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China Shields Masood Again: RSTV - The Big Picture

Anchor: Vishal Dahiya

Guest: K.V. Prasad, Senior Associate Editor of the Tribune;  Alok Bansal, Director, India Foundation; Prabhu Dayal, Former Ambassador

Why in the news?

  • On the 14th of March, 2019, China has once again blocked the move in United Nations Security Council to designate Pakistan based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad’s chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist.
  • Jaish-e-Mohammad had claimed responsibility for the ghastly terror attack in Pulwama on 14th Feb, 2019 in which 40 security personnel were martyred.
  • Two weeks after that terror attack, a proposal was moved by the United States of America, United Kingdom and France in the UNSC to blacklist Masood Azhar under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee.
  • However, on 13th of March, 2019, just a few hours before the deadline for raising objections came to an end China refused to lift its technical hold on the proposal which prescribes sanctions against designated terrorists and terror groups.
  • So, what are the reasons behind China’s current stand? And how will it affect the fight against terrorism?
  • These are some of the questions that need to be answered.

Analysis by the Experts:

Let’s try and put this entire thing in perspective. This is not the first time that China has done such a thing. What does this repeated attempt by China indicate?

Prabhu Dayal, Former Ambassador, weighed in with his arguments here.

  • Let me preface my remarks by saying that the war against terror has to be fought by us (India). Pakistan has been relentlessly inflicting terrorism on us and we have been combating it.
  • We have now escalated the drive to put these terrorists in their right places by inflicting more heavy costs. I believe the strategy is to make it more painful for Pakistan.
  • Having said that, it is important to know who our friends are? And who are not our friends?
  • Therefore, in the context of the UN Security Council, and the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee, the fact that China stood alone with Pakistan, and blocked the proscribing of Masood Azhar makes it evidently clear that China is not our friend.
  • This is in fact, the fourth time that China has prevented the ban on Masood Azhar.
  • China is clearly not on our side on this war on terror. Masood Azhar is China’s go-to man. China is invested heavily in Pakistan and in projects such as the CPEC. It needs people who will protect its investments from any possible attacks.
  • Pakistan has this policy of using a proxy war against us (India), and this suits China as well.
  • China doesn’t want India to grow to its fullest potential. China wants to use India merely as a market for its goods. The fact is that China only wants to use us (India) as a market and it doesn’t mind Pakistan inflicting any sort of pain or hurt on us. I believe that the Government of India must think as to how it can make sure that, at least to whatever extent is possible, that Chinese access to Indian markets is limited.
  • Further, each and every Indian should make a conscious choice on abstaining from purchasing Chinese manufactured goods.

It is now clear where China stands. Your thoughts…

Alok Bansal, Director, India Foundation, weighed in here with his arguments.

  • I am personally extremely disappointed. I was hopeful that China would also support the resolution as 14 other members of the UN Security Council have done it, or at worst would have abstained from it.
  • The technical hold coming at this juncture, which is the 4th blockage, is regrettable. Further, the technical hold, delays the process by six months. So as far as blocking someone like Masood Azhar who heads and is the founder of a terror outfit called Jaish-e-Mohammed, which is already a proscribed organization is concerned, China’s actions actually defy logic. This is because Masood Azhar was languishing in Indian jails. He was subsequently released by hijacking an Indian passenger liner and in that process, lives were lost. It was not a non-violent negotiation.
  • We should also understand that the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee is a very specific clause which deals with the Al Qaeda and the Islamic state. Further, Jaish-e-Mohammed has even been proscribed once before. Also, one of the attacks on Pervez Musharraf was done by the Jaish-e-Mohammed.
  • Further, the fact that the UNSC’s 14 other members, which included 4 Permanent members, and countries as diverse as Indonesia, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, have all supported this particular resolution, there has to be some valid ground.
  • Despite all of this, China has blocked the process. It is important to note that whenever Chinese delegations have come to India, experts have insisted on this point, i.e. Masood Azhar being designated as a global terrorist; and that this issue was sensitive to India.
  • However, the Chinese authorities have not taken cognizance of Indian sensitivities.
  • India must take some action so that the Chinese are made aware of severe Indian displeasure as far as their actions are concerned.

