China’s stance on Pak terror groups likely a situational manoeuvre

China’s stance on Pak terror groups likely a situational manoeuvre

By Yash Agalgaonkar | | 10 September, 2017

The mention of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) in the joint Xiamen declaration by the BRICS nations is considered a diplomatic triumph for India. The Chinese statement, against the backdrop of the Doklam standoff, can be seen as a major success for the current Indian administration. However, Indian and Western strategists should ponder if the BRICS statement is a permanent Chinese policy stance or merely a situational manoeuvre. It is important to pose this question to develop the future negotiation templates for the West and India.The very basis of scepticism over China’s permanent policy change on Pakistan based terrorist groups is due to a realistic assessment of China’s past actions and present circumstance. 

Last year, China had put a technical hold on the sanctioning of JEM supremo Masood Azhar. After its expiration, beginning this year, the sanction against Azhar was brought by the US, UK and France. China quashed this resolution too. Immediately after the Xiamen declaration by BRICS nations, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang evaded media’s questions on Azhar. Beijing also bolstered Pakistan by saying that there was “no change” in its policy, immediately after the BRICS declaration. The mention of JEM, LET and the Haqqani Network in the BRICS Xiamen declaration has undoubtedly irritated Pakistan. But a close observation of the statement shows the mention of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as well. The TTP mention is to assuage some of Pakistan’s concerns and to give a subtle nuance to the BRICS declaration. The BRICS statement, after US President Donald Trump’s criticism of Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan, is a double whammy for Pakistan. And China has not left any stones unturned in showing its support for Pakistan. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing stood firmly behind its “ironclad friend” Pakistan, and criticised the US’ Afghanistan policy. From all this, it’s clear that China has financial and strategic concerns. It is making massive investments in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, ensuring its own access to the Arabian Sea. China values Pakistan as its strategic partner in the region. Further, there are domestic reasons at play for China. The BRICS summit took place just before next month’s crucial Chinese Communist Party Congress. It was important for President Xi Jinping to ensure a successful BRICS summit and avoid faux pas.This raises several questions. Was China’s mention of JEM, LET and Haqqani Network just a situational manoeuvre? When the issue of Masood Azhar comes up for review in the UN, will China block it again? Will appeasing Pakistan follow its isolation? Though the BRICS statement is a success for Indian diplomacy and in turn convenient for the West, there is need for further negotiations on this issue. It is essential for India and the West to point out to China that its policy against Islamic terrorism should be rooted in principled unequivocal opposition, rather than self-centred realpolitik.  The West paid a hefty price for supporting Islamic terrorist groups in Afghanistan for narrow short-term interests against the Soviet Union. China, which believes in ancient statecraft, should focus on long term partnership with India and the West. 

China should abandon its self-centred, short term policy on Islamic terror. On the issue of JEM and LET, China finally gave in, at least temporarily, to world pressure at BRICS. Dalai Lama’s words are prophetic: “Too much self-centred attitude brings isolation.” Many times, what is true for individuals is equally true for societies and nations.

Dr Yash Agalgaonkar is coordinator of www.JKObserver.info, a soon to be launched platform covering issues, facts and news on J&K.

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