Masood Azhar Slips Through Diplomatic Net

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India’s diplomats must be going back to their drawing-boards to figure out what went wrong with their foreign policy vis-à-vis China, while the Narendra Modi government’s failure to get Masood Azhar declared a global terrorist will keep haunting the BJP in the forthcoming elections.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was one of the first to tweet, “Weak Modi is scared of Xi. Not a word comes out of his mouth when China acts against India.”

China acted predictably at the UN Security Council meeting of the Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee by using its veto power to block, for the fourth time, efforts to list Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed leader Masood Azhar a global terrorist. At the end of it all, India’s sustained diplomatic blitzkrieg, led by Prime Minister Modi and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, did not succeed in influencing China to act against Azhar.

After the Balakot strike, the BJP and Modi were speaking from a position of strength, while Indian diplomats fanned out across the world, trying to aggressively pitch for India’s viewpoint, showing evidence of the Jaish chief’s involvement in terrorist activities.

A mood was being created in India that Prime Minister Modi has built a personal rapport with top world leaders, be it from the US, France, UK, or even China, and this will show results.

To Modi or the NDA government’s credit, almost all major countries, including permanent members of the Security Council, favoured India’s position and wanted Azhar to be declared a global terrorist. The United States, Britain and France asked the 15-member Security Council sanctions committee to subject Azhar to an arms embargo, global travel ban and assets freeze. But China vetoed it.

The US State Department spokesman said, in no uncertain terms, that United States and China share a mutual interest in achieving regional stability and peace and “failure to designate Azhar would run counter to this goal.”

But India’s diplomatic efforts came to a naught in the face of an adamant China not interested in budging from its position. All bonhomie and friendly talk and visits between Chinese President Xi Jimping and Modi had cut no ice.

China, which expressed its concern and sympathy for those affected by the recent attack in Kashmir, clearly put its national interest above all, as any country would.

With its geo-political and geo-strategic interests being in Pakistan (mainly the billions of dollars-worth China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure projects) China felt it was a better option to keep Pakistan and Azhar in good humour, as they would help safeguard its economic interests.

China would not like to give India an opportunity to blacklist Azhar, as it will be easy then to brand Islamabad a state sponsor of terrorism and isolate it on the international stage.

The official line, which China has taken, is that it wanted “more time to examine” the evidence against Azhar. If India cannot offer new evidence, China will not change its position.

But all this leaves the Modi government in a position where it has to answer questions on its diplomatic failure as far as China is concerned.

In the highly surcharged pre-election scenario in India, the Opposition instantly pointed out the Modi government’s “diplomatic disaster” with Congress party leader Mr Rahul Gandhi tweeting “Swing with Xi in Gujarat, Hug Xi in Delhi, Bow to Xi in China.”

Other Opposition leaders also got a chance to derisively point out that the “swing diplomacy” of Modi had not been able to swing China in India’s favour.

The BJP was quick to respond with what left the Congress with no counter. It referred to the fact that Rahul Gandhi’s grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, had refused to take the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) seat when an offer was made by the US, and instead suggested China’s name.