Prime Minister Narendra Modi finds himself up against the Great Wall that China has become, not only for India but also for several other nations such as Japan and the United States over the past decade or so.
It is a reality check for PM Modi as China has blocked India’s move in the United Nations for seeking action against Pakistan for releasing 26/11 mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi from jail on the ground that India has not provided “sufficient information”.
India’s case - as articulated by India’s permanent representative to the UN Asoke Mukherjee in a letter to UN Sanctions Committee chairman Jim McLay last month – is that Lakhvi’s release by a Pakistani court on 9 April had violated UN Security Council resolution 1267 dealing with terrorist entities and individuals.
This is not the first time when China, has protected Pakistan, from possible UN action on the issue of terror. Nor is it going to be the last time.
Just last month, days after PM Modi’s maiden China visit (14-16 May), China had blocked Indian efforts to seek United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions against another terrorist based in Pakistan, Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin. China had put the Indian move of listing Salahuddin as a UN-designated terrorist on technical hold.
If Indian moves at the UN with regard to Lakhvi and Salahuddin had succeeded under UNSC resolution 1267, it would have marked a major diplomatic victory over Pakistan as all member countries would then be obliged to enforce travel bans and freeze their assets.
But China has thrown a spanner in the Indian works and openly come out in support of Pakistan even though it is well aware that Pakistan’s track record in encouraging terrorists can cause a major problem for Beijing in the future.
The Chinese conduct goes against its pledge to work closely with India on counterterrorism. Notably, the India-China joint statement, released after PM Modi’s China visit, had urged “all countries to work sincerely to disrupt terrorist networks and their financing”.
It shows that bilateral documents like joint statements and joint declarations are nothing but waste papers when it comes to China’s all-weather friend Pakistan and China is prepared to turn a blind eye to Pakistan’s shenanigans.
This is something that is known world over and New Delhi, too, has never been under any illusion. Modi’s predecessors Manmohan Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, too, huffed and puffed while preparing their China policy on account of the Pakistan factor.
China is Pakistan’s biggest benefactor on the world stage today because no other nation has given China the kind of strategic heft and politico-economic leverage as Pakistan has.
Forget about the key role played by Pakistan in bringing about a US-China détente decades ago. Forget about the key role being played by Pakistan for furthering Chinese interests in Afghanistan.
Today, China’s ambitious trans-continental Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is predicated on Pakistan's cooperation and to ensure its success China has rolled out the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project for Pakistan.
Forget whether the BRI and the CPEC would come to fruition ever. The fact that so much is riding on Pakistan for China that bailing out Pakistan on global platforms is a very small price which China is willing to pay.
China’s huge economic commitments in Pakistan is the key reason for China’s blind support to Pakistan on any and every issue. With these moves Beijing has let India realize indirectly that even though major powers like the US, Russia, France and Germany are supporting India on the Lakhvi issue, China still has its say over matters, especially pertaining to Pakistan.
Significantly, China’s move is an attempt to snub India and a counter to Indian efforts to put pressure on China on the South China Sea standoff by the US-led western community and India’s support in this regard. The recent Indo-US summit had seen the two sides coming up with a separate document on South China Sea issue for the first time.
Pakistan knows this and looks upon China as its biggest benefactor, bigger than even Saudi Arabia.
Yet, in this writer’s opinion, China’s latest red rag to India does not constitute a failure of the Modi government’s China policy. At best, it constitutes a reality check and a challenge – a stiff one at that!
It only underlines the need for India to continue to stay engaged with China, despite the inevitable and expected brickbats from China every now and then. India’s best bet is to fast track its economic growth and modernize its defence programme.
India needs to become a $10 trillion economy to stave off threats to its national security, but that is a long haul.
The writer is Firstpost Consulting Editor and a strategic analyst who tweets @Kishkindha
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Updated Date: Jun 24, 2015 14:33:34 IST