Alliance with Pakistan matters more to China than terrorism

For years, many Americans and some Indians have voiced hopes of enrolling China’s support in modifying Pakistan’s behaviour in relation to Jihadi terrorism. China’s recent decision to block efforts at the United Nations Security Council to designate Jaish-e-Mohammed leader, Maulana Masood Azhar, as a terrorist in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack points to the futility of such efforts.

China’s outlook is strategic. It has invested a lot of time, energy, and resources in assuring Pakistan that Beijing is Islamabad’s ‘all-weather friend’ and international partner of last resort. Pakistan’s establishment viewed India as a permanent enemy long before assurances of China’s support helped cement that hostility.

From the perspective of Pakistan’s establishment, it can continue to confront its ‘permanent enemy’ without risk of international isolation or significant retaliation as long as China remains on its side. For China, Pakistan serves as a low-cost secondary deterrent to India. Pakistan keeps hundreds of thousands of Indian troops tied down, making it difficult for India to join American-led efforts to contain China’s growing power in the Indo-Pacific.

Alliance with Pakistan matters more to China than terrorism

46 Replies to “Alliance with Pakistan matters more to China than terrorism”

  1. I am not sure how much of “designate Jaish-e-Mohammed leader, Maulana Masood Azhar, ” really achieves. Is it even worth this much effort? Like Hafiz Saeed is already on the list, it hasn’t hampered him any substantial way in Pakistan. Also as we know this groups have the “blessing of the powers to be” in Pakistan, Pakistan can always prop of another leader by making Masood Azhar to Margdarshak mandal (chairman emeritus) of the group. Or prop a totally different group.

    Also with China, i think the larger issue is designating/not designating a terrorist is low cost card. It doesn’t hamper their relationship with India , while solidifying relationship with Pakistan. Pretty sure if India had something to “give”, China would give up its opposition and even Pakistan would understand. This is a win-win for China.

    1. Hmm. Not sure I agree with you here.

      The Chinese are indeed following their narrow, ‘short term’ national interest and bringing down those uppity Indians who have ideas in their heads above their station. But what does it get them apart from this psychological satisfaction?

      I do think India trying to get Azhar on the UN designated terrorist list has its benefits even if it fails or as in the case of Hafiz Saeed done nothing to curb his terror activities. This primarily affects a slow but decisive change in global opinion against these groups’ activities in Kashmir. Noone buys that they are freedom fighters anymore except Pakistanis and Islamists.

      In the long term, this has shown the true face of China to India and the world. China’s rise will be problematic for India and India would do well to take cognizance and build itself militarily and diplomatically. Chinese diplomacy has for years been trying to wean India away from an explicit alliance with the west and many liberal Indian have bought their line. This will be more and more difficult to achieve now. It most certainly will affect indo-chinese relations.

      Not really good for China in the long term to have large, powerful neighbouring state as an enemy. The USA can meddle everywhere and project power around the world because it keeps its neighbourhood either servile like Mexico or completely friendly like Canada.

      So strange to see why China keeps using its international diplomatic capital to rescue expendable and easily replaced lowlifes like Massood Azhar. Since apart from showing India its place and getting some comfort in the heartburn this causes in India, what are they achieving here? Maybe its Pakistan who has drawn a line here and communicated to China the absolute necessity of saving Azhar.

        1. No. Pakistan is just a very convenient and super effective stick China found to beat India with. If Pakistan weren’t around, China would still have found other less convenient and less effective sticks like Myanmar etc.

          IMO China does not want to share power especially in Asia and especially with dark skinned Indians who they believe are racially inferior. It wants to be the sole superpower in the world if it can manage it but most definitely in Asia.

          This has been apparent to everyone expect certain Sinophile Indian intellectuals starting with Nehru. The current example is ShivShankar Menon who was NSA in the UPA govt.

          For India there is no good way out. We have to keep struggling and suffer losses while doing what we can to resist.

      1. Agree with this. Something is off here and Masood Azhar is really not worth all this effort or risk to China, against nearly universal opinion.