China is not taking into account Indian sensitivities and it looks as though they are not keen on taking a stand against terrorism as well. What do you think that the Chinese may have been thinking before this move?

K.V. Prasad, Senior Associate Editor of the Tribune, weighed in with his arguments.

  • I believe that one of the things which the Chinese are considering is their investments in the CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor). Further, we must consider that this corridor passes through areas where the issue of terrorism is very high.
  • There is also the larger issue of the BRICS, and the SCO. Under the SCO, we have the RATS (Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure). Both India and Pakistan are a part of the SCO.
  • When 14 member nations of the UNSC come together, i.e. 4 Permanent and 10 of them Non-Permanent, unfortunately, that voice has not been heard by China.

Picking up from the CPEC point of view, one very important aspect is the fact that China doesn’t want India to move past itself. India is coming up as a global power, i.e. be it in the forms of economy or in the form of its overall global stature. Thus, any opportunity which China can go ahead, use and put down India, China doesn’t blink twice. Unfortunately here, China appears to have got its facts wrong as this is about terrorism. Your thoughts…  

Prabhu Dayal, Former Ambassador, weighed in with his arguments here.

  • Yes, you are absolutely correct. China does not want India to achieve its fullest potential and become a rival in any sense to China. Now, Pakistan becomes a convenient ploy to be used against India. This is because, in the case of Pakistan, hostility to India is in their blood.
  • All that China needs to do is to assist Pakistan in every manner possible, by giving it weaponry, by giving it financial assistance and by making it indebted to China, through its investments and becoming in some sense a colony of China. Thus Pakistan is becoming more and more a tool in Chinese hands. Pakistan is becoming a tool against India.
  • Both China and Pakistan refer to each other as ‘all-weather-friends’. Now when we recall, Pakistan ceded to China, territory in Kashmir, i.e. the part of Kashmir which it had forcibly occupied. It ceded a part of that territory and won China’s friendship. Currently, the two sides are engaged in becoming closer to one another, and they are directing a lot of their energies against India.
  • India has to be wary of both sides. Unfortunately, India tends to see Pakistan as a power which is very hostile to us, but somehow, we take a more lenient view towards China. I think it is time that we woke up to the reality of the Chinese dragon. It is a very hostile dragon.

This entire discussion arose because there is a terrorist who was supposed to be put on the global terror list. As a matter of fact, 4 out of the 5 permanent members on the United Nations Security Council were of the viewpoint that Masood Azhar should be placed on the global terror list. This was backed by 10 more nations. Thus, how can a nation (China) which is making progress at such a great speed, doesn’t seem to be realizing the threat of terror?   

Alok Bansal, Director, India Foundation, weighed in here with his arguments.

  • I think that there are 2-3 issues that need to be understood here. Firstly, in my personal view, having visited China a number of times, the Chinese authorities especially the leadership of the communist party, having embraced communism for 7 decades, do not understand the debilitating influence of religious fanaticism.
  • As a matter of fact, their reaction to religion-based movements has always been knee-jerk.
  • We see this in places like the Xinjiang province in China for example. The ‘Ulema’ in the Xinjiang province have been asked to shave their beards; people have been forcibly fed during Ramadan. So, as far as religion is concerned, their so-called understanding of religion-based terrorism is a little weak.
  • Secondly, I feel that the Chinese leadership does not understand Indian sensitivities on this particular issue because it has not been conveyed to them in as strong a word as it should have been. Finally, they see Pakistan as a very important ally. Chinese society is also an oriental society. It is not an occidental society. China has invested heavily in Pakistan, however, it has not provided any substantive aid. It is a myth that China is giving Pakistan substantive aid.
  • The Chinese do not believe in giving. Having said that, the first 8 months figures of FDI in Pakistan, is out. This came out recently. In this report, there is a 60% drop in FDI from China. This shows that even the Chinese businessmen are apprehensive. The Chinese businessmen are apprehensive as far as CPEC is concerned.
  • Recently, the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan has issued an advisory, because a Chinese man was targeted. The Chinese in Pakistan today are the prime target of any organization that is fighting the Pakistani Government. Also, CPEC is a very important ingredient of the BRI.
  • The BRI is also Xi Jinping’s personal project. Further, at a time when he is consolidating power in the mould of Mao Tse Tung, the failure of the BRI would lead other leaders who have been waiting in the wings to point fingers at him. Thus, Xi Jinping has a lot at stake as far as the BRI is concerned. Also, to a very great extent, the success of the CPEC would bode well for the BRI.
  • The first thing that the Government of India must do now is to tell China in strong, categorical terms as to how we feel about their decision.

