With UNSC Vote on Masood Azhar, ‘Iron Brother Friendship’ on Trial, yet again!

By Imtiaz Gul

I am glad to take a question from China’s iron brother.

This spontaneous expression from the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at his presser on March 7, in response to a question by a journalist of the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), literally summed up the current strategic nature of Pak-China bilateral relations.

No surprise at all for those who know that the Chinese word “patiye”  meaning “iron brother” is the most commonly used synonym for Pakistan.

The very next day, on March 8, a foreign ministry spokesperson in Beijing issued the categorical statement on the February 26 aerial strikes inside the Pakistani territory by India; Sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be upheld. The message was that China was against any behavior that violated basic norms of international law. The statement also asked that Pakistan and India shall take measures to enhance trust, accumulate consensus and meet each other half way so as to ease tension.

Three days later, the foreign ministry spokesperson rejected as “dubious” Indian media reports on the possible fate of Jaishe Mohammad (JeM) leader Maulan Masood Azhar at the UN Security Council meeting set for March 13.

“I’m afraid no judgment should be based on information gathered through inappropriate channels. Only by making decision through responsible and serious discussions can we resolve the issue”

The spokesman went on to underline that “ We already stressed China’s position on the listing of terrorist organizations and individuals in the UN Security Council 1267 Committee on many occasions. China has all along participated in relevant discussions in a responsible manner and in strict accordance with the rules of procedure and provisions of the 1267 Committee. China will continue to communicate and work with relevant parties in a responsible manner so as to properly resolve this matter. Only by making a decision through responsible and serious discussions can we resolve the issue in a sustainable manner.”

What does this all mean for the impending vote on Maulana Azhar?

Will China again apply the technical hold on it, that is, veto the move or go along the France-led proposal for designating Azhar as a global terrorist at the UN Security Council?

Beijing’s leadership has already dropped considerable hints that it wont take sides between India and Pakistan. But this should not surprise any body. It has to preserve and safeguard its commercial interests all over the world. The world at large is driven more by geo-political considerations and not moral principles. 

And right now, the Indo-US-West bloc clearly looks at Pakistan as China’s extension for the latter’s heavy economic involvement through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the long-standing defense cooperation. 

It is not about a normal relationship anymore.  And if anything at all prevented China from going along the Indo-France-US-Germany sponsored anti-Azhar proposal, it would be this unusually strategic relationship with Pakistan.

One would only hope that Beijing would, based on the heavy crackdown against Jamaatud Dawa and Jaishe Mohammad for over a week now, give Islamabad another chance to demonstrate to the world its sincerity and commitment against terrorist outfits.

No doubt China has the authority and capacity to move things around; through its influence succeeded in delivering North Korea to the US President Trump for crucial landmark talks. It can do the same to Pakistan whenever it deems fit. And one would assume, the great synergy of thought and convergence of interests between Islamabad and Beijing is already showing in a telling way; Prime Minister Imran Khan and the army top brass already know the kind of pressure Beijing has taken upon itself to protect its alliance with Pakistan.

They are also extremely impressed with and believe in President Xi’s emphasis on “development first” for internal stability. They also realise that continued Chinese support even at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will be possible only if Pakistan could deliver demonstrable actions on ground in line with the UN Resolution 1267.

Given this backdrop, China may somehow provide Pakistan with a breather – the last chance – at the UN Security Council when its Committee on the implementation of Resolution 1267 convenes to decide the fate of Masood Azhar. 

The writer is Executive Director, CRSS. 

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