After shielding Masood Azhar: Parroting 'peace' won't make China a peacenik ever

China's support to Pakistan in protecting the terrorist JeM chief has changed all the rules of engagement between India and China.

 |  4-minute read |   16-03-2019
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Constantly harping about peace does not work — one has to be faithful to the ideal.

Our shared history has taught us to read between the lines — in statements and intents — when it comes to China. There was a nagging feeling that China would stick to its lines, and that is what exactly happened. Like its all-weather ally and friend Pakistan, China claims that it is against all forms of terrorism and is itself a 'victim' of terror — a Goebbelsian myth that it hopes to establish someday.

It has happened four times now. China has always stalled attempts to corner and marginalise Masood and his sponsor — Pakistan. After the Pulwama outrage, the whole world united in its opinion against Pakistan and JeM, while China hunkered down and tried to downplay the events from day one — starting with its statement 'condemning' the outrage. If you are looking for deeper ties with a neighbouring aspiring-superpower, statecraft would have elicited a more sympathetic outlook.

main_maulana-masood-_031619104913.jpgMasood Azhar: Supported by Pakistan and backed by China? (Photo: AP)

Even as the international community stepped up pressure on Pakistan to act against Jaish — and Masood in particular, Pakistan turned to its eternal shock absorber — China. . Between condemning global terrorism to blocking UNSC resolution against Masood Azhar, it took China all of a single month to change its stance.

Of course, the narrative was penned in a different way — it was a technical hold and not a veto, there is need of conclusive proof, slipping in suggestions by non-state domestic media that discreet diplomacy by India 'may' be more capable of changing China's outlook towards Masood Azhar.

This is the problem.

China's 'may's are far removed from its 'can do's.

Practising nuanced statecraft against a rogue state — and the equally rogue crony as its prime benefactor — is something India cannot afford. We have tried to engage and seen enough of the ways China works and thinks to tangle ourselves in hours of futile diplomacy. Beef up the intelligence gathering and speak to the rouge entities in a language they understand. Nobody in the international community is going to deny India its right to exist peacefully and if that means exercising the full power of the state, so be it. 

main_imran-jinping_031619105320.jpgBrothers in arms against India? Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) with Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Photo: AP)

The whole issue panned out in a way that does not leaves the US outside the purview of criticism too. Its decision to pull out of Afghanistan has presented Pakistan and its supporters — state and non-state — with a unique opportunity to take control of the country, using its proxy — the Taliban. The double standards of China have pushed two nuclear-armed neighbours — India and Pakistan — on the brink of conflict. As China's tacit support for terrorism continues, it does not need security or political expert to forecast that Pulwama-like misadventures will be attempted in the future too. What is unclear as to what extent India's patience will hold. If it acts, the situation will escalate, and the consequences will be catastrophic — far, far worse than what we witnessed in Pulwama.

China will have to decide if a potential nuclear conflict in the vicinity will suit its geopolitical aspirations in the long run. The Dragon is a leading military and economic superpower. But a great superpower needs to walk the talk, to begin with. Time and again it has expressed concerns about the peace and security situation of South Asia. It has been sending out a message to the world community that it is keen to maintain stability and balance of power in the region. But in its continued and stubborn resistance to act against Pakistan, for not dismantling terror networks and stalling repeated attempts by the international community to act against Masood Azhar, lies the seed of future conflict.

Post-February 26, 2019, India is done with sitting back and issuing statements condemning terror. Any further misadventure will bear the entire might of India — regardless of the dispensation that governs India and the cost.

The benchmark and the rules of the game have changed. Forever.

Also read: Great Wall of India: How we can punish China for its Masood Azhar slight, and its attempt to interfere in our elections

Writer

Arindam De Arindam De @arindamde01

The writer is journalist working with India Today.

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