BRICS declaration: Has China shifted its stance on Masood Azhar?
China endorsed a declaration which named Jaish-e-Mohammad along with other Pakistan-based terror groups at the recently concluded BRICS Summit. China's endorsement came after it sharply warned India against raising Pakistan's safe havens for terrorism for discussion ahead of the summit. Hence, the declaration marked a significant diplomatic victory for India. Does this mean that China has revised its stance JeM chief Masood Azhar?
Azhar is the founder and chief of JeM, a Pakistan-based organization with an active presence in Kashmir. He is believed to have masterminded many attacks on India, including the 2001 Parliament attack and the attack on the Pathankot Air Force base in 2016.
China has consistently thwarted India's attempts at the UN to designate JeM chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist. Ahead of the BRICS Summit, China had sharply warned India against raising the issue of Pakistan's safe havens for terrorism for discussion at the summit. Asking India to "not sully the atmosphere," China had further argued that "Pakistan is at the forefront of counter terror operations."
According to sources, India proposed the language on terrorism during negotiations. This was in fact in line with what was endorsed by both China and Pakistan in the Amritsar Declaration at the 2016 Heart of Asia Summit. With four countries (India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa) wanting to mention terror groups including JeM and Lashkar-e-Taiba, China was compelled to concede to India's diplomatic scheme.
Some experts attribute China's amenable behavior to the fact that it was hosting the summit and preferred to go along with the larger consensus. Others contend that China may have gone along with India's wishes in light of the "Doklam effect."
China's endorsement of the BRICS declaration represents an important step for Beijing. Yet, this endorsement by itself does not reflect a shift in China's stance. Rather, it can be understood as a product of unfavorable circumstances. Given Pakistan's strategic importance to China and discord with India, Beijing is likely to continue shielding Islamabad from international measures that may negatively impact it.