        It may be China seizing an opportune moment to create equivalence between MA and “splittist” Dalai Lama, what with a reincarnation battle coming up in the not distant future. This may be the card seen in public among all the others being played within diplomatic channels.

        I really hope Modi government will not also give this away to China, which is only country against which all its bombast curiously seems to wither.

        1. “It may be China seizing an opportune moment to create equivalence between MA and “splittist” Dalai Lama”

          It has nothing to with that. The “Tibetan card” is worthless card and actually is an albatross around India’s neck now.(the tibetians themselves now are moving from India to Western countries, since they face citizenship related issues in India) The whole “reincarnation battle ” is only in India’s mind, Tibet is sufficiently “pacified” for all this to impact. If it goes China’s way they would be happy , if it doesn’t than they wont lose much sleep on it. But still i dont think India will trade away the “Tibetan card” for MA because even symbolically it is too much “give”.

          Also India-China relationship is not physiological, like India-Pakistan is for Modi govt to use its bombast against them. They know having good/bad relationship with China doesn;t affect politically, so why waste any “nationalist” credo on that front. Its like using bombast to blast Sri Lanka . Whose votes will Modi get by doing that(not the Tamils, for sure)?

          1. Disagree.
            Regarding Tibet, this is but a moment in time where China may appear to have the upper hand. Tibet has never been a “card” for India, and it is extremely limiting to see it as one. Strategists have their value, but also have the hammer-and-nail problem.

            Didn’t use “bombast” in the verbal-duel sense (perennially) in play with Pakistan, but as in an assertive, muscular foreign policy. In Xi’s presence, Modi appears to fold like origami, in words and deeds, which is genuinely surprising. Even as a Modi critic, it bothers me China calls out Modi’s strongman bluff…seen again here in something as trivial as Masood Azhar, an event that got two nuclear powers breach each others borders first time ever.

            Which is why I worry about the Dalai Lama issue.

          2. “Didn’t use “bombast” in the verbal-duel sense (perennially) in play with Pakistan, but as in an assertive, muscular foreign policy.”

            If you mean objectively has India under Modi applied a more “assertive, muscular foreign policy” vis-v China , than India under MMS, then yes, it has done so. If you mean does it match Modi’s own rhetoric than No, it hasn’t . India went in to an area which it does not contest(Doklam) , is the only major country opposed visibly to BRI. Both these things didn’t/wouldn’t happen under MMS.

            “Which is why I worry about the Dalai Lama issue.”

            What exactly do you worry? What do you have in mind India “might” do?

          3. @Saurav:

            I think you are falling for what the “nationalist” media reported about Doklam and overstating India’s case:

            https://warontherocks.com/2018/06/doklam-one-year-later-chinas-long-game-in-the-himalayas/

            Bhutan contesting=India contesting- that country doesn’t have an army. This has always been the case.

            What worries me is that the Modi govt will be cowed down and India will deviate from its longstanding support to Dalai Lama and Tibetan government in exile. This support has never wavered throughout the decades, not even under minority governments (VP Singh, IK Gujral, etc), but have under “strongman” Modi. As just one unprecedented example that hogged international attention, Modi govt forced the Tibetan govt-in-exile’s yearlong “Thank you India” event to be canceled in Delhi and moved to Dharamshala, something that surprised and caused considerable consternation among Tibetans.

            I do not want to see Modi being flown in for another hugfest in, say Lhasa, where he laud’s India and China’s historical connection and Tibet’s historical heritage, and then quietly slips in India’s support for “One China” policy. Hopefully, the FP establishment will not allow this but with Modi’s penchant for ad hoc decisions in service of self-aggrandizement a la demonetization, nothing is off the table.

      2. Janamejaya it is borderline offensive to call major Latin American countries such as Mexico “servile.” They are most definitely not. They choose to have good relations with each other than other countries (such as the US) because it is the right thing to do, and it is in their long term interests.

