It has referred to Pakistan as its ‘irreplaceable all-weather friend’ on more than one occasion. And China certainly reiterated this when at a meeting of the United Nations Sanctions Committee at New York, it blocked India’s proposal seeking UN action against Pakistan for releasing Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Zaikur Rehman Lakhvi, the mastermind behind the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
Lakhvi was released on bail by a Pakistani court in April and India’s contention was that this was a violation of UN resolution 1267, concerning al-Qaeda and associated individuals and entities.
Reports suggest that China was the only nation in the 15-member committee to oppose India on the grounds that it did not provide sufficient evidence.
This casts a dampener on New Delhi’s efforts at initiating confidence building measures with Beijing and should push the Modi government to reassess its approach towards the eastern neighbour.
While the Centre has economically strengthened its ties with China, it can expect China to play hardball when it comes to security and the border dispute.
China’s move makes a mockery of the bilateral and trilateral anti-terror co-operations it is a part of. In February, at the 13th trilateral meeting between China, India and Russia in Beijing, the three nations pledged to fight terror and crack down on those who finance and give refuge to terrorists.
Last month, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China, both nations agreed to deepen their efforts to fight terror. Beijing, by shielding Lakhvi and protecting Islamabad, seems to have conveniently forgotten about these assurances.
This development is also a pointer to how hard it will be for India to go ahead with its plans for regional integration among Saarc nations by keeping a reluctant Pakistan out of the picture.
Not only does Islamabad have good ties with other Saarc members like Colombo and now with Kabul, Beijing, with its deep pockets, can tilt the scales in favour of Islamabad. In protecting Pakistan, and thus countering India, China appears to be walking on a double-edged sword.
Islamic fundamentalism and terror are spreading their wings in China from the Xinjiang province. The likes of Lakhvi can indoctrinate and misguide many of its citizens.
By blocking India’s request, China might also expect Pakistan to control the jihadis who operate in the region and are increasing their presence in western China. The Lakhvi snub — the third one in a row by China against India at the UN — is sure to sour India-China ties, which at the best of times has always seemed a little forced.