Skip to main content

China’s embrace of Masood Azhar has primarily to do with CPEC

Gautam SenUpdated : March 30, 2019, 6:17 PM

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a meeting at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, on 19 March. REUTERS

It also has to do with the legality of China’s occupation of PoK territory ceded by Pakistan, the vital and irreplaceable artery of the entire historic BRI project.


China’s veto of international sanctions against Masood Azhar appears superficially explicable, but loyalty to Pakistan being deemed the sole rationale lacks real conviction. The growing engagement of Russia with Pakistan also seems a little puzzling, given its historic ties with India and huge sale of arms to it that benefit Russian arms production and R&D massively. Both these situations require deeper reflection and the answer to the apparent conundrum in both instances lies in critical national interests of China and Russia and the geopolitics that underpin them.

China’s willingness to countenance international opprobrium by shielding Masood Azhar since it has been vocal condemning Islamic terrorism and adopting extreme measures within China itself, supposedly to combat it, is especially strange. Its policy seems to lack calculation and might outwardly seem to be a sentimental impulse in deference to Pakistani sensitivities. China’s policy becomes even more puzzling when it is eminently feasible for China to have its cake and eat it too by allowing the UNSC resolution to pass and look the other way while Pakistan only adopts pro forma action against Azhar, the recent incarceration in so-called “protective custody”, a prime instance of thumbing its nose at the world!

China’s protective embrace of Masood Azhar is motivated by something more substantial. It has to do with CPEC and the legality of China’s occupation of PoK territory ceded by Pakistan, the vital and irreplaceable artery of the entire historic BRI project. The terror campaign of Masood Azhar and JeM is a political affirmation of Pakistani assertion to sovereignty over PoK and the legality of its claim over not just PoK, but J&K in its entirety. It may be a contested claim but it is nevertheless the imperative fig leaf of legality on which it is based. A formal repudiation by the UNSC, the world’s highest consensual political authority, of Masood Azhar, embodying the moral and political identity of JeM as the movement asserting Pakistani juridical claims over J&K, would have served to undermine the very claim of Pakistani sovereignty to J&K itself.

Countries engaged in blatant violation of international law never admit to it and, on the contrary, strive to couch their misconduct by presenting legal justification for it. And only if Pakistani claims possess a legal basis of entitlement to PoK and beyond does the ceding of territory, of enormous strategic importance, in Northern Kashmir and Ladakh to China in 1963 becomes valid in international law. This is the rationale that accounts for the conundrum of China’s apparently inexplicable policy towards Masood Azhar and JeM. It also explains why India cannot participate in CPEC-BRI, which would undoubtedly bring major economic benefits to it, without compromising the legality of its claim to J&K and PoK. India would be implicitly accepting that Pakistan ceded its sovereign territory to China.

As an aside, it might be noted that the CPEC route through ceded PoK territory is vulnerable to being easily cut off by military action and the mere threat it might happen in a time of crisis would remove insurance cover for goods in transit through it. Of course, China might risk its own exports traversing the vulnerable route uninsured, but the counterpart flow of imported goods into China would not accept such a risk unless China decided to shoulder the entire risk burden of goods worth billions of dollars in transit that were facing the threat of violent interdiction.

Russia’s deep engagement with Pakistan is daily becoming more intense and is hard to ignore. Its attempt to broker peace after the Pulwama terrorist assault in February by JeM, effectively requiring a neutral Russian stance between victim, a historic friend sensitive to its current difficult international predicament, and an assailant, who is a repeat offender, is revealing and necessitates explanation. It is likely that Russia is inexorably poised to become a benefactor of Pakistan, which means a provider of arms, technical assistance and, possibly, energy supplies. And Pakistan will surely insist on know-how to combat Russian-supplied armaments to India in exchange for its cooperation and goodwill. And will crucial spares be withheld from India during an Indo-Pak conflict in the interests of peace that Russia will seek to solicitously broker?

Russian overtures towards Pakistan are based on the grim realities of geopolitics and echo the Central Asian Great Game, memorably chronicled by Peter Hopkirk. Russia’s need for Pakistani goodwill arises from the imperative need to deal with the deadly eastern half of the pincer movement that has left it precariously vulnerable in the west. A succession of Eastern European countries and some former Soviet republics are being used by NATO to neutralise and blackmail Russia. Their absorption into the western economic sphere is being followed by situating ABMs in their territory, the purpose of which is to signal NATO ability to counter Russian missile retaliation once the majority of them have been destroyed in a NATO first-strike. The expectation, one presumes, is the hope it will make Russia more cooperative.

