Why China’s position on terror is inconsistent and dangerous

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Manzoor Ahmed

China in the recent past has been doing its utmost to encourage and protect its all-weather friend, Pakistan, which also happens to be the fountainhead of terrorism. Beijing is playing a dangerous game here, endangering not only the security of the region which houses almost half of the world’s population but also its own long and short term interests.

Some of the recent events and statements underline the acute myopia displayed by the Chinese leadership towards regional security and stability. The most notable has been China’s dogged pursuit of saving a global terrorist based in Pakistan, an action which was both unreasonable and gravely flawed. This is the China’s consistent blocking of the global community’s move to sanction Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) leader, Masood Azhar. Although Beijing has taken the fig leaf cover of some “technical “ issues, the reality is it wants to protect the interests Pakistan in saving Azhar.

Azhar is a global terrorist and his group has been involved in several terrorist attacks in India and elsewhere. In fact, it was JeM which was involved in the twin assassination attempts against former Pakistani military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, himself a known patron of terrorist groups. This incident alone showed that JeM was prepared to bite the hand that feeds when it comes to survival or to protect the larger interests of the global jihad. Azhar has been closely associated with the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The Chinese very well know that Azhar, an ISI creation, was the key reason for Pakistan Army to mastermind the hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane from Kathmandu in December 1999. Azhar and two other terrorists were exchanged for the lives of over hundred passengers. Azhar and others were escorted by the ISI and Taliban leaders in Kandahar. Within a month of his release, Azhar resurfaced in Karachi and held a press conference to declare that he was setting up a terrorist organisation called Jaish-e-Mohammad to launch terrorist activities in Kashmir.

That was in January 2000, about 18 months before the 9/11 attack. This was a wake up for the international community which had, for reasons of exigency, had ignored the looming threat of global terrorism and the rise of al Qaeda from Pakistan and Afghanistan. China, like other countries, was equivocal in its stand against terrorism. It came out with a Position Paper on Terrorism on September 25, 2001 which said: Terrorism, which endangers innocent lives, causes losses of social wealth and jeopardizes security of States, constitutes a serious challenge to human civilization and a serious threat to international peace and security. The Chinese Government opposes and condemns all forms of terrorism and is against using terrorism as a means of achieving political objectives.

There have been similar, high-sounding statements on the issue of terrorism from Beijing. These became even more stronger in tone and tenor when terrorist attacks took place inside China carried out by East Turkistan Islamic Movement, an al Qaeda affiliate which enjoyed shelter in the tribal areas of Pakistan, and in Afghanistan. So for China to come out in support of a terrorist mastermind like Masood Azhar exposes its duplicity and the fatal one-upmanship it is currently engaged in.

Jaish-e-Mohammad is not the only terrorist group hosted and supported by its all-weather ally, Pakistan. There is a cocktail of terror groups, many of them with no particular loyalty to the state sponsoring their stay and protection. Otherwise, Pakistan would not have become a terrorist victim! The Chinese policy makers are not unaware of this either.

They are also not ignorant about the fact that Pakistan is no friend of any country and has used every so-called ally, the US in particular, to extract its heavy pound of flesh. Pakistan is like a Black Widow, all its suitors meet the doom, sooner or later. If China thinks that it can be smarter than the most powerful country in the world, it will soon realise how seriously mistaken it is. Pakistan has not left any of its allies damaged, China is next in line.

The Chinese would also do well to recall how the Pakistanis, not long ago, ganged up against one of its key patrons, Saudi Arabia, when terrorist attacks brought fear and doom to every house in Pakistan.

The Chinese decision to support Pakistan and its terrorist proxies will boomerang sooner than later, with Beijing getting increasingly trussed up in the Great Game. The Chinese memory of history seems to be short or else they would remember the oft repeated warning that this is the region which has been the graveyard of empires.

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