China not holding India's hand on terror
By Sudha Ramachandran
BANGALORE - The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday designated the
Jamaatut Dawa (JuD) as a terrorist organization and imposed sanctions on the
Pakistan-based group that has called itself a charity. The JuD is believed to
have masterminded the terrorist attacks in Mumbai last month that left nearly
200 dead and another 300 injured.
JuD projects itself as a charity organization, a claim that India has
repeatedly dismissed. India has maintained that it is simply a front for the
Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) which was outlawed by the
United Nations in 2002. When the LET was banned, JuD emerged as a charity
Besides, designating JuD as a terrorist organization, the Sanctions Committee
of the UN Security Council has also declared its chief, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed,
operations chief Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi (who is regarded by India as the brains
behind the Mumbai attacks), its chief of finance Haji Muhammad Ashraf and a
Saudi-based financier of the group, Mahmoud Mohammad Ahmed Bahaziq, as
terrorists, subject to sanctions. These names have been added to a list of
people and firms who are under sanctions for their ties to al-Qaeda or the
Taliban, the world body said.
Despite the association of the JuD and these individuals with terrorism, their
designation as terrorist by the UN Security Council has not been easy. At least
three attempts at labeling them terrorists were blocked by China. According to
a note distributed by the Sanctions Committee among representatives of its 15
member states, over the past two years, China stalled the world body's move for
a Saeed-specific ban on two occasions.
Indian officials were anxious that China would block the move again this year.
It did not.
Indian officials say that it was at the behest of Pakistan that Beijing had
been blocking the UN move all these years. But this year it would have been
difficult for it to do so, given the unanimity of opinion in the international
community that action was needed against JuD and its leaders.
An official in India's Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), who spoke to Asia
Times Online on condition of anonymity, said that in the wake of the
international outrage triggered by the Mumbai attacks, the Pakistan government
realized that whether or not the UN body designated JuD as terrorist, it would
be compelled by the US to act against the group. "In the circumstances, it felt
it would be better to be seen to be acting under UN orders rather than pressure
from India or the US. Hence the Pakistan-China decision to go along with the
other Security Council members this time."
Like Pakistan, China has maintained for several years that the JuD is a charity
organization. It has justified its stalling of a ban on the outfit and
sanctions on its leaders on the grounds that there is not enough evidence to
prove that the JuD is indeed terrorist.
Adding to India's irritation over China's pro-Pakistan position on anti-India
terrorist groups operating on Pakistani soil was a report in the People's
Daily, the mouthpiece of the central committee of the Communist Party of China,
which alleged that the Mumbai attack was the work of radical Hindus from India
rather than terrorists who came from Pakistan.
It is ironic that even as China has been hardly supportive of India’s terrorism
concerns, the armies of the two countries have been holding joint
counter-terrorism exercises over the past week in Belgaum in the southern
Indian state of Karnataka. Named "Hand-in-Hand", the nine-day military
exercises have been touted as "historic" as it is the first time since the 1962
Sino-Indian war that the two armies have met for military training on Indian
soil. A year ago, the two armies participated in joint exercises in Kunming, in
China's Yunan province.
At Belgaum, soldiers from the two sides are participating in joint tactical
maneuvers and drills, inter-operability training and joint command post
procedures. The program will culminate in a joint counter-terrorist operational
exercise with simulated enemies.
China-watchers in India are doubtful whether there are gains to be made from
such Sino-Indian joint counter-terrorism exercises. For one thing, the two
countries don't agree on who they regard as terrorists. Chinese officials rail
at the Dalai Lama and his supporters as terrorists, but the Dalai Lama is
highly revered in India. And China had until this week gone along with Pakistan
in describing the JuD as a charity organization.
Many believe the main terrorist threat to India comes from organizations based
on Pakistan soil, many of whom allegedly have the backing of Pakistan's
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). But China has refused to endorse India's
concerns with cross-border terrorism.
In a discussion with Asia Times Online last year, a retired Indian diplomat
pointed out that "mindful of Islamabad's sensitivities on the matter [of
terrorism emanating from its soil]" China was "reluctant to speak out against
Pakistan's role in fostering anti-India terrorist groups". (Please see
In Kunming, an exercise in uneasiness, December 11, 2007.)
Joint terrorism exercises he said would "remain meaningless so long as the
Chinese are reluctant to endorse India's concerns with regard to cross-border
That Pakistan's concerns are always on China's mind, even with regard to the
location of joint military exercises with India, is evident from the fact that
a couple of years ago Beijing refused to participate in an India-Russia-China
joint exercise in Rajasthan, which borders Pakistan.
"If China is so mindful of Pakistan's sensitivities in a mock situation, what
cooperation can India expect in a situation of a real terrorist threat?" the
retired diplomat asked.
In real terms, the joint terrorism exercises have little value for India, say
strategic experts. No anti-India terrorist outfit is believed to be based in
But both India and China face threats from terrorist groups based in Pakistan.
Chinese nationals working in Pakistan have been killed in Pakistan's
Balochistan province. Some were taken hostage in Islamabad last year. Beijing
has been concerned that some of armed Uyghur groups have been getting
sustenance from organizations in Pakistan.
Chinese officials have been quick to clarify that the ongoing counter-terrorism
exercise has "no specified background and is not aimed at any third parties".
"The primary objective [of joint counter-terrorism exercises] is to enhance
mutual understanding and trust between the two countries and their armies,"
Major General V K Narula of the Indian army has said.
Even this limited objective is unlikely to be achieved if China remains cool to
India's terrorism concerns. China's shift in position on the JuD will be
welcomed in India, but it is unlikely to be seen as anything more than a
one-time step. This is a shift that has come under international pressure
rather than from a change in Beijing’s perception of the issue. Delhi is
unlikely to miss that point.
Articles by China's India-watchers in the Chinese media have expressed concern
over the possibility of another India-Pakistan war. While some have suggested
that China should seek to prevent this, in the event of a war, they have said
that Beijing must back Pakistan as it did in the past by putting pressure on
Indian troops along the Sino-Indian border as well.
Whatever trust the "Hand-in-Hand" exercises can help build between the two
armies is being undermined by these ideas coming out of China.
Sudha Ramachandran is an independent journalist/researcher based in