In what can be seen as a small victory for India, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has issued a statement condemning the suicide bombing in Pulwama. More crucially, the statement, signed off by all permanent members of the Security Council, including China, names the Pakistan-based terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). As is widely known, China has been the primary obstacle in India’s efforts to get JeM chief Masood Azhar sanctioned by the United Nations under Resolution 1267. So, does the UNSC statement mark a veritable shift in China’s position?
For starters, China has not yet agreed to Azhar getting listed under Resolution 1267. The UNSC statement is good but carries no punitive implication against Azhar or Pakistan. This is not the first time China has signed off a statement condemning Pakistan-based terrorist groups. The September 2017 BRICS declaration in Xiamen mentioned both JeM and Lashkar-e-Taiba. It needs to be recalled that the Xiamen summit was preceded by the end of the 73-day stand-off between Indian and Chinese forces in Doklam. In fact, India used, according to some experts, a threat to boycott the Xiamen summit. And then in February 2018, China agreed to put Pakistan on the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental body that targets money laundering and terrorist financing. In return, other countries consented to China’s vice-presidency of FATF.
The lesson is clear: Beijing will support Pakistan as long as it is not costly to do so. The moment China sees that the cost of supporting Pakistan exceeds short-term benefits, it will stop doing so. Here lies a message for India. To get China on board for designating Azhar in the UN, New Delhi needs to increase the costs for China. India could do this using the support of friendly countries like the US and France. In the long run, India and the global community need to increase the reputational costs of standing with terrorism.