s undignified attempt to make political hay of New Delhi’s recent successes, which includes the latest surgical strikes, it does not take a genius to understand that Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar presents a grave threat to India’s security interests. Beijing’s response since the surgical strikes across the Line of Control remains guarded. But the vice foreign minister’s statement indicates that amidst the larger geopolitical dynamic in the region, China has decided to align with Pakistan. “There should be no double standards on counter- terrorism. Nor should one pursue own political gains in the name of counter-terrorism," said China's Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong, ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India for the BRICS summit, scheduled to be held later this week. It is an apparent attempt to protect Chinese 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 also comes amidst growing Indo-US military ties, following the signing of a recent Logistics agreement.
It is China’s double standards on terror that must be called out. 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. Allied with their economic interests is an underlying security angle. In the face of serious transnational terrorism sparked by ISIS, China’s security establishment has thought it wise to use regional clients like Pakistan to contain the threat. However, reports of a growing exchange of fighters from its troubled Xinjiang province to jihadist groups in the Middle East and Central Asia have raised alarm bells in Beijing. With Uighur combatants in the Xinjiang province taking up arms, Beijing seems to have realised that it needs to quietly direct Pakistan away from sheltering such elements, even though it continues to stand in the way of UN sanctions on Masood Azhar.