The hard truth about Masood Azhar, China and UN listing

On Thursday morning, India woke up to the news that China has, for the fourth time, placed a “technical hold” on India’s bid to designate Masood Azhar, the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief, as a global terrorist.

Before we embark on a “boycott Chinese goods” and “China has blood on its hands” hysteria, there are two critical aspects that we, Indians, have to comprehend:

  1. Value systems and expected behaviours are different for individuals and nations. Naked ambition, power grabs, dual standards are all unacceptable when it comes to an individual. But as nations, their sole aim would be to further self-interest.

There can be no doubt that what China has done reeks of hypocrisy. As per the Chinese Communist Party, the Nobel Peace Laureate, a Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama is a terrorist but a venom-spouting, jihadist is not, because both positions, although contrary, further Chinese self-interest. If Masood Azhar were to call for Jihad against China for its treatment of Uyghurs, he, his extended family and every one of his supporters would be liquidated in seconds.

India trying to shame China for its stand would never rankle China because nation-states are not expected to have a conscience, only self-interests. The question we need to ask is how to make it the designating of Masood Azhar as a global terrorist in China’s best interest?

Azhar has to safeguard his reputation as a defender of Islam and he must be forced to speak out about China’s own suppression of Islam. India must covertly invest in raising the awareness of the conditions of China’s Muslim minority. The justification of China’s actions against its Muslim minorities by the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, during his recent visit to Beijing, shows how daunting this task is but it must be undertaken, covertly.

  1. Fighting terrorism originating from Pakistan is India’s battle. We must learn to fight our own battles before we expect outside support. Have we done enough to fight this menace? The answer is a resounding no. We have constantly indulged in seeking the high moral ground, mouthing platitudes such as “Wuhan spirit”, “Strategic restraint”, being appreciated for statesmanship which is wonderful in an idealistic world while in the world of real-politic, we concede ground. A UN-listing is another “feel-good” victory. Pakistan already has 139 individuals and entities designated by the UN as terrorists, all freely operating. With this listing, the number changes to 140.

India doesn’t need “moral victories” but hard-hitting, tangible, real victories. This would happen only if we repeatedly demonstrate that we have the gumption to fight our own battles. A few of the non-military steps that India must undertake are:

    1. Call for a Joint Session of Parliament and declare Pakistan a terror state.
    2. Impose sanctions, make it an offence to have business interests in Pakistan after a certain cut-off date and still do business with India. Businesses would have to make a hard choice: accessing the Indian or Pakistani market. Any business that chooses Pakistan would be liable to have their assets in India attached and auctioned. Specific waivers need to be applied for, justified and granted by the Government of India on a case-to-case basis, based on one single parameter; India’s self-interest. If the Indian Government shows that it means business, the Pakistani market would witness an exodus of Chinese mobile manufactures and Fortune 500 companies. The Chinese Communist Party is heavily invested in their private sector and pressure on the Chinese Government to accede to India’s wishes is inevitable.
    3. Declare that all foreigners visiting Pakistan after a cut-off date and entering the country would be subject to debriefing, a euphemism for detention, harassment and even deportation, for making the mistake of entering a terrorist state. No self-respecting business executive, scholar, artist or sportsman would step into Pakistan.
    4. Deny right of overhead passage for flights originating from Pakistan or heading to Pakistan.
    5. Once Pakistan has been declared a terrorist state, we should call for the boycott of Pakistani sportspersons internationally. Not a sporting power, India should start by either arm-twisting the ICC or creating a parallel cricketing body and attract cricketing stars to the India-promoted body rather than ICC. The last two steps will ensure the demise of PSL. In any case, the cricketing world’s center of gravity has shifted from Lords to Eden Garden. This would merely formalise the shift. For naysayers, India has done something similar in regional geopolitics by side lining SAARC and promoting BIMSTEC, thereby leaving out Pakistan.

Elections may have been declared but the Government of India is not a lame-duck government. The Model Code of Conduct is not applicable to foreign relations, foreign trade or national security matters. The Government is fully empowered to proceed in all these matter.

However, the BJP should control its motor-mouths as trying to gain electoral benefit from any of these will backfire domestically, attract the ire of the press, the opposition and the EC. Today’s voter is smart and will attribute the credit where it rightfully belongs, to us as a nation.

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