Pakistan and Afghanistan, in which it will shortly enjoy compelling influence, is a vital key to mitigate NATO incursion into Central Asia. And growing US-Pak estrangement has created the opportunity for such an engagement. Apart from Pakistan’s geographical position, its ability to influence Islamic militants in the entire region could not be ignored by Russia. And the evidence of competition between NATO countries and Russia in Central Asia is all too apparent, the recent Caspian Sea accord pointedly prohibiting outside military presence in the region. There is no room for sentimentality in such a grave security predicament. China is also playing a vital role in the region despite potential for a divergence of Sino-Russian interests beyond a certain point.

India can offer Russia little other than political solidarity and purchase its arms though it has recently chosen France wisely, as the only reliable alternative. India’s alleged privileged role as the contemporary “swing power”, which strengthens the side it joins, touted by lazy thinking, has turned out to be a chimera. It is in reality lodged between one pole of global power, the Sino-Pak axis from which its national interests are too fundamentally estranged to swing towards and another, the US, known to require unctuous deference from partners.

Dr Gautam Sen taught international political economy for more than two decades at the London School of Economics and Political Science and is currently co-Director of the Dharmic Ideas and Policy Foundation, UK.


Popular posts from this blog

SSG Commando Muddassir Iqbal of Pakistan Army

“ Commando Muddassir Iqbal was part of the team who conducted Army Public School operation on 16 December 2014. In this video he reveals that he along with other commandos was ordered to kill the innocent children inside school, when asked why should they kill children after killing all the terrorist he was told that it would be a chance to defame Taliban and get nation on the side. He and all other commandos killed children and later Taliban was blamed.
Muddassir Iqbal has deserted the military and now he is  with mujahedeen somewhere in AF PAK border area”
For authenticity of  this tape journalists can easy reach to his home town to interview his family members or   ISPR as he reveals his army service number”
Asalam o Alaikum: My name is Muddassir Iqbal. My father’s name is Naimat Ali. I belong to Sialkot divison (Punjab province), my village is Shamsher Poor and district, tehsil and post office  Narowal. Unfortunately I was working in Pakistan army. I feel embarrassed to tell you …

CPEC Jobs in Pakistan, salary details

JOBS...نوکریاں چائنہ کمپنی میںPlease help the deserving persons...Salary:Salary package in China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in these 300,000 jobs shall be on daily wages. The details of the daily wages are as follows;Welder: Rs. 1,700 dailyHeavy Duty Driver: Rs. 1,700 dailyMason: Rs. 1,500 dailyHelper: Rs. 850 dailyElectrician: Rs. 1,700 dailySurveyor: Rs. 2,500 dailySecurity Guard: Rs. 1,600 dailyBulldozer operator: Rs. 2,200 dailyConcrete mixer machine operator: Rs. 2,000 dailyRoller operator: Rs. 2,000 dailySteel fixer: Rs. 2,200 dailyIron Shuttering fixer: Rs. 1,800 dailyAccount clerk: Rs. 2,200 dailyCarpenter: Rs. 1,700 dailyLight duty driver: Rs. 1,700 dailyLabour: Rs. 900 dailyPara Engine mechanic: Rs. 1,700 dailyPipe fitter: Rs. 1,700 dailyStorekeeper: Rs. 1,700 dailyOffice boy: Rs. 1,200 dailyExcavator operator: Rs. 2,200 dailyShovel operator: Rs. 2,200 dailyComputer operator: Rs. 2,200 dailySecurity Supervisor: Rs. 2,200 dailyCook for Chinese food: Rs. 2,000 dailyCook…

Historical relationship between Kurd and Baloch.

The Kurds are the ethnical group living in a region known as Kurdistan which is divided into Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran. They  are struggling for an independent region since decades and they are famous for their female guerrilla fighters.        On 25 September 2017, the referendum for an independent Kurdish region  was held in Iraq with a turn out of 72 %.   On this important occasion, the historical relation between Kurd and Baloch people is worth discussing.       When it comes to history, every nation tends to find its roots and origin. Same goes with the Baloch people. The Baloch people are always curious  about  finding their roots in history. Even if you  talk to a shepherd in Balochistan, he will be curious to talk about his  tribal or ethnical roots.      The Balochs have always conveyed the history to the next generations in different mediums like poems etc. No Baloch before 20th century had written books on  history  or origin of the Baloch nation .