Should we tell the Chinese in categorical terms that their actions are not acceptable, and that they should realize our sensitivities as well. Should this be done? However, in which way should we go forward and make our stand clear?

K.V. Prasad, Senior Associate Editor of the Tribune, weighed in with his arguments.

  • The first and foremost options on the table are the diplomatic missions. On this particular issue, the Chinese appear to have stuck to their issues. It is important to note that post-Pulwama, the Jaish-e-Mohammed had itself claimed the terror strike.
  • Further, it is also important to note that India is currently in the midst of an election season. Thus, the political leadership will always take time to consolidate matters. It is only when the new government comes that they can take certain policy level decisions forward.
  • It is also important to note that later this year (2019), Wuhan 2 is slated to take place. As a matter of fact, the Chinese President had made it clear that he is going to come to India for the second part of the Wuhan Summit.

Prabhu Dayal, Former Ambassador, weighed in with his arguments here.

Well, I think that our leadership has gone the full distance in trying to win over China. However, unfortunately, the Chinese gave precedence to their very selfish, narrow interests, over a long-term friendship with India. Now a strong message needs to go to the Chinese.

The Government of India must evaluate as to how it can send this message across in a very emphatic manner, perhaps not just once but time and time again. This is because the Chinese perhaps don’t understand as to how they have been hurting our sensitivities by siding with the terrorists. I also believe that every Indian has the duty to individually send across this message. China treats us like a market. Our shops and market places are full of Chinese goods. Our industries, especially small-scale industries are suffering. Many small scale industries are closing down as a result. For example, Diwali crackers, lighting equipment, even many of the idols of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi are made in China. China cannot have access to our markets while at the same time abetting terror against us. This is because, by refusing to ban Masood Azhar, China is sending a message that they are with Masood Azhar.

The way China has behaved, specifically on the issue of terror and by shielding Masood Azhar for the fourth consecutive time, how do you see things moving from here onwards as far as India-China relations are concerned?

Alok Bansal, Director, India Foundation, weighed in here with his arguments.

  • As I have mentioned earlier, India has to give a categorical message to the Chinese. We should continue to engage them via diplomatic channels such as BRICS, SCO, etc. However, there are two main tools which we need to use, i.e. either the economic tools or the political tools.
  • China has used political tools against us. In response, India can use economic action against them. It is also important to understand that the Chinese economy this quarter is growing the slowest in years. Thus, it is a time when the US-China trade war has already started hurting them. In case India imposes certain sanctions on the Chinese goods, that would be a step forward.
  • As a matter of fact, both India and China are members of the WTO. However, there are various non-tariff barriers that China has imposed on Indian exports- such as that on our pharma industry, our IT products, etc. which do not have a level-playing field as far as the Chinese is concerned. Chinese exports to India primarily in terms of power generation and telecommunications, etc. can be looked at. For example, Huawei wants to roll out 5G. India can oppose this, and this would be a big blow to China.
  • As far as individuals boycotting goods are concerned, it is a very slow process. It does not happen immediately. At this point, we need to give a direct message, i.e. a prompt and a quick message.
  • We should perhaps allow Taiwanese leaders to come and attend an event organized by a private think tank for example. This is also a good way to send a stern message to China. As far as China is concerned, we have enormous leverages.
  • At this point in time, an immediate signal needs to be given to China that India is extremely unhappy.

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