Chinese version of India’s ‘pre-emptive’ and ‘non-military strikes’ matches the reports emanating from Pak.
In the wake of India’s airstrikes on Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) training camp in Balakot, Pakistan the Chinese media is abuzz with all kind of reports and analyses, but one and all maintain that the source of the present tension between India and Pakistan is India holding Pakistan responsible for the Pulwama terror attack. They posit that India, “without any real evidence”, “identified the Pakistani government as behind-the-scenes manipulator” of the attack, irrespective of the fact that “Pakistan has denied to have any truck with the outfit”. Cheng Xizhong, a senior research fellow at the Chahar Institute, holds that India “unilaterally crossing the Line of Control” is solely responsible for the current tensions. According to him, “unilateral airstrikes against the so-called ‘terror camp’ is a serious violation of the [ceasefire] agreement reached between India and Pakistan”.
According to a CNR (China National Radio) Defence Time military observer, Fang Bing, the Indian airstrikes were not carried inside Pakistan, but in “Pakistan controlled Kashmir”. The Chinese version of the Indian “pre-emptive” and “non-military strikes” on the JeM training camp in Balakot matches the reports emanating from Pakistan. It says that since the strikes were carried out in the wee hours around 3.30 am, Pakistan could not scramble enough fighter jets to intercept the incoming Mirage fighters of India. Moreover, the ZDK03 early warning aircraft was also not airborne. However, once the Chinese made JF17 (xiaolong or Thunder) was employed to intercept the Indian Mirage fighters, the Indian jets prematurely emptied the ammo on a hilltop causing the “death” of ten trees and “did not achieve the desired effect”. A partial photograph of the bombing site displaying the caption “My name is pine tree and I am not a terrorist”, perhaps lifted from a certain Pakistan social media, was embedded in the article. Another article questions the worth of around $10 billion surgical strike by India whose military assets have been “manufactured in thousand countries”.
As regards the “retaliatory strikes” by Pakistan air force, the Chinese local media has all the praises for its third generation JF 17 successfully shooting down the “comparatively low grade MiG 21” and capturing an Indian pilot alive, whose photographs along with his service pistol, maps and survival on land booklet being flashed in the media with the headlines like “Captured!”, “After being shot down the pilot dropped his pistol and surrendered” etc. Some of the reports also say that the Chinese made jet also shot down a SU-30 MKI, and that if the report turned out to be true, the “superior features” of the Chinese aircraft and the “professional capabilities of the Pakistan pilots” had been established. Another piece that featured in Tencent News, reports the loss of two IAF fighter jets, one falling in “Azad Kashmir” and the other in and around the LOC area. In addition, it said that two Indian pilots have died and one was captured. It further added that “Pakistan has not only gained the advantage in this military conflict, but also has taken initiative to appeal the Indian side for dialogue and achieved the moral high ground”.
As regards India’s air defence shooting down a Pakistani military “unmanned” aircraft, one report says that according to India, the “unmanned” aircraft has been bought by Pakistan from a “neighbouring country” and was shot down by the newly procured SPYDER missiles from Israel. It also reports the Indian claim of shooting down a Pakistani F-16, but buys the Pakistani argument that the F-16 was never used in the combat. Some articles are even speculating that India and Pakistan are on the verge of fighting a fourth war, and that India’s only aircraft carrier, Vikramaditya is keeping an eye on Karachi. Nevertheless, they say, so far “Pakistan has clearly gained the upper hand in the conflict initiated by India”. Even the loss of seven Indian Air Force personnel in an MI-17 crash was adjudged as a “big gain for Pakistan” in another headline.
An article posted on Tencent News, titled “Is US brazenly protecting India and unreasonably depriving our Iron Brother, Pakistan of its right to counterattack?” argues that Secretary of the State Mike Pompeo’s statement that “the two sides should avoid further escalation” cannot hide the US conspiracy to protect India. According to the anonymous analyst, “the US has not persuaded the two allies to stop the conflict in a fair and just manner. On the contrary, it has unreasonably demanded that the Iron Brother Pakistan refrain from further military action.” To put it bluntly, the US is asking the Pakistanis “not to fight back”, thus create a space for the Narendra Modi government to “win this war”. It says that in the context of the Indo-Pacific, India figures more prominently in US’ strategy than Pakistan, for India can afford to buy high-value US military equipment at a higher price, and also has the ability to contain Russia. Conversely, Pakistan, besides playing a role in Afghanistan, has little value for the US. Obviously, Pakistan will not submit to India in accordance with the wishes of the US, concludes the analyst.
It could be discerned that though the mainstream English newspaper China Daily and Xinhua have reported responsibly, however, various media outlets, especially social media which caters to domestic consumption, has reported the events otherwise. No wonder, right from the early 1960s when China formed entente cordiale with Pakistan, it, in its domestic media, has portrayed Pakistan as a victim even if the latter was an aggressor in all the wars it fought with India. Therefore, China sympathising with Pakistan and its proxies like Lashkar e Tayyaba and Jaish e Mohammed should not be surprising. We have seen how the Chinese press has reported the Kargil war, the terror attack on Indian Parliament, the Pathankot attack, so much so it even absolved Pakistan in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack and blamed it on some “Hindu fundamentalists” as Kasab and others were sporting the Hindu sacred thread on their wrists. China knows who Masood Azhar is, and how he was exchanged for the safety of the hijacked Air India flight IC 814 and much more. However, India must know that even if China supports the fresh proposal of the US, the UK and France to designate the JeM head as a global terrorist in the UN Security Council, chances of which seem remote, nothing much will change on the ground except his international travels and seizure of funds. Therefore, India needs to have a sound security apparatus, above all a lean and mean hi-tech integrated force to deal with any contingency.