China snubs world, protects JeM chief Masood Azhar: The story of 3 kings and a dacoit offers clue on how to fix him

Here's a story of a dacoit, three kingdoms and their three kings:

Dacoit lives in the kingdom of King 1. He robs and kills people in the kingdom of King 2 at his whim and fancy.

King 1 hates King 2 and loves Dacoit because he is making King 2 suffer. He feeds and worships Dacoit.

King 2 hates King 1 for sheltering Dacoit; threatens to kill both by sending his army, but doesn't. He knows King 1 enjoys the support of the powerful King 3. So he pleads with King 3 to tell his friend King 1 to throw the Dacoit into jail.

King 3 does nothing because he doesn’t want to make King 1 unhappy.

King 2 complains to the whole world. All the other kings know another reason why King 3 is shielding Dacoit: King 3 is afraid Dacoit might target the people of his own kingdom.

Then King 2 springs a surprise, saying he has given up, and he can’t fight any more. Invites the other two kings for a party. As the revelry continues, King 1 receives word that Dacoit has disappeared. King 1 and King 3 fight, accusing each other of hiding Dacoit.

King 2 smiles to himself. Well done, he whispers to his men.

The people of King 2’s kingdom live happily ever after.

But the story of India's suffering from Dacoit — Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) leader Masood Azhar — hasn't reached a conclusion like that in the tale. On Wednesday, China blocked Azhar's listing as a global terrorist at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the fourth time since 2009. Revered as a Maulana in his home of Pakistan, Azhar is a cold-blooded killer who plots the most cowardly murders in India with suicide bombers in the name of jihad.

One option for Prime Minister Narendra Modi — or whoever replaces him after the current Lok Sabha election — is something similar to what King 2 did, without the party: A full-scale military intervention. That's one way he can checkmate Kings 1 and 3 — Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan and Chinese president Xi Jinping.

But there are also "diplomatic" options. One of these is to keep up pressure on countries that matter, especially the US, China and Japan, and persuade the world to think of Pakistan as the North Korea of the Indian subcontinent. Short of going to full-scale war against Pakistan, India must tell the civilised, law-abiding world to downgrade, demean, isolate and punish that country and turn it into a "hermit kingdom" or a "rogue nation" that sponsors terrorism. "The world has been dealing with North Korea in a similar manner for years," suggests this 2011 piece.

It isn't easy; it's just that it takes time.

Parallel to the diplomatic offensive, India could also think of punitive air strikes on the camps of terrorists inside Pakistan each time they shed blood in India. Doing nothing has ceased to be an option.

China snubs world, protects JeM chief Masood Azhar: The story of 3 kings and a dacoit offers clue on how to fix him

A file photo of Masood Azhar. Reuters

US warns of 'other actions'

India inched a little closer to that diplomatic goal on Wednesday, with the US coming down heavily on China. After China blocked Azhar's blacklisting, an American diplomat lost little time in issuing this unusually tough warning:

"China's move to hold the listing (of Azhar as global terrorist) is inconsistent with its own stated goals of combating terrorism and furthering regional stability in South Asia. If China is serious about these goals, it should not protect terrorists from Pakistan or any other country from being held accountable to the Council (UNSC)... If China continues to block this designation, responsible member states may be forced to pursue other actions at the Security Council. It shouldn’t have to come to that."

In comparison, India only rustled up a docile press release that said: "We will continue to pursue all available avenues to ensure that terrorist leaders who are involved in heinous attacks on our citizens are brought to justice."

India must make immediate use of the US warning to launch a major public relations onslaught around the world.

Why China is afraid of Azhar

China defended its action with a phony reason, saying it would give more time to all parties to find a "lasting solution" acceptable to all. Apparently 10 years hasn’t been enough for that task.

But China's real reasons as pointed out in this article, have more to do with protecting its own interests.

China is afraid that, if rubbed the wrong way, the JeM mastermind can foment trouble in its Xinjiang province where Uighur Muslims have been on the warpath for some time. China has brutally killed thousands of these Muslims and tossed lakhs of them into jails with inhuman conditions to bring the situation under control, but Azhar has the potential for sparking trouble if he is not kept happy.

As China watchers point out, Xi is also wary that JeM's terror gangs can jeopardise the $60-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure project that begins in Xinjiang and extends deep into Pakistan. Besides, Xi apparently fears for the lives of thousands of Chinese workers in Pakistan.

All this can only mean that China is buying protection from Pakistan’s terror king by helping him stay free. Protection rackets and secret mafia organisations are common in both Russia and China despite their pincher-like grip on society and police machinery.

Saving India from Pakistan’s terrorism figures very low — if at all it does — on the list of China's priorities. India has already called Pakistan's bluff. It must call China's now.

The author tweets @sprasadindia

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Updated Date: Mar 15, 2019 14:24:23 IST

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