China’s Veto: Another Stab in the Back?

~ By Sudarshan Ramabadran

“The way of war is a way of deception. When able, feign inability. When deploying troops, appear not to be. When near, appear far. When far, appear near. Lure with bait; strike with chaos. If the enemy is full, be prepared. If strong, avoid him. If he is angry, disconcert him. If he is weak, stir him with pride. If he is relaxed, harry him. If his men are harmonious, split them. Attack where he is unprepared; appear where you are unexpected.” These words of Chinese master strategist Sun Tzu aptly puts into perspective how China crafts its contemporary foreign policy orientations. Henry Kissinger in his book ‘On China’ has interestingly noted that China’s diplomacy mirrors the game of ‘wei qi’, also known as go, in which players try to encircle one another. This strategy, armed with Sun Tzu’s sutras is what possibly determines China’s pursuit of its grand goal in the 21st century, which is to become the world’s No.1 power.

In 1953, the US had offered India a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. This was flatly refused by then Prime Minister Nehru who instead suggested that the seat be offered to China because he revelled in his ‘Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai’ diplomacy not realizing that one day the Chinese guns would be up in arms against the Indian forces. In Nehru’s words, China deserved it’s so called rightful place in the UN and the Security Council, he said, “Informally, suggestions have been made by the United States that China should be taken into the United Nations but not in the Security Council and that India should take her place in the Security Council. We cannot of course accept this as it means falling out with China and it would be very unfair for a great country like China not to be in the Security Council. We have, therefore, made it clear to those who suggested this that we cannot agree to this suggestion. We have even gone a little further and said that India is not anxious to enter the Security Council at this stage, even though as a great country she ought to be there. The first step to be taken is for China to take her rightful place”, Nehru went on to add, “India because of many factors, is certainly entitled to a permanent seat in the security council. But we are not going in at the cost of China”

Ironically, India today finds itself in an unenviable position of having many of its valid security concerns vetoed by China whose relationship with Pakistan is the cause of much tension in our neighbourhood. The recent blocking of listing the dreaded Pakistani terrorist Masood Azhar, the mastermind behind the Pathankot terror attacks, from the UNSC 1267 resolution is the most recent case. India regards the implementation of this resolution as an important building block of the UN global counter terrorism strategy that aims to protect all member states and their citizens from the activities of terror groups. The Chinese veto comes as no surprise considering the role China has played in shielding Pakistan’s patronage of terrorism. This, despite the fact that since the 1990s China continues to be a victim of terrorism and separatist violence in the Xinjiang region.

However, this is not the first time China has used its veto power against India at the United Nations (UN). In the 45 years that China has been on the UN Security Council, it has used its veto power 10 times. It blocked India’s attempt to list Jamat-ud-Dawa, the terrorist organisation responsible for the 26/11 attacks 3 times. China has also blocked UNSC sanctions on Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) & Al Akhtar Trust (an organisation of the Jaish-e-Mohammed). China also refused to support the listing of Syed Salahuddin in UNSC terror list. It had also earlier blocked a move by India to seek action against Pakistan for the release from jail of LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, on the ground that New Delhi has not provided sufficient information. Thus China has violated UNSC resolution 1267 several times in support of Pakistan. China’s claims that ‘Pakistan too is a victim of terrorism’ or gives frivolous reasons such as ‘insufficient information’.

To address this dangerous laxity, Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the recent Nuclear Security Summit in the US highlighted, “Let us drop the notion that terrorism is someone else’s problem and that ‘his’ terrorist is not ‘my’ terrorist”. He further added that, “The reach and supply chains of terrorism are global; but genuine cooperation between nation states is not.”

While on one hand China has continued to block India’s moves to list terrorists and terror organisation under the UNSC, drawing inspiration from ‘Wei Qi’, it has continued to engage with Pakistan on the China Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) front as part of its ambitious One Belt One Road Initiative. China has refused to cease activities at the proposed CPEC, which runs through Gilgit Baltistan (G-B), which is Indian territory occupied by Pakistan; even according to Pakistan, G-B is disputed territory and not a part of Pakistan. China has already pledged $46 billion dollars for CPEC. Protests from the Indian side were lodged at the highest political level regarding CPEC especially the meeting hosted by Chinese President for the Pakistan Prime Minister.

However China has consistently posited CPEC as a livelihood project but has opposed Indian private companies’ oil exploration at the South China Sea, stating it is a case of sovereignty. Defending its actions, China has maintained that “We know the concern of the Indian side and those projects are not political projects. They are all for livelihood of people…We do not side with the any party on the issue of the territory. We have been advocating that the disputes should be solved through concerned parties through peaceful means. The kind of commercial activities do not affect the position of China on the claimants of the territory.”

General VP Malik, Former Army Chief in one of his columns notes the strategic inroad China aims to achieve through the proposed corridor: “If and when CPEC is completed, it will be a political, economic and strategic game changer in the region. China’s control of Shaqsgam and other valleys of Gilgit-Baltistan will enable this area to be linked with its military and industrial complexes of north-western Tibet. China also obtained a commitment from Pakistan for the security of the project and the workforce involved. The Pakistan army has raised a special security division for this, with headquarters in Diamer district of Gilgit-Baltistan. To ensure security at the Arabian Sea end, China will sell eight submarines to Pakistan, which would double its fleet.”

India – China bilateral relations remains one of the most difficult bilateral relations. One of the affecting factors has been the trust deficit. If China – India have to achieve Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of INCH towards MILES (India China towards Millennium of Exceptional Synergy) then China must remain sincere and commit to its Premier Le Keqiang’s words, “China is ready to deepen counter-terrorism cooperation with India to better safeguard the development and security interests of our two countries.”

Sudarshan Ramabadran is a Research Associate with India Foundation. The views expressed are his own.

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