However much we feel angry over China’s fresh refusal to back India’s demand to designate JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN, which would paralyse his terror network, there is practically nothing that we could do, because we have buckled under Pakistan’s nuclear blackmail, facilitated by China that gave Pakistan nuclear know-how to counter and stunt India. When it came to Pakistani transfers of Western technology to China’s nuclear programme, the United States was ambivalent — and some in the US government were even tacitly supportive.
Now, when we see Azhar on the rampage, causing incalculable harm to India’s strategic interests, it is worth our while to recall that ever since Pakistan acquired nuclear weapons, they exploited it to the hilt, mounting attack after attack on us with little wherewithal for India either to punish Pakistan or change its behaviour. While Pakistan got away by inflicting a 26/11 on India or mounting an attack on Indian Parliament, or later at Uri, Pathankot and Pulwama — bleeding us to “thousand cuts” — we have thus far remained content with a few symbolic hangings and strikes and unsubstantial, effete cries for revenge.
We took little notice of the implications of Pakistan’s growing nuclearisation for managing the situation in Kashmir since 1991, a fact highlighted by the Subrahmanyam Committee probing the Kargil debacle. Perhaps the fuller implications of Bhutto’s famous pronouncement in 1965, that “If … India builds the atom bomb…. Pakistan will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own” are on display now.
If we are particularly appalled by the carnage at Pulwama unleashed by JeM, and particularly miffed over China’s dogged intransigence, it is important to understand the India-centric foundations for the China-Pakistan relationship seen in the prism of the three crucial wars. The Sino-Indian war of 1962 made the value of strategic cooperation fully apparent to the Chinese and the Pakistanis and brought a rapid resolution to their own outstanding border dispute.
The Indo-Pakistani war of 1965 in which there was a real prospect of Chinese intervention on Pakistan’s behalf formed the basis of China’s status as the “all-weather friend” in the Pakistani public imagination. The 1971 Indo-Pakistani war — in which though Beijing failed to come to Islamabad’s aid — set in motion security cooperation of an even more significant nature. After Pakistan’s devastating defeat, China helped the country develop a set of military capabilities to ensure that it would never face the same fate again. Central to this was China’s backing for Pakistan’s nuclear ambition which, as it stands today, has given Pakistan the near-sovereign right to inflict substantial damage on India without the prospect of incurring any substantial retaliation. In reality, China’s greatest contribution to Pakistan’s security is something more important than that: the ultimate means of self-defence. That’s the reason why India cannot tinker with Pakistan despite grave provocations or can do little even as Pakistan continues to harbour terrorists like Masood Azhar, Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi.
Perhaps that’s also the reason why India’s best bet is not militarism but diplomacy. Rightly, it appealed to all members of the international community to “support the proposal to list terrorists, including JeM chief Masood Azhar, as a designated terrorist and to ban terrorist organisations operating from territories controlled by Pakistan.” Though nations like the US, the UK, Russia, and France have expressed solidarity with India in combating terrorism, China kept its stand on Masood Azhar unchanged perhaps because supporting Azhar could be a handle to needle India and appease Pakistan to extract strategic benefit from it.
Pakistan’s autonomy and even survival as a state have been preserved by its nuclear capacity. But, its dependence on China to achieve this comes with a threat of spillover terrorism to the world community, and this threat arising out of Sino-Pak entente cordiale has to be appreciated by the UNSC. China is a looming threat to the security architecture of Southeast Asia with a verifiable record to trigger irresponsible proliferation if one is mindful of an unchecked fissile material trade as one of the consequences of the break-up of the Soviet Union. It is only a matter of time before terrorists get a nuclear weapon. And the worse fallout of this adventurism is that akin to India having to contend with Kashmir, China has Xinjiang, and Pakistan Baluchistan to deal with, where a ‘nuclear deterrent relationship’ cannot be established with non-state actors, as targeting them with even a small nuclear weapon would be impossible without incurring unacceptable collateral damage and provoking global outrage. We all know what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
(This article was originally published on the DNA. Read the original article)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)