        Are India’s military allies Afghanistan, Vietnam and Bhutan “servile” to India? Of course that type of accusation is complete nonsense.

        The world has global commons, or investments whose benefits accrue mostly to people other than the people making the investment. This is also called “externalities.”

        Approximately 84% of the benefits of US military spending accrue to countries other than the US. Americans are getting tired of this and trying to pull back. This is very bad for the rest of the world–especially India. America obviously can’t afford to disproportionately pay for the global commons. But America should pull back very gradually in a conditions based way that allows other great global powers (mostly Asia) to fill in the gap.

        America is withdrawing FID (or surging the capacity and competence of other militaries, police forces, civilian institutions) from the rest of the world. China, India, Japan and other countries need to provide a lot more international FID.

        Without FID, Al Qaeda and Daesh (also called ISIS) would likely conquer and rule much of the African continent . . . among many other parts of the world. If that were to happen, many tens of thousands of Indians (or more) would likely be killed by terrorist attacks.

        Xerxes, we need to chat about China. China has repeatedly tried to militarily ally with both the US and India. Including in Afghanistan and to resist global Takfiri Jihadi Islamism. Both the US and India have consistently refused to collaborate and ally with China. I think this is a mistake.

        Hopefully we can get some Chinese policy thought leaders on Brown Cast soon.

  2. “But what does it get them apart from this psychological satisfaction?”
    “Maybe its Pakistan who has drawn a line here and communicated to China the absolute necessity of saving Azhar.”

    It does not cost them anything. And there is a chance that India might “trade” on something important for China’s approval. As i said there is no downside. I would do that if i were China. There is no red line because its mostly a meaningless designation for a group if it operates only in one country(with a large informal economy). For let say Al Qaeda /ISIS types and all this designation helps.

    ” Chinese diplomacy has for years been trying to wean India away from an explicit alliance with the west and many liberal Indian have bought their line. This will be more and more difficult to achieve now. It most certainly will affect indo-chinese relations. ”

    China doesnt not have to do anything because India’s elite and bureaucrats (notwithstanding the BJP) are enough “anti-american/Left wing” to not let any alliance happen. We are our worst enemy. India has not done anything /power to do anything substantial to China’s interest apart for some meaningless diplomatic stuff. They know any Govt in India will soon revert back to its older policy of equi-distance from USA and China (Modi went to Wuhan, China didnt ask him to come or anything) in the longer term, even without China doing anything . India (specially under another future UPA Govt) will join the BRI and even stop agitating against CPEC (another one of those India’s meaningless diplomatic stuff i talked about) . So in long run they wouldn;t have lost anything for whatever they have done/doing to India.

  3. I think it may be time for India to voice open opposition to the Chinese occupation and colonization of Tibet, and declare support for Tibetan independence should the Tibetans desire it, if only to keep Xinhua hopping mad on a daily basis. And unlike the so-called brutal oppression that Indians are inflicting on Kashmiris, Han Chinese oppression of Tibetans is very real, and very brutal. (Xinjiang too, but let’s take it one step at a time.)

      1. His last name was Pandit.

        His forefathers were probably tortured in Mughal and Afghan jails to convert them to Islam. Descendants getting tortured in Indian prisons essentially for being in the wrong religion. Real Hindu Pandits not doing anything better; living in tents in exile.

        In some ways the story of Kashmiri Pandits is a centuries old tragedy.

        1. This is only the latest example of the death of a Kashmiri Muslim young man in police custody. An FIR has been filed against the dead man for “trying to escape”. Shameful.

          1. Kabir,

            The trope of South-Asian Muslims being the result of wide-spread forced conversion and rape isn’t at all restricted to the Hindu-right, its a foundational myth of modern Hindu identity, really only rejected by the relatively small number of liberal/educated Hindus in India.

            The only difference is the extent to which different groups of Hindus apply this premise. Many on the right would massacre the Muslims in India tomorrow if they could get away with it. Those in the middle are content to limit their assault on Muslims to the cultural/legal realms.

