China’s recent decision to vote for a United Nations blacklisting of the head of a known Pakistani terrorist group was only made with the goal of persuading India to embrace Beijing’s One Belt, One Road foreign investment policy, according to a recent Indian media report.
Beijing’s sudden change in position on May 1, after roughly 10 years of objection, was surprising since China is Pakistan’s closest ally and often sides with the Southeast Asian country in international affairs.
Beijing established its One Belt, One Road initiative (OBOR, also known as Belt and Road) in 2013 to build up geopolitical influence via investments across Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America.
Beijing wants India to embrace the idea of joining the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) corridor, an OBOR project, in exchange for China showing its support at the U.N. in early May for blacklisting Pakistani terrorist Masood Azhar, according to a May 6 article by Indian news site The Print, citing unnamed diplomatic sources.
Azhar is the head and founder of the Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), which seeks to bring the India-controlled region of Kashmir under the control of Pakistan.
Most recently, JeM claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing in India-controlled Kashmir on Feb. 14, which resulted in the deaths of at least 40 Indian paramilitary police officers. Following the deadly attack, the United States, Britain, and France made a request before the U.N. Security Council to blacklist Azhar.
JeM was already blacklisted by the U.N. Security Council in 2001.
In mid-March, China blocked the blacklisting by being the only country out of 15 members to vote against it, according to India’s English-language daily newspaper The Economic Times. But this wasn’t the first time Beijing has blocked the committee from sanctioning Azhar. Beijing blocked previous attempts in 2009, 2016, and 2017.
But on May 1, China changed its mind and voted to blacklist Azhar, according to Reuters. The move subjects Azhar to an arms embargo, travel ban, and asset freeze.
A 2017 terrorism report by the U.S. Department of State called out both the Pakistani government and JeM.
“The [Pakistani] government failed to significantly limit … JeM from openly raising money, recruiting, and training in Pakistan,” the report stated.
The Print, citing anonymous sources, reported that Beijing has “intensified its lobbying in the matter” of India accepting the BCIM project since it made the U.N. decision, hoping that New Delhi could agree to it before Chinese leader Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit for a summit at the capital in July or August.
India hasn’t joined China’s OBOR, and boycotted both the 2017 and 2019 Belt and Road forum in Beijing. One of the reasons is that another OBOR corridor, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, runs through a part of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which New Delhi considers its territory.
However, India has shown interest in BCIM. According to Indian media reports, following an informal summit in China between Xi and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2018, the two countries agreed to move forward with BCIM. However, the project hasn’t broken ground yet.
According to China’s state-run media, the BCIM will include a 2,800-kilometer (about 1,740 miles) railway, linking Kunming, the capital of southern China’s Yunnan Province; Mandalay, a city in southern Myanmar; Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka; and Kolkata, the capital of India’s West Bengal State.
Speaking to The Print, an unnamed Indian official said that India is “not keen” to accept BCIM under Beijing’s OBOR initiative, because doing so “may compromise the country’s security arrangement in the northeastern region.”
Srikanth Kondapalli, professor of Chinese studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, explained why to The Print: “India is concerned that China supports the insurgents that are present in the northeastern states and hence the BCIM is not a feasible idea.”