China Needs To Adapt A Pragmatic Approach On Terrorism

China has placed the application for listing Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) Chief Masood Azhar under the United Nations Sanctions Committee 1267 under ‘technical hold’ for fourth time thwarting international efforts to categorise Azhar as a UN designated terrorist. France, the United States and United Kingdom had proposed the move, showing that India has considerable international support for its diplomatic efforts. The move has also exposed the extent of Chinese support to Pakistan and put pressure on China to explain the rationale behind its decision.

Chinese Scholars and commentators have opined that it would require India and China to engage in in-depth discussions to resolve the issue. Despite India providing strong evidences, the Chinese call for more evidence also reveal the extent of Beijing’s dilemma before it goes for voting on the issue again. However, besides these technical reasons, the reluctance of China to label terrorists residing in Pakistan also means that Islamabad relies on China to escape international condemnation for its actions. China wishes that Pakistan should not be called as a state that sponsors terrorism. Obviously, India and China have different perceptions on how to resolve the issue of terrorism and the ways in which a country can prevent terrorist actions by groups and states.

But, China’s friendship with Pakistan has impeded it from maintaining its neutrality on India’s policy of curtailing terrorist individuals and groups. As a result, India-China bilateral relationship has suffered, increasing the mistrust and has evoked questions in India on China’s commitment to cooperate with India on the specific issue of global terrorism. Both countries are members of many internationals forums, and Beijing has all along given commitments to ‘take strong action against the menace of terrorism’. The recent Chinese vote however, has also dented China’s image as a responsible stakeholder in the international system.

The international pressure on China and the Indian disappointment towards Beijing’s decision has led to concerns about China’s policy towards terrorism. The Chinese Ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui has, in fact, stated that the matter of Masood Azhar would be resolved. He expressed confidence that further consultations between New Delhi and Beijing would be the key in solving the issue. The Chinese Ambassador’s reassurance has come at the time of intense Indian scrutiny over Chinese actions. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) members have also warned China that they may be “forced to take other actions”.

There is no doubt that China’s reaching-out to India came at the height of mounting criticism. Beijing’s friendship with Pakistan has been called into question. Also, the extent to which China is willing to shield its close partner has been seen by all the countries. The reality is that China lends its support to Pakistan to protect its strategic partnership and vast investments in that country. Many doubt if the Chinese assurance to India is temporary or genuine. If the reassurances are genuine, then it raises doubts as to what new evidence or consultation China needs in order to be convinced of the Indian case that might lead to a change in China’s stance. India has been able to convince the entire global community except China on the issue of terrorism emanating from India’s Western borders. India has provided wide-ranging, strong and clinching evidence on Masood Azhar’s involvement in terror activities in India, especially the Pulwama attack.

China’s acquiescence would depend on how it views the proposed ‘new evidences’ to resolve the latest irritant. India needs to effectively leverage the international community to ban terrorists and their organizations. Beijing needs to understand that terrorist networks and groups operating in the South Asian region, not only affects the Indian subcontinent but also the wider region including China’s own territory.

Script: Dr. M S Prathibha, Strategic Analyst On China