Explained: Why is China shielding the Jaish-e-Mohammad?

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Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: The newscard comprehensively discusses China’s tactics for its stance on backing terror groups


Context

Background

  • The Jaish-e-Mohammad has carried out multiple attacks on India over the last nearly two decades, but its leader, Masood Azhar, eludes international sanctions.
  • India’s proposal to designate Azhar as a global terrorist under the 1267 regime has been blocked four times by China, most recently in January 2017.
  • Beijing has refused to lift its “technical hold” on a proposal to declare Azhar a global terrorist.

Why is China so keen to shield Azhar?

  1. On Azhar, China insists there isn’t enough evidence to designate him a “global terrorist”, though the rest of the P5 believes otherwise.
  2. Its standard line is that it wants to “uphold the authority and validity of the 1267 Committee”.
  3. The UNSC Resolution 1267 prescribes a sanctions regime against designated terrorists and terrorist groups.
  4. But its real reasons range from protecting its “all weather” ally in South Asia to its business interests in the CPEC.
  5. China tries making things difficult for its Asian rival India to making a point to western powers led by the United States.

I. Importance of CPEC

  1. CPEC runs across the length of Pakistan, linking Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang province to the Gwadar deep-sea port on the Arabian Sea near Pakistan’s border with Iran.
  2. Access to the sea through Gwadar will remove the need for it to take the long route west through the Straits of Malacca and around India.
  3. The CPEC will dramatically increase its proximity to the oil shipping lanes through the Strait of Hormuz.
  4. Chinese firms have invested close to $40 billion in around 45 CPEC projects, about half of which are nearing completion.

II. Role of Jaish in CPEC

  1. International protection for ISI proxies like Jaish provides China the insurance against terrorist attacks on CPEC infrastructure and the thousands of Chinese working on them.
  2. The project has been targeted by Baloch separatists as well as the Pakistani Taliban, who have claimed to be protesting China’s treatment of its Muslim Uyghur minority in eastern Xinjiang.

III. Insecurity despite of State Security

  1. Pakistan has attempted to reassure Beijing on the security of CPEC.
  2. In 2015, it established a 20,000-personnel Special Security Division drawn from the Army and paramilitary forces to secure CPEC in addition to the local police.
  3. China has had a tacit understanding with the Afghan Taliban from the days of their predecessors in the 1970s.

IV. Uighur Question

  1. China subsequently in 70s made a deal with the Taliban that as long as they don’t support the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, they won’t harm them.
  2. China takes a different position because of the larger understanding it has with such organisations… as long as you don’t disturb me, we will not penalise you.
  3. If you are expanding your international base, it must not be at my expense. That’s China’s attitude.

V. Popularity in Pakistan

  1. Also, China enjoys overwhelming popularity on the street in Pakistan — surveys show 88% Pakistanis view China favorably, compared with only 33% Indians.
  2. It is not in Beijing’s interest to disappoint this constituency by giving in to India’s repeated demands to list Azhar.
  3. China remains conscious that relations between Pakistan and the US had been strongly impacted by the killings, first by al-Qaeda of American-Israeli journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002 and then, by US special forces of Osama bin Laden in 2011.

Does China’s stand have to do with India’s emergence as a competitor?

  1. India is part of a short list of economic giants who have refused to participate in the BRI due to sovereignty concerns in PoK.
  2. And since China views India as a competitor, Beijing looks to tie down New Delhi to South Asia using issues like Azhar.

Hafiz Saeed vs. Masud Azhhar

  1. Before Azhar, Beijing had blocked on three occasions India’s moves to designate Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed as a terrorist.
  2. But in 2008, as global outrage intensified in the aftermath of the 26/11 attacks, Beijing was forced to back international action against Saeed.
  3. But 26/11 was an extraordinary attack; it remains to be seen if India can drum up enough international support over Pulwama to push China on Azhar.

Is there a reason for Beijing to twist?

  1. Not budging on Azhar will probably not directly affect China’s bilateral ties with India.
  2. But Beijing may have to contend with the abstract impact of a shift in public opinion.
  3. The gains from last year’s Wuhan Summit may dwindle if public opinion turns against China.
  4. This time, it is not really defensible Jaish have said they were involved.
  5. China’s image will take a beating and the Indian public will have an increasingly negative view of China leading to boycott of its goods.

Conclusion

  1. China clearly supports Pakistan on UNSC Resolution 1267 and has blocked India’s entry into the NSG by tying its bid to Pakistan’s.
  2. China seeks to needle and frustrate India.
  3. Such tactics are also intended to send out a message to the US, which seeks to build a relationship with India to contain China in the Indo-Pacific.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-China
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