            Its similar in a way to the Muslim view on homosexuality. While only the right-wing Muslims will use their low views of homosexuals to advocate for their physical censure, their baseline worldview is shared by many moderate Muslims, who limit their attacks to the legal/cultural arena.

        2. “His forefathers were probably tortured in Mughal and Afghan jails to convert them to Islam.”

          Ah yes, this mythology of mass forced conversion that nobody has any evidence of, but Hindus assure us must be true because it helps them sleep at night.

          1. Not Hindus, but Hindutvadis. Let’s not conflate the two.

            There probably were some forced conversions but not on the mass scale that is alleged.

          2. Kabir,

            The trope of South-Asian Muslims being the result of wide-spread forced conversion and rape isn’t at all restricted to the Hindu-right, its a foundational myth of modern Hindu identity, really only rejected by the relatively small number of liberal/educated Hindus in India.

            The only difference is the extent to which different groups of Hindus apply this premise. Many on the right would massacre the Muslims in India tomorrow if they could get away with it. Those in the middle are content to limit their assault on Muslims to the cultural/legal realms.

            Obviously instances of forced conversion occurred, but you can find examples of Hindus forcibly converting people as well. The important question is whether forced conversion played any significant role in roughly 1/3 of South-Asia being Muslim, and the unanimous answer from academics is no.

          3. I think we should be careful about the words we use. Many Hindus are not Hindutvadis and should not have these beliefs attributed to them.

            I agree with the substance of your comment about so-called forced conversions.

          4. I would like to know more about what credible historical opinion on Islamic mass-conversion is. Maybe BP can live up to its potential and do a podcast on this topic- remember Omar disputing this Savarkarite received wisdom on a previous podcast.

            Am nowadays questioning a lot of fundamental things about India I may not have previously, after discovering in the Modi era that Savarkarite idiocy had more purchase within middle and lower levels of Indian education and media even in pre-BJP years (even when it was carefully restricted at the top).

            The transparent, easily verifiable delusions that is received wisdom within (otherwise sophisticated) online Savarkarite bubbles is a breathtaking spectacle. My personal favorite is “Muslim appeasement”, that apparently triggered the early 90s Savarkarite resurgence!

  4. I don’t think India is as powerless in front of China and as supine as some people think. India isn’t as powerful as some of us imagine it to be or would like it to be either but thats a different thing.

    When it comes to India’s national interest, Indian govt does manage to muddle through. In the 1990s it would have been very much expected for India to lose Kashmir. The US and China were hostile. The USSR was gone. After stoking a full-blown insurgency in 1990, all Pakistan needed to do was to invade Kashmir and do what India did in 1971. However, the invasion came too late (Kargil, 1999) and was too small in scope precisely because India is a decent military power with real teeth.

    Similarly, in Doklam the Chinese were compelled to withdraw by proactive Indian military and diplomatic efforts. The Chinese know it isn’t 1962 anymore. Indian politicians are neither that gullible and rosy eyed about China nor are the Indian armed forces so disorganized and under-equipped.

    India can ofcourse do much better but it hasn’t been a complete push-over either.

    1. Does India have enough strength to protect its turf? Yes (in most context) . Can it do anything to change/alter China’s behavior? No (Mostly)

      1. I agree.

        FWIW, I don’t think any Indian govt will ever join the Chinese OBOR project or would have let the Chinese army build a road through Doklam. As far as relations with China go, Modi has done exactly as Congress would have.

        Leaving aside the geopolitical tussle with China, there isn’t anything in OBOR for India economically either. We can attract investment in infrastructure at good rates from western and japanese banks etc. Why would we let China invest in financially unviable projects in India and give them a handle over us once they fail? Nearly all countries accepting Chinese loans are doing so because of lack of options.

    2. “In the 1990s it would have been very much expected for India to lose Kashmir. The US and China were hostile. The USSR was gone.”

      That this was never seriously considered a probability in any world capital in the 90s, despite several transient minority Central governments, is testimony to the resilience of the traditional idea of the Indian state. One that is caricatured and mocked by the Modi-56″ ecosystem. Only the El Stupidos in Pindi thought victory in Khalistan and Kashmir were imminent, and we all know how that has turned out.

