India should leverage S Jaishankar's visit to China: Masood Azhar, NSG membership only small prick pins in ties

Is India missing the woods for the trees? It seems so, considering the time and energy spent by Indian diplomats in trying to get Pakistan-based Masood Azhar, the chief of the anti-India terror group, Jaish-e-Mohammed under UN sanctions committee 1267. It would have made sense if doing so would make a difference on the anti-India activities of the terror group. Sadly designating a group or an individual will not help, considering that the support for the Jaish-e-Mohammed comes from within Pakistan.

Azhar's outfit, the Jaish-e-Mohammed is already in the UN sanctions list. Placing the Jaish under sanctions has made little difference to the group. The UN watchdogs can hardly monitor what is happening in the heart of Pakistan. Indian diplomats know very well that there is little to be gained by bringing Masood Azhar under the sanctions. If, as New Delhi claims, the Pakistan establishment is supporting anti-India outfits and helping these groups to launch attacks such as the one on the frontline airbase in Pathankot last year, what difference will the UN sanctions meet.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

It is not as if the terror attack on Pathankot would not have happened if Azhar was designated a terrorist. Even if by some chance Masood Azhar comes under sanctions, will he stop his anti-India activities? One argument is that he will not have access to funds from financial institutions. But if Jaish gets the support of elements within Pakistan's spy agency or the military, he will surely be supplied with all that is necessary for a terror attack. Is it worth fighting for something which is of little relevance on the ground. At best, it will only give the domestic agencies immense satisfaction.

After all, the former NDA government led by Atal Bihar Vajpayee had set Masood Azhar free from an Indian prison along with three others in exchange for the passengers of the Indian Airlines plane hijacked by the Taliban in 1999 from the Kathmandu airport. Azhar went back to Pakistan and founded Jaish-e-Mohammed, which is responsible for a number of deadly terror attacks in India.

This included the Parliament terror attack of 2001 — which India believes was a joint Jaish and Lashkar-e-Taiba — last December's strike at an army camp in Nagrota, and the Pathankot strike.

With China repeatedly batting for Pakistan and finding 'technical reasons' to veto the move, Masood Azhar is almost casting a shadow on India-China relations. It is a fact that Azhar is just one more pin prick in India-China ties, much of the problem comes from Beijing's strategic decision taken decades ago to prop up Pakistan against India.
China's decision to block India's entry to the Nuclear Supplier Group, is also a means to open the door wide for Pakistan's entry to the exclusive club. Here too, entry into NSG will just give India the satisfaction of sitting on the high table. President George W Bush, by ensuring that the NSG lifts the tough sanctions against India in September 2008, has already ensured that the pariah tag against India be removed. Since then New Delhi has been able to take part in the nuclear commerce.

Amid this, becoming a member of the NSG would just be an icing on the cake. Entry into the international non proliferation regimes was part of the promise made during the signing of the India-US civil nuclear deal. None of this has happened yet. But it is not as if India is missing out on anything substantial.

These two issues as well as the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which passes through PoK, has cast a deep shadow on India-China ties. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar is travelling to China for strategic talks slated for Wednesday next week. Here once again India's concerns will be raised.

China is also expected to bring up the visit of a group of academics, legislators from Taiwan. China protests over everything and often it is quite meaningless, considering India is committed to the 'one China policy'.

However beyond these irritants, there are many issues where China and India have common interests. India-China trade is flourishing, though the figures are balanced heavily against India. So far despite repeated promises China has done little to allow India's pharmaceutical sector to get access to its markets.

Jaishankar, a former ambassador to China, admitted at a talk he delivered in Mumbai (Gateway of India, Geoeconomic dialogue) that while India's relations with major powers like the US, Russia, Germany, France and UK are all on track, ties with China need more attention.

The foreign secretary said, "With China, the overall broadening of ties, especially in business and people-to-people contacts, has been overshadowed by differences on certain political issues. But it is important for the two countries not to lose sight of the strategic nature of their engagement, or falter in their conviction that their rise can be mutually supportive. Neither of the Asian giants can afford to allow this relationship to falter."

We will continue to invest more energy into this account in 2017.  Next week's trip will be an attempt to smooth the strains.

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Updated Date: Feb 17, 2017 18:34:50 IST

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