China, which has to take a call within the next week to change its stand on proscribing Masood Azhar, is now said to be worried that such an action will make the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that passes through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) a target of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).
ET has reliably gathered that China, which is believed to be actively considering this time to support the fresh move against Azhar in the UN Security Council (UNSC), is also looking at tying down Pakistan with security guarantees.
The CPEC passes through not only POK and Gilgit-Baltistan, but also the Mansehra district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where Balakot is located. Most terror training camps are located in this district as it abuts POK. The Indian Air Force had struck one of the largest JeM camps in Balakot after the Pulwama attack.
China has recently acquired large tracts of land near Balakot for the CPEC. Significantly, the Karakoram Highway that links Pakistan with China through POK also passes through Mansehra.
Chinese vice foreign minister Kong Xuanyou visited Pakistan on March 5-6 in this backdrop. He is believed to have discussed guarantees for CPEC, which is Beijing’s flagship project under the mega Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The second BRI summit is due early April, according to reliable sources. Around 10,000 Chinese nationals are working on various CPEC-related projects.
India, for its part, is being very cautious as China weighs options ahead of the March13 deadline at the UNSC. The proposal on designating Azhar as a global terrorist under UNSC 1267 resolution was initiated by France and backed by other three permanent members — the United States, United Kingdom and Russia.
Proposals Blocked Thrice
China has thrice blocked proposals to list Azhar but is now engaged in intense internal consultations on the UNSC proposal given that it comes right after a major terror attack in India.
From New Delhi’s standpoint, Beijing is the only roadblock to proscribing Azhar.
The UNSC chair, which is currently Indonesia, has notified that unless it hears to the contrary by Wednesday, March 13, 2019, 3:00 p.m., the Security Council will take it that the members of the Sanctions Committee have no objection to Azhar’s addition to the 1267 ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions List.
CPEC is called the jewel in the crown of China and Pakistan’s ‘all-weather friendship’. The corridor links China to the Arabian Sea and beyond through the Gwadar port.
Many associated power projects and ancillary infrastructure are being built under the CPEC.
Besides this, China sent a team of socio-economic development experts to Pakistan last week to firm up projects in six newly identified areas of health, education, water supply, vocational training, poverty alleviation and agriculture.
China also views Pakistan as a gateway to reach out to the Islamic world as it gets increasingly concerned by radicalisation among the Uyghurs under the East Turkestan Independence Movement (ETIM). It’s said ETIM has developed links with Pakistan-based terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
India has always felt that Pakistan military’s control over these groups has worked in ensuring that Chinese interests are protected. However, terror attacks in Balochistan and Sindh against Chinese personnel and workers have increased, forcing Beijing to revisit these old assumptions.