  5. “I don’t think any Indian govt will ever join the Chinese OBOR project or would have let the Chinese army build a road through Doklam. As far as relations with China go, Modi has done exactly as Congress would have.”

    😄😄😄

    Just wait till UPA comes back to power. India will not only drop this blanket opposition to BRI, but also will be part of developing “select” places/ports. Perhaps not in india but in other counties. And the very same strategist/diplomats/think tank people who are congratulating India’s stand will do a U turn and find some or the other justification for India doing it. But with CPEC , I agree ,UPA will find it tough to deal with Pakistan in a overtly hostile public opinion.

  6. The Chinese government lost 40,000 soldiers fighting a futile war with Vietnam, achieving no strategic goals, and the one child policy had left the military quite vulnerable.

    http://alexatsintolas.weebly.com/military.html

    Unlike India, China has serious conflicts with all of its neighbors, Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam especially. Relations with the US are poor and will get worse.

    So its likely that China’s patronage of Pakistan is rooted in its relative isolation and the pathetic and pliant nature of the Pakistani elite.

    China benefited hugely from network effects in East Asia and the presence of a reservoir of cheap, obedient labor force. But other countries are in on the game and things are going to get a lot more competitive.

    (No responses from Kabir and Indthings please.)

  7. Chinese strategic policy is firmly realistic and transactionalist. That is any action requested should be met with an offer of equivalent value. Whether or not an individual is placed on some irrelevant terrorist list is unimportant, what matters is what China gets in return for allowing it. Realistically speaking, no one really cares about the issue except for India, and Pakistan only to the extent that it spites India, so very little political capital is expended though it is treated as a Big Deal by India’s lumpen intellectuals. Vaguely hinted threats from various Indians about retaliation can be ignored for the hot air it is because at a heart it is symbolic only and mere domestic political theater and they won’t risk anything for it. Furthermore even if the threats were genuine, it would be even more in China’s interest to double down in opposition as being seen to have caved at the mere hint of hostility from weaker parties would just invite more nipping at the heals from everyone who wanted something.

    It isn’t so much that the Chinese think dark skinned Indians are racially inferior, as 99% of Chinese have no opinion one way or the other and no knowledge besides Curry and Bollywood. The military and diplomatic elite with interactions with India on the other hand are if not precisely hostile at least cool on the issue. The army would be naturally antagonistic but the foreign affairs bureaucrats reserve stems from first hand experience. It’s hard to precisely describe the attitude but dismissive probably comes closest. The feeling is that the Indian side talks too much and does little and that they seem to value symbolism just as much as concrete action. The Indian side always seems to want something for free no matter how minor. In addition they also tend to have the impression of Indian counterparts as perpetual fence sitters. Thus the Chinese calculate that the costs of modest Indian hostility are tolerable and light while the purchase price of Indian friendship is too expensive.

    1. “The Indian side always seems to want something for free no matter how minor. In addition they also tend to have the impression of Indian counterparts as perpetual fence sitters. Thus the Chinese calculate that the costs of modest Indian hostility are tolerable and light while the purchase price of Indian friendship is too expensive.”

      Cant agree enough. True words

    2. Duke of Qin, you are a genius!

      I have been wanting to make blog posts making your points. BP podcast will hopefully have several Chinese thought leaders on soon.

      There is deep dysfunction in the Indian foreign ministry, Indian MoD, Indian inter-agency and Indian foreign policy establishment.

      Alluded to it slightly:
      https://www.brownpundits.com/2018/11/06/india-still-rising-a/

      India needs to propose and execute combined joint actions with China that advance shared Chinese and Indian long term interests and values. If these are executed well, this opens up the possibility for wide spread global collaboration to advance many of the global commons. China wins. India wins. The world wins.

      China has proposed many joint actions with the US and India–that both the US and India have failed to act upon. [Chinese have proposed combined Chinese, US, Indian collaboration on global Islamism. In addition to economics and the environment.]

