By Namrata Hasija*
China has yet again proved that it is indeed Pakistan’s ‘all weather friend’ by blocking a US-led proposal at the UN to brand Masood Azhar a global terrorist. This is the second time Beijing has come to Islamabad’s aid. The move which was jointly put forward by the US, France and UK unlike, last year when India moved the proposal, was blocked by China yet again. It was last week when Pakistan apparently took some action against Masood by putting him under house arrest. Many analysts dismissed this as a deceiving strategy.
Why is China protecting Masood Azhar and risk being the only country among the 15-member 1267 counter terrorism committee of the UN Security Council objecting to India’s application to list Azhar, who is accused of masterminding the Pathankot terror attack?
China’s protection of Masood Azhar is a part of its strategy to protect Pakistan from being labelled as a country which supports terrorists and organizations funding it. This would lead to diplomatic isolation for Pakistan and risk China’s huge investments in the region before for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). China supports Pakistan on these issues to protect certain terrorists’ organizations turning against Pakistan. If these organizations turn against Pakistan it would risk the infrastructure programs being initiated under the CPEC. Secondly, it needs Pakistan to combat terrorism in its western Muslim-majority province of Xinjiang.
Moreover, if Pakistan is proved to be a terrorist supporter it will also reflect on its close ally, China. Recently Pakistan and Russia’s relations have also improved which further helps China to consolidate its position in Central Asia and begin multilateral dialogues on regional cooperation and security in relation to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
These moves will help China to consolidate its position in the region but at what risk? The Jaish e Mohammed (JeM) is already a UN-designated terrorist organization but blocking a move to label Azhar as a terrorist only shows China’s double standards on terrorism and its support to Pakistan’s especially on terrorists could culminate into regional tension sooner or later.
*Namrata Hasija is a Research Associate, Society for Policy Studies (SPS) and President, Taiwan Alumni Association in India. Comments and suggestions on this article can be sent to [email protected]