Expert Speak Raisina Debates
Published on May 02, 2019
4 faultlines in Masood Azhar’s UN terrorist listing

May day turned out to be a May Day for Mohammad Masood Azhar Alvi. With one exception: nobody received or acted on his distress signal of being included in the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions List by the United Nations Security Council. In other words, he has been designated a terrorist. The reasons included being associated with Al-Qaida for planning, financing terrorist acts, supplying arms, recruiting for Jaish-i-Mohammed. You may read the details here. While this is a clear diplomatic victory for India, it is only the first of several steps that India needs to take its fight against Pakistan promoted terror infrastructure to closure. Azhar is a creation of Pakistan, a country that openly uses terror as a state policy against India and the world, and has been supported by this failing nation’s terror hyphenation, China. While this battle will be hard and long as part of the “Great Game and diplomatic dance in the region,” there are four faultlines that are ready to blow themselves up on the terror chessboard of international relations.

Faultline 1. China: wolf wearing a trader’s skin

Let us be clear — China is not fighting terrorism; it is supporting terrorism; it is using terrorism. Humiliating India as a strategy, Pakistan as a battlefield, and ‘technical hold’ as a tool, China has prevented the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) from designating Azhar as a terrorist, against all evidence and global opinion, including the other four members of the UNSC, the US, the UK, France and Russia. Using its veto, China has blocked Azhar’s designation four times, in 2009, 2016, 2017 and 2019. For an aspiring regional power to behave in such an irresponsible manner is more a commentary on how China is abusing its veto power in the UNSC than on its rivalry with India. Like the snake that bites its own tail, what has really happened is that China’s multi-designated leader Xi Jinping — he is general secretary of the Communist Party of China, President of China and Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission — has isolated the nation and is taking it towards a new humiliation. In the game of transactive international relations, this is one more tool China had to extract concessions from India on a relative trivial issue of supporting Pakistan. Clearly, China failed — and it will, when the issue is terror in a democracy, to which it only offers contempt. Given this reality, India needs to understand the grammar of relations with China better and either persuade it to behave as it should with its sixth-largest trading partner or, like in this case, visibly and demonstrably get closer to the other S5 nations, notably the US, the UK and France; Russia is a non-entity here.

Faultline 2. Pakistan: on the edge of civilised behaviour

Nobody knows whose word to take seriously in Pakistan — Imran Khan, head of the army-supported, illegitimately-elected government; its Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa, the de facto head of Pakistan; or the terrorists wearing the garb of freedom fighters. A swiftly-failing state that is not merely trying to take the world and its people for a ride but is delusional and believing its own spins, Pakistan is claiming a victory even in this shame. “Huge diplomatic win by #Pakistan against #India — baseless, political references, linking #MasoodAzhar with the legitimate Kashmiri struggle for right to self determination, removed,” the spokesperson for Pakistan’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs tweeted. Essentially, since Pulwama has not been mentioned in the latest proposal before the 1267 committee, Pakistan is fine with the listing, goes the argument. This is a smokescreen. The fact is: the designation is not based on any single incident but on several acts of terrorism, as Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said. Nobody is buying Pakistan’s argument, of course, and all eyes are now on this rogue nation to see how it deals with Azhar. Depending on what it does, will decide the fate of its economy, currently on the edge of a financial collapse — if the International Monetary Fund which it is negotiating right now doesn’t fructify, and its potential blacklisting under the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in September takes place.

Faultline 3. US, UK and France: friends with benefits

In a world crafted by the West, there is little space for principles; this world functions on the marketplace of interests. Given this reality — unlike the Indian dharmic tradition of righteousness and morality — it is good to see how India has retraced its principles-based approach to international relations and got real. Defence ties, the diaspora, investment and trade opportunities, and cultural exchanges notwithstanding, this trio will demand its pound of flesh. With France the Rafale deal is underway. With the UK, the diaspora and trade remains strong. But it is the US that will now demand its return on investment. The price India will need to pay is to stop buying oil from Iran that contributes about 10% to India’s oil imports. This will be a small price to pay, given the long war ahead. Although the US has given India an exception to go-ahead and build the Chabahar port in Iran, it is upto the latter to decide how it visualises this changed dynamic. Further, closer relations with the US, the UK and France mean a greater footprint in the Indo-Pacific region. Here, while India is a willing partner, it needs their support to make this strategic relationship grow deeper in value and wider in expanse. Despite the random whims by the US, these are more predictable relationships that generally function under the rule of law. The benefits of this framework far outweigh the losses on the China front. Given that after Pulwama, India has become more transactional in its engagements, perhaps this give and take is the new order.

Faultline 4. United Nations: a failing superstructure that needs to reinvent itself

That something as crucial to the world as terror and its state sponsors can be smothered under the personal interests of and the veto power executed by one nation, China, shows that the international body to oversee transnational matters is failing. The UNSC may have had a reason for existence when it was formed in 1945 as a body to take action on major issues of the world, including peace and security. If terrorism that affects countries across the world, the last being Sri Lanka — China is shielded for now but while terror has no geography, it does have a religion and will definitely enter China’s Xinjiang region, where 1 million Uighur Muslims are being detained — are being so crudely neglected and cynically used, this structure is tearing at the seams. India, with Japan and Germany on the GDP side, and Indonesia and Brazil on the population side, need greater representation in world affairs. But it is unlikely that any of the UNSC members will accept either an enlargement to include India or dismantle it to become more inclusive. This is the faulty mechanism we have at hand. We need to realise that even though the world has changed in the past seven decades, this structure will remain. On its part, India will need to wait patiently for about a decade or so, till it becomes a $10 trillion economic powerhouse, before converting its request for inclusion into a demand. Until then, it will simmer alongside the other 188 non-UNSC nations. This collapse is the world’s unreported international tragedy.

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Gautam Chikermane

Gautam Chikermane

Gautam Chikermane is a Vice President at ORF. His areas of research are economics, politics and foreign policy. A Jefferson Fellow (Fall 2001) at the East-West ...

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Guillermina French Fundacin Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN)

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