      Of course part of the blame goes to Chinese lack of understanding too. But a lot of the blame also goes to Indian misunderstanding, Indian incompetence, India’s failure to implement agreements in a whole of government inter-agency way.

      Duke of Qin, would you like to contribute future articles to BP? Are there any Chinese thought leaders you would like to hear podcasts on?

  8. “its a foundational myth of modern Hindu identity”

    LoL. Brother, Hindus’ foundation myth go far earlieir than medieval Islmic period. Hindus count the time of their mythological events in billions and trillions of years (believe me, Hindus are good with numbers 🙂 ). Don’t delude yourself that Hindus formed their identities during the reign of two-bit sultans.

    “but you can find examples of Hindus forcibly converting people as well.”

    Really! and what caste these newcomers were drafted in? Horror of horror, does my lovely xxxx caste have pure Hijazi Arab Bedouin ancestors in its family tree too?

    Seriously, this is the problem of engaging Pakistanis in these forums. They start out displaying tolerable level of intellect, but bofore long lapse into idiotic ramblings. That leaves all others scratching their head and wondering – what happened? he seemed normal…

  9. The modern Hindu identity wasn’t forged during the Islamic-era, its a product of the British colonial era.

    This isn’t restricted to Hindus, the prevailing identity in Pakistan is largely a British-era construct as well, though was helped along by the global Islamism revival post 1970’s.

    I’m not sure what you are saying visa-vis forced conversion. Do you deny Hindus engaged in them? We have records from the last 20 years alone indicating Hindus engaged in this behavior in India, much less stretching back centuries.

          1. Can’t find anything before the colonial period. Which isn’t to say it didn’t happen, just that I’ll have to read a book (ugh) to give specific examples.

        1. “https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-30573796”

          And regarding this BBC story, I have some inside knowledge of this conversion scam. Apparently some naive missionaries who have been conditioned to believe that bringing more converts to their true faith will get them some front row seats in the paradise, approach these Adivasis and Dalits with money to lure them to Christianity. Adivasis/Dalits convert to Christianity after taking money, but soon start demanding regular stipends to stay put in their new religion. If the missionaries fail to supply them steady paychecks, they run to VHP or other Hindu groups and reconvert to Hinduism under their “ghar wapasi” program. Presumably Hindu groups also need to open their purse strings to buy back their loyalties. So this is how it goes.

          So in some ways, these gullible missionaries are the real victims, and these manipulative Dalits/Adivasis are the exploitative sharks. 🙂

          People of India, even those from the deprived segments of the society are far smarter than western media realizes. And this is why I always say that one needs to live and breathe India to fully understand what goes on behind the scenes. Google and Facebook is not sufficient to understand India.

  10. ” just that I’ll have to read a book (ugh)..”

    WTF! Yeah, you will have to read a book. And by book I mean a real history book, not your Quaid-e-Azam Govt Higher Secondary school, Faisalabad history book.

    You just proved inadvertently why the intellectual level of any average Pakistani remains so pedestrian even though they may be able to access Internet. Guess what, unbelievable though it may sound, people in other countries read books!

  11. US general alleges Pakistan $10bn in debt as result of China’s “predatory economics”

    http://www.globalconstructionreview.com/news/us-general-alleges-pakistan-10bn-debt-result-china/

    “Dunford warned that if China’s “predatory” loans were left unaddressed, it would have serious implications for the US military.”

    https://international.la-croix.com/news/china-tightens-its-grip-on-pakistan/9217#

    “Pakistani military and intelligence elements reportedly support terrorist groups that operate against the United States, Afghanistan and India. One has to wonder — are they operating with the knowledge, or even at the behest of, China?”

    “Pakistan is nearly insolvent, and falling under the economic and political influence of China. That explains a lot of Pakistan’s anti-social behavior towards the U.S., Afghanistan and India, and puts the volatile nuclear-armed country, and the region, into a very dangerous position.”

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