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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

Beijing have to pay for protecting Pakistan

Beijing has stepped into the role of Pakistan’s principal benefactor. China has many ambitions, including supplanting the United States as the world’s preeminent economic and military power. Those aspirations may prove premature, but it has certainly succeeded in replacing Washington as the prime sponsor of Pakistan’s bad behaviour.

columns Updated: Mar 15, 2019 17:30 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharya
Anirudh Bhattacharya
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, November 2, 2018
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, November 2, 2018(REUTERS)
         

In the 1993 film, Groundhog Day, the lead character Phil awakens each morning to relive the same reality. That may well resonate with India’s mandarins at Turtle Bay, headquarters of the United Nations in New York City.

It’s been nearly a decade since India first attempted to have Masood Azhar, founder of terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed, proscribed under the provisions of Resolution 1267 of the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al Qaeda Committee of the UN Security Council

When China blocked the first attempt, Indian officials at the time were relatively confident that, given sufficient proof of Azhar’s malefic designs, Beijing would oblige as it had done with Laskhar-e-Taiba head, Hafeez Saeed.

Instead of being convinced, China has proved obdurate in its continued obstruction of sanctioning Azhar, a move that would curtail his travel, access to weaponry and funding. The latest episode in this predictable series of events came about as China placed the UNSC move, rife with symbolism, in a holding pattern.

With the Security Council otherwise behind the designation of Azhar, China was isolated as it kept up the Great Wall of protection for a convicted terrorist. This will hardly help China’s global standing, one that is already tottering. In protecting its Pakistan investment, Beijing may end up with a heavy price to pay.

China’s stubbornness on this issue is related, obviously, to its soft spot for Islamabad, even if that allows extremism to flourish. As far as Saeed and his LeT were concerned, he had fallen out of favour with Rawalpindi and was considered far too much of a free radical by his handlers within the ISI. Azhar, however, has emerged as the Pakistan establishment’s mainstay in its proxy war with India.

In exchange for Beijing’s blessings, Pakistan has virtually become a vassal state of China, somewhat like the status it acquired during the 1980s and 1990s with regard to the United States. During those decades, and through the first few years of this millennium, it proved itself useful in aiding American operations in Afghanistan. As America began to look for an exit path, Islamabad’s utility flagged, except for brief interludes like the present as the Donald Trump Administration seeks to leverage Pakistan’s influence with the Taliban to carve out a truce that, even if not sustainable, would be sufficient for the US to quit the Afghan theatre.

That impatience for departure has been building for a few years, even while Barack Obama was President. With Trump’s arrival, this became coupled with lesser largesse for Pakistan and its deep state. America increasingly wants to exit the business of bribing Pakistan into moderating its double game in Afghanistan.

Beijing has stepped into the role of Pakistan’s principal benefactor. China has many ambitions, including supplanting the United States as the world’s pre-eminent economic and military power. Those aspirations may prove premature, but it has certainly succeeded in replacing Washington as the prime sponsor of Pakistan’s bad behaviour.

Anirudh Bhattacharyya is a Toronto-based commentator on American affairs

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Mar 15, 2019 17:20 IST

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