On 19 October 2022, in yet another brazen and misused display of its veto power, China blocked a joint resolution backed by India and the United States to designate LET leader Shahid Mahmood as a global terrorist under UNSC 1267 AL Qaeda Sanctions Committee regime. This thwarting attempt is the fourth in a row this year. A broad realist theoretical framework highlights China’s more comprehensive policy of pursuing its parochial, selfish national interests without paying heed to global sensitivities. Paying lip service to the Purity of means, the Chinese have epitomized the dictum of Purity of ends over Means in the past couple of decades. China has no scruples in deploying the utmost irrational, illogical and immoral rationale behind its moves to achieve its sacrosanct foreign policy goals.
In the past five years, China has foiled India’s bid to blacklist terrorists of already proscribed organizations on multiple occasions. In 2016, seven years after the dreadful Mumbai terror attacks, India proposed the designation of Masood Azhar, the head of already proscribed Lashkar e Taiba, as a global terrorist. This proposal, backed by three of the five P5 of the UNSC, the UK, France and the USA, was blocked by China, citing flimsy technical grounds. It was followed by the trio moving a proposal again in 2017, only to be blocked by China again. It was only in 2019, after severe backlash and criticism faced by China in the aftermath of the Pulwama attacks, that China lifted its technical hold, paving the way for putting Masood Azhar on the global terrorist list of the UNSC 1267 Sanctions Committee Regime.
Interestingly India is also currently serving as chair of the UNSC Counter-Terrorism Committee for the year 2022. While India has called for a sustained and coordinated approach to fight the menace of global terrorism, China, on the other hand, has repeatedly blocked India’s efforts in this direction. Firstly, in June 2022, China blocked a joint India US proposal for blacklisting LeT deputy chief Abdul Rahman Makki. This was followed quickly by the second attempt to block the designation of Sajid Mir, the mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. The third attempt was in August this year when China foiled an Indian bid to designate Abdul Rauf Ashgar, one of India’s most wanted masterminds of the IC814 hijacking. The fourth and latest attempt was to block the designation of Hafiz Saeed’s son Talha Saeed and LeT deputy chief Shahid Mahmood as a global terrorist on vague technical grounds.
The Chinese Motive
Eminent geoeconomic, geopolitical and strategic rationale underpins China’s repeated attempts to block Indian bids to proscribe specific individuals as global terrorists as part of its war on terror. The all-weather and iron-brother friendship between China and Pakistan is an overarching thread that runs through all of these logics. Hailed as “higher than mountains, deeper than oceans, stronger than steel and sweeter than honey”, this friendship has belied the famous dictum of “No permanent friends and foes in international relations”.
A sound economic logic informs China’s repeated attempts to foil India’s bid. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which forms part of President Xi Jinping’s pet project, the Belt and Road initiative (BRI), is critical to the Chinese agenda of putting forward an alternative plan for infrastructure development and connectivity. In a larger sense, it holds the key to what China has triumphantly touted as a “Beijing Consensus” model as opposed to the US-dominated neoliberal “Washington Consensus”. China has invested heavily in infrastructure development and connectivity projects to the tune of $62 US billion. The Gwadar port, which constitutes the heart of CPEC, holds a lot of economic and strategic significance for China and has been widely touted as a viable alternative to the Chinese “Malacca Dilemma” in the Indian Ocean region.
Multiple reports have suggested that CPEC has run into trouble owing to protests by Baloch nationalist elements and attacks on crucial projects. The massive influx of the Chinese population has led to severe demographic alteration and reports of violence against Chinese nationals and workers. A palpable sense among many of these protesting sections has been that China has essentially turned Pakistan into a colony and is imposing a debilitating impact on it in terms of both resource crunch and no tangible economic benefits for Pakistan. Debt trap diplomacy of China, especially in the case of Hambantota in Sri Lanka and its financial collapse, has further alarmed the people of Pakistan of it also falling into a similar kind of debt trap in future. It has exposed the land-grabbing nature of China, leading to protests and attacks. Masood Azhar, whose blacklisting China blocked multiple times, has been a go-to man for them. China has been paying its organization and goons to protect Chinese economic interests in protest-hit regions.
At the strategic level, competition with India has been a critical factor behind China’s move. China which seeks to build hierarchical world order, wants India not only to play second fiddle but also to box in India in South Asia. At the broader level, Pakistan has been pursuing a policy of “bleeding India by thousand cuts” and invocation to “thousand years of war”, with India couched as a low-intensity covert war through militancy and infiltration. In the broader scheme of things and to put India down, China uses Pakistan as a strategic ally and exploits hostility against India, the raison d’etre for Pakistan. China has cultivated the vicious China-Pakistan nexus in India’s neighbourhood to stoke extremism and terrorism on its eastern and western borders to keep them unstable, hampering India’s growth prospects. China’s logic to put a technical hold doesn’t hold water as LeT and Jaish e Mohammad has already been proscribed under UNSC 1267 sanctions committee regime. China’s attempts have been primarily to buy time by citing vague grounds such as that sufficient linkages do not exist between 1267, a specific clause dealing with Al Qaeda and Islamic State and these individual terrorists.
At the political level, China has tried to build a narrative in its favour through institutions like SCO, which includes a Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) specifically dedicated to combating the menace of global terrorism. However, China’s double standard and double-speak are quite evident given its track record at blocking Indian bids to sanction international terrorists.
Another critical factor for China’s non-recognition of threats of terrorism, which it actively abets and finances in its backyard, can be attributed to a lack of proper and complete understanding on the part of the Chinese Communist Party of the debilitating impacts of terrorism. CCP and China’s leadership which has embraced Communism as the party ideology for the past seven decades, has always responded to religion-based terrorism in a knee-jerk manner. The immaturity of Chinese understanding is quite apparent, whether in the Falun gong, Xinxiang Uighur Muslim issue, its attempts against the Christian church, and specific advisories against Indian cults.