by Farooq Ganderbali
China’s blocking of another move at the UN to designate Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist has proven that Beijing is loath to upset its “all-weather” friendship with Islamabad. Without meaningful global action against jihadist enclaves in Pakistan, India may understandably conclude it has few options other than a military escalation. The proposal to designate Masood Azhar under the 1267 al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council was moved by France, the UK, and the US on February 27, days after the Pulwama terror attack which martyred 40 CRPF jawans. Masood Azhar is a proven threat. Why would China give him a terror pass? Beijing is loath to upset what it calls its ‘all-weather’ friendship with Pakistan, and one reason is strategic. The US cut military aid to Islamabad last year after President Donald Trump cited its support of terrorists in Afghanistan, and China wants to fill the gap.After deadly Pulwama terror attack, the global focus has now shifted to rooting out terrorists in Pakistan, but China is already easing international pressure on Islamabad to do so. The proposal moved in the UN Security Council’s Sanctions Committee against Masood Azhar in the last 10 years would have subjected the JeM chief to a travel ban, an assets freeze, and an arms embargo.A UN blacklisting would pressure Pakistan to comply and the US State Department concluded in 2017 that Islamabad failed to stop the JeM from openly raising money, recruiting and training in the country. But Beijing put a hold on the proposal saying they “still need more time” to consider the matter.The international community should not expect a change in this stance given that Beijing has blocked Security Council action against Azhar in 2016 and 2017. According to American Enterprise Institute’s China Global Investment Tracker, China has poured nearly USD 32 billion into Pakistani infrastructure through Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative. In return, from 2008-2017, Pakistan imported USD 6 billion in weapons from China, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, making it Beijing’s biggest arms customer in Asia.While shielding Masood Azhar, Beijing is forgetting that it uses the threat of terror to sanction its own citizens – the Chinese Uighur Muslims. In its northwestern Xinjiang province, more than one million Chinese Uighur Muslims have been detained in “re-education” centers under the guise of preventing extremism. India will show patience with China for “as long as it takes” but will not compromise its position on terrorism. New Delhi has already shared evidence against Masood Azhar with all the UN Security members including China. New Delhi is confident that eventually Masood Azhar will get listed as global terrorist as it has a solid case against the JeM chief. Terrorism is an issue which is not-negotiable for India and if China needed more time, New Delhi was ready to wait.