Analysis: In allowing Azhar’s listing, China’s leadership may want to deepen bonds with India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping. File photo  

China’s decision to drop its resistance on declaring Masood Azhar as a global terrorist appears to be a well-rounded exercise aimed at encouraging New Delhi to bond with Eurasia instead of the Indo-Pacific and could even be seen as reinforcing personal ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

China has taken its “all weather” ally Pakistan on board before taking the decision to declare the Pakistan-based head of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) as a global terrorist in the 1267 Committee of the UN Security Council.

Chinese officials say their decision on designating Azhar has been de-linked from the joint effort by the U.S., Britain and France to proscribe Azhar through a separate resolution, in the plenary of the UNSC, instead of the 1267 committee.

Key factors appeared to have weighed in more heavily in the Chinese decision to designate Azhar. China’s move followed Russia’s decision last month to honour Mr. Modi with ‘Order of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First,’ –Russia’s highest civilian award, in the midst of the election campaign. Analysts say both China and Russia, in the cross-hairs of the U.S., would want New Delhi to consolidate its ties with Eurasia on Mr. Modi’s watch, rather than allow India to drift further in the direction of the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific strategy. India is already a member of the Eurasia-centred Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

A Chinese official said Beijing had decided to announce Azhar’s listing after the Belt and Road Forum (BRF), so as not to embarrass visiting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was Beijing’s guest at the conclave that ended on April 27.

In listing Azhar, the Chinese have taken care of protecting Pakistani interests as well, signaling that Beijing is interested in a “dual engagement” with India and Pakistan in South Asia. Observers point out that Pakistan may not be averse to Azhar’s designation, as it could help Islamabad avoid being “blacklisted” by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) later this month — a move that could advance Islamabad’s economic isolation.

Besides, Pakistani media reports said ahead of the listing, that language supporting listing Azhar in 1267 was changed to de-link the JeM from the Pulwama attack. For Pakistan, this is vital, especially for its domestic audience, in order to maintain its narrative that violence in Kashmir has indigenous roots, and is not the result of cross-border terrorism, as reasoned by India.

According to some Chinese analysts, who did not wish to be named, Beijing had seriously considered reviewing the stance towards Azhar around April 1, following consultations with the U.S., Pakistan, and India.

But after March 13, when China decided to impose a “technical hold” on listing Azhar, Beijing’s negotiations with India, specifically on the Azhar issue, dropped significantly, though lines of communication on this subject remained open, mainly in New York. “I can confirm to you that Chinese and Indian officials have been meeting in New York,” a Chinese official told The Hindu.

The visit to Beijing on by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale on April 22 focused primarily on planning the next stage of the China-India engagement, including the next summit of the leaders of the two countries, following the elections in India, rather than the Azhar issue, the official said. “It was a feel-good visit conveying that continuity would be maintained in ties which had been re-booted during the Wuhan informal summit last year,” he observed.

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 9:32:24 PM |

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