India needs to reassess diplomatic exchanges with terror-funding and obstructionist China
Consonant with diplomatic principles, Delhi has formally issued a demarche yet again to Beijing for its sustained blocking of a combined move by the US, UK and France to proscribe an established Pakis
Consonant with diplomatic principles, Delhi has formally issued a demarche yet again to Beijing for its sustained blocking of a combined move by the US, UK and France to proscribe an established Pakistani terrorist perpetrator with a pronounced India focus, Maulana Masood Azhar, under UNSC Resolution 1267. One of the Pak establishment-endorsed terror supremos, who maintains a discreet operational liaison with the higher channels from among the Pakistan Army, is said to have recently met some Chinese embassy officials in Islamabad to touch upon common interest areas related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, structured largely on the premise of dynamic Sino-Pak intelligence synergy.
This is not the first time or the last occasion for Beijing to signify its close brotherhood status to its closest strategic ally, Pakistan, which openly finances and conducts terror operations against India. One of India’s most wanted terrorists, Hafiz Saeed (co-founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba [LeT]), whom Interpol has sanctioned, is running a business and social empire of sorts in Pakistan. Is it not far from the truth that if Pakistan is a state-sponsor of terrorism, that specifically targets India and Afghanistan, China is its proven diplomatic sponsor in form, shape and conduct within the UN fold and outside as well?
Beijing had earlier put on “technical hold” an Indian request to interrogate Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, responsible (alongside Saeed) for 26/11 terrorist action in 2008 that took 165 lives in Mumbai, on his release from jail in Pakistan. Again in 2008, China had stalled an American proposal for UN sanctions against four ISI mentors, including its former head Lt Gen Hamid Gul, for alleged links to terror activities. India was also prevented from adding Hizbul Mujahideen’s Syed Salahuddin to the formal list of international terrorists through a Chinese interdiction. While UNSC banned LeT, it had enough inside information and, accordingly, had prepared the groundwork to transmute itself to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, for “helping the poor and the needy”!
Although during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Beijing in May 2015, the two sides had decided that, “all countries and entities need to work sincerely to disrupt terrorist networks and their financing, and stop cross-border movements of terrorists”, such resolves evidently carry little relevance in the parlance of diplomatic execution, as Chinese actions prove to the world at large. In fact, given the Chinese sense of acquiescence over refined and well-rehearsed Pakistani methodologies to use terror as a tool of coercive diplomacy within and around its border, it is surprising that India continues to invoke hope and confidence in diplomatic exchanges with Beijing on the issue. Given the clear signals that emanated out of Beijing over the past few decades, Delhi needs to be more circumspect in making any ‘leading requests’ that have strategic connotations for India.
If it is a trade deal that is in the offing, Beijing can be expected to ‘host and toast’ and conduct proceedings animatedly while interfacing its Indian interlocutors. But where India’s strategic concerns are involved, China would continue to be an obstructionist. The Chinese position on terrorism on Indian soil may appear alarming and irrational, but India must learn to accept this harsh reality. As the world’s third largest arms supplier, China today provides more weapons to Pakistan than any other country and has helped the latter build and maintain its nuclear reactors. Recently, declassified CIA files testify to the depth of the Pak-China military relationship built over decades.
India must make it clear to Beijing that its trade with China cannot prosper unless it changes its adamant support to Pakistan-based terrorists operating against her. It must insist that China discharge its liability as a permanent member of the UNSC to play a positive role against terror outfits operating from Pakistan, or pay the price, both economically as well in terms of loss of credibility as a world power.
New Delhi must also convince Pakistan that state-sponsored terrorism has run its course and is in the danger of causing an implosion in the region. After its increasing association with terror, it is at risk of being branded a pariah state.
US President Donald Trump has asked the CIA to be ready for a war against ‘Islamic terrorism’. This sets the stage for greater convergence and deepening of Indo-US military and intelligence ties. The US may increasingly marginalise Pakistan and pressurise it to take out terrorist groups. If India conducts any surgical strikes, Trump is likely to welcome them.
That security in the region of South and Central Asia and the fight against terrorism featured in the first conversation between Modi and Trump after he assumed office, indicates that the new US President is likely to be more supportive of India’s counter-terrorism measures against Pakistan. Given his somewhat anti-China stance, Trump’s support can also help India check China’s growing influence in the region.
Mohan Das Menon
Former additional secretary, Cabinet Secretariat