NEW DELHI: China‘s decision to drop its objection to the UN listing Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as a terrorist reflects its growing frustration with Pakistan‘s use of terror masterminds as strategic assets.
Pakistan-based terror outfit JeM had carried out a suicide attack in Pulwama, in Jammu and Kashmir, in February killing at least 40 soldiers. Until now China, which often describes itself as an “iron-brother” of Pakistan, had been opposing a move by the UN to list Azhar as a global terrorist.
People familiar with China-Pakistan ties told ET that while for decades China has used Pakistan as a tool to box India in South Asia, it is now feeling the heat from Islamabad’s strategy to encourage terror groups. One of the persons said that Pakistan’s strategy to use terror masterminds as strategic assets is resulting in increasing face loss for China.
On May 1, China’s Xi Jinping-led government lifted a technical hold, helping a UN Security Council committee list Azhar. Experts say it was a move to shield from growing criticism that China supports terror infrastructure.
The move also helped remove a key irritant in China-India ties, one of the sources said, adding that it may help the process of stabilising relations between the two.
“It had become untenable for China to continuously withstand growing international pressure not to blindly support Azhar,” said Vinay Kaura, an assistant professor in the department of international affairs and security studies, Sardar Patel University of Police, Jaipur. “But China’s acquiescence to the labelling of Azhar seems only tactical; it is not a transformative shift in Beijing’s ties with Islamabad.”
Besides carrying out attacks in India, the JeM is also threatening Chinese interests in Pakistan, according to one of the persons cited earlier.
On April 30, a day before Azhar’s listing, 51 members of the European Parliament issued a collective letter addressed to PM Imran Khan, expressing concern and seeking assurances that the persecution of religious minorities will cease immediately, increasing pressure on China to act on the listing proposal.
The letter highlighted that today Pakistan is far removed from being the country that its founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had envisaged—a Muslim-majority state where people from all religions would be treated equally. But over the last seven decades, it said, successive governments in Pakistan have contributed to implementing discriminatory systems that have resulted in political, economic and social persecution of religious minorities, which have encouraged acts of violence against them by radical Islamic groups.
The letter criticised Pakistan and its establishment for falsely accusing and targeting individuals under the blasphemy law.
The members of the European Parliament urged Pakistan to take measures to dismantle the constitutional and institutional structures that have resulted in the purposeful targeting of religious minorities in the country. The letter said that should the violations of the International Covenant on Freedom of Religion continue, especially with regard to the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan, the members of the European Parliament, having signed the letter, would be compelled to call on the European Commission to suspend all subsidies and trade preferences until the effective implementation of the Convention could be assured by the Pakistani government.