Behind The Hidden Veto

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China’s relationship with Pakistan is one dimensional, focused solely on military security cooperation, with India the enemy. It explains China’s use of the ‘hidden veto’ at the UN when India moved to have Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar sanctioned, writes DR. B.R. DEEPAK

A search for India China on the web will throw up a wide range of stories, some positive, others which could leave any reader in India with a sense of disquiet. There’s a report about China beefing up its Tibet Military Command with a quote attributed to an unnamed military expert in Beijing saying, the command “bears great responsibility to prepare for possible conflicts between China and India.”

Another report from Washington claims China and Pakistan are putting their heads together to block India’s application for admission into the Nuclear Suppliers Group this month. Still another report refers to China planning a new road and rail route to Nepal, and the latter’s request for Chinese help to connect three major Nepali cities by rail. The first story is a reaffirmation of the border dispute, the latter two of China seeking to contain India in the ‘South Asian box’ through a strategic alliance (Pakistan) and smart diplomacy (Nepal).

While the Nepal development is in its early stages, the Sino-Pak alliance is an old one, also odd given that China is facing a home grown Islamic insurgency in Xinjiang and has often blamed Uyghur terrorists holed up in Pakistan. More recently, it castigated the US for ‘applying double standards on the counter-terrorism issue’ when Dolkun Isa, an ethnic Uyghur wanted on charges of terrorism in China, got an award in that country.

DOUBLE STANDARDS

From an Indian perspective, why does China apply such double standards to terrorism emanating from Pakistan? It is an open secret that Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terror outfits were created by Pakistan to separate Kashmir from India, and since Pakistan is a willing pawn in China’s strategy of pinning down India, the equation benefits China.

Why does China apply such double standards to terrorism emanating from Pakistan? It is an open secret that Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terror outfits were created by Pakistan to separate Kashmir from India, and since Pakistan is a willing pawn in China’s strategy of pinning down India, the equation benefits China

It’s an argument that is accepted by some Chinese think tanks and academics. Prof. Ye Hailin of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences posits that “China-Pak relationship is mono-dimensional (danweixing) solely focused on military security cooperation with no endogenous (neishengxing) aim but around external security concerns (waibuanquanguanqie), that is to counter India.” He further says that “this kind of cooperation, to a greater extent is due to the long rivalry of both Pakistan and China with India, as India for a long time has been number one enemy of Pakistan, and also poses major threat to the security of western China. Therefore, to keep away the common enemy is a decisive factor in this relationship.” “All weather” friendship has also been defined in the same manner, implying that “change in international and neighbouring environment will not change the Sino-Pak equation.” It is for these reasons that China does not view the JeM and LeT as terrorist outfits. The Pathankot air base attack was reported in leading Chinese newspapers as “armed elements” from some “armed organization” across the border. It is for the same reason that the Chinese press absolved Pakistan of involvement in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, blaming it instead on some “Hindu fundamentalists” as Kasab and others were wearing the “Hindu sacred thread” on their wrists.

Any analysis of the Chinese press would underscore the support for Pakistan irrespective of how brazen or reckless its disregard for norms of international behavior: this was the case with the

Chinese reportage of the Kargil war, and the attack on the Indian Parliament (also the Mumbai attack). Therefore, it is not surprising that China does not buy the Indian thesis of cross-border terrorism.

Although China says that stability in Xinjiang has been endangered by the forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism, that scores of East Turkestan separatist organizations in Xinjiang have their links in Pakistan,

so much so that HasanMahsum the founder of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement was also killed in Pakistan in 2003,

China insists that it will “continue to support Pakistan in formulating and implementing anti-terrorist activities based on its national conditions,” implying that it will support Pakistan’s theory of good and bad terrorists.

INDIAN RESPONSE

Having said that, was the Indian move of “paying China in the same coin” wise enough? Or is it appropriate to play a “Xinjiang Card”? I believe not. At the outset, even though China has created diplomatic hurdles including stapled visas in the recent past, it has distanced itself from supporting insurgencies in India, especially after the late 1970s. Recall in the aftermath of the 1962 war, how China encouraged Naxal violence, trained and armed Naga and Mizo rebels on its soil before sending them back to India to foment trouble. And how it issued statements one after another that supported self-determination for Kashmiris during the deep freeze in our relations. It was only during Vajpayee’s China visit as a Foreign Minister in 1979 that China assured India that its support and assistance to disaffected elements in India’s northeast was a matter of the past.

Playing the Uyghur or even the Tibet card would be extremely dangerous for India, for China may play various cards against India. Imagine China hosting a ‘Kashmir government in exile’ or a ‘Naga government in exile’ on its soil on the lines of a ‘Tibetan government in exile’ which is based in Dharamsala! Secondly, to play such cards it is common knowledge that your hands must be strong, which at this point in time are weak and vulnerable.

There are wide asymmetries in terms of our GDP as well as military spending. Imagine if our northern and eastern borders suffer the fate of our western border! China knows its economy is five times larger than India’s; its military spending is many times higher. It knows India needs considerable time to catch up with China’s comprehensive national strength. Finally, since China sees India as an investment destination, it would be stupid to turn our backs on Chinese capital and price competitive technology. Rather India should be joining hands with China as far as economic engagement is concerned.

There’s a report about China beefing up its Tibet Military Command with a quote attributed to an unnamed military expert in Beijing saying, the command “bears great responsibility to prepare for possible conflicts between China and India.”

Moreover, even if JeM and LeT and other outfits and their masterminds are proscribed by the UN, will that curb terror activities in India? The JeM has been banned by Pakistan, but does it deter Masood Azhar from recruiting Pakistanis for Jihad in India? More important, by playing the Uyghur ‘card’ India could be putting itself in the same league of Pakistan and China, who differentiate between the good and bad terrorists. By doing so, India will lose the moral high ground at the global level.

But there’s no doubt that by issuing a visa to Dolkun Isa and then withdrawing it, India betrayed ambivalence and a muddle headed approach which has sent the wrong signals all around the world.

What India should be doing is to deal with the issue of terrorism and other such issues of national interests on our own terms, as China does. There should be no ambivalence at any level. There should be no need to invite an investigating team from country A or B to give certificates to us. India needs to strengthen its own security apparatus and plug all loopholes in the system.

After all, the success of any policy including foreign policy, will hinge on India’s internal drivers rather than seeking the support of this or that country. Finally, since international community has desired China to be a responsible stakeholder in the international system, India must join the chorus, and expose China’s double standards in every international forum. In this regard, Syed Akbaruddin slamming China’s ‘hidden veto’ at the UN and the Indian leadership raising the matter in Moscow and Beijing were the appropriate things to do.

The Press Trust of India may consider having the option of Mandarin on its website (on the lines of the New York Times, Financial Times), so the larger Chinese population gets an Indian perspective on counter terrorism and other such issues.

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