Victor Frankenstein, the main character in Mary Shelley’s 1818 fiction novel “Frankenstein” or “The Modern Prometheus”, created a human-like monster often called Prometheus. Although Victor created and nurtured it, the monster ultimately became a nightmare for him and brought havoc in his life. This literary reference symbolic of the nurturer-nurtured dynamics finds irrefutable resemblance in today’s terrorism and its safe havens.
On 14 February 2019, the terrorist attack in India’s Pulwama district in Jammu and Kashmir killed 40 men of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). The heinous act that was committed by the Pakistan-based terrorist organization Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) has been strongly condemned both domestically and internationally. The Indian government has shown a firm position against Pakistan for allowing terrorist activities to flourish in its territory and in the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). India also appealed to the international community, particularly the United Nations Security Council, to put a ban on Masood Azhar, the chief of JeM and declare him a global terrorist under the UN’s 1267 Sanctions Committee.
In this regard, the US, UK, and France supported India’s stance and agreed to propose the resolution in the United Nations. Russia also extended its support towards this proposal. Out of all the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, it was China yet again that blocked Indian bid to list Azhar. This wasn’t the first time when India has hit a wall with China on the issue. India has been raising this issue for a couple of years. It was only in November 2017 when China declined the same on the grounds that it wants to uphold the effectiveness of the resolution. The BRICS summit for 2018 for the first time listed some of the Pakistan based terrorist groups such as the JeM and the Haqqani Network. Although, China added a caveat that this declaration was for the terror outfits and not for the individuals.
It is conspicuous that the UN resolution and other declarations increase international pressure on Pakistan to show the will to shut down these terror outfits operating from its territory. The vetoing pattern and unwillingness of China to openly support these initiatives have a direct co-relation with its close ties with Pakistan. China finds a strategic partner in Pakistan that is quite useful for its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and also proves advantageous in generating political leverage over the common neighbouring rival, India. Since coming to power, the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has shown special interest in strengthening ties with China.
It is common understanding that national interest is given the utmost priority in international relations, and both cooperation and competition are the integral part of it. But terrorism is altogether a different issue, and non-Western countries, especially China, should not refrain from using it as a political tool or international leverage. Terrorism does not have a consensual definition but it is certain that violence is its key element. Western countries particularly the US and USSR have meddled in regional disputes for the last few decades and played alleged role in supporting local elements which often grew into fanatic movements and terror offshoots, for their own interests. However, this could not serve them for long. As such, some analysts have argued that the 9/11 terror attacks were tragic incidents caused by America’s own “Frankenstein’s Monster” in the form of al-Qaeda, an Islamic militant group which the US supported through arms and ammunition during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
Apart from the internal, religious and ethnic divisions in the Middle East region, the historical interferences of the Great powers in the region has been a critical catalyst for various regional instabilities. Terrorism ruthlessly transcends the idea of nation or forms of government. China itself is suffering from the violence incited by religious fundamentalists in its Xinjiang region. The Chinese government vