Despite the support of the United States, France and the United Kingdom, China remains an obstacle in India's bid to include Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar among the United Nation's list of banned global militants. On Thursday, New Delhi demanded that Beijing reconsiders its decision to block a US proposal that seeks a ban on Azhar. Beijing's position on the issue has remained unchanged.
On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang had said that conditions to include Azhar's name in the list of global terrorists had not been fulfilled, adding that relevant parties had failed to reach a consensus till date. Beijing's opposition to the proposal imposes a "hold" period, which lasts for six months and can be extended by another three months. The proposal was moved after Washington, and New Delhi held meetings and decided that the Pakistan-based JeM was a designated militant outfit and hence, its leaders cannot travel freely.
China has once again used its veto powers in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to keep Azhar off the designated list of terrorists, despite clear evidence of his role in the attack on Parliament in 2001, Pathankot airbase in January 2016 and the Indian Army camp in Uri late last year. It indicates China's intention to support Pakistan at all costs, including terrorist leaders, and in contravention of their official stance against global terror. While the Jaish-e-Mohammed had been listed as a terrorist organisation since 2001, the group's chief and motivator have suffered no sanctions.
Allied with their economic interests in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is an underlying security angle. In the face of transnational terrorism sparked by ISIS, China's security establishment has thought it wise to use regional clients like Pakistan to contain the threat. As the Americans have found out, it is a strategy fraught with high risk. India must find a way to drag China away from this foreign policy misadventure.
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 as they do in India, Afghanistan and Bangladesh will come back to haunt the Chinese. Until better sense prevails, Beijing will continue to behave in a manner inimical to India's security interests.
Security analysts, however, are more concerned about developments closer to home. Worrying signs had emerged from terror attacks on an Indian army base in Nagrota and the Pathankot air base last year. In a recent column for an Indian news website, Saikat Datta, a visiting fellow at the Observer Research Foundation think-tank, presents credible evidence of a sinister alliance brewing on our borders. "The attacks and credible intelligence gathered by several countries show there is a growing working relationship between the Pakistan-based largely Punjabi terror groups and the Taliban and Islamic State-Khorasan Province based in Afghanistan.
Security analysts feel that one of the main reasons Punjabi-speaking fighters are joining the Taliban or the ranks of the Islamic State-Khorasan Province is to ensure that Pakistan's external spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, continues to have reasonable control over Afghanistan's various militant outfits and ideologies," he writes. What should be of real concerns is that this alliance of terror has strengthened Pakistani militant groups looking to inflict violence on Indian soil with better resources and more funds.
The Modi government must be prepared to deal with this emergence of a more potent militancy in India. Allied with these developments is the flow of missing Indian citizens signing up for the Islamic State. The initial assessment was that these individuals were heading to Syria to fight for the transnational terror group. After interrogating key suspects, however, Indian intelligence authorities had begun to gather that these Indian fighters were headed for Afghanistan under the protective wings of Pakistan's 'deep state' (the Inter-Service Intelligence and the Pakistani military) to join the Islamic State-Khorastan. "In a complex world, with new relationships between terror groups, New Delhi is facing the prospect of more attacks across India as the Kashmir issue continues to fester," Datta goes on to write.
Is the NDA government prepared to deal with these challenges?
Where does the United States, under a Donald Trump administration figure amidst these developments? In a recent column for The Diplomat, Touqir Hussain, a former senior Pakistani diplomat and adviser to the prime minister, presents a clear context within which Washington finds itself. "The Obama administration lost its way in dealing with Pakistan. The president got too invested in India both for reasons of legacy and his focus on building India as a balancer to China. And that gave India a big voice in U.S.-Pakistan relations to Pakistan's disadvantage," says Hussain. Allied with Obama's desire to hasten the process of bringing stability Afghanistan, Pakistan found an outlet in an alliance with China. "By Washington's own worst fears, Pakistan is where terrorism and the nuclear threat converge.
If there is unbearable pressure on Pakistan, forcing it to go after all militant groups at once, groups such as the Haqqani Network and Afghan Taliban-Pakistan could be destabilised as these groups have the capacity to hit back. It may be a stable country now, but the consequences of instability given its nuclear assets and the risk of their falling into the hands of radicals will be horrendous. The challenge is how to avoid that scenario while also avoiding a clean break in the relationship that would be capitalised on by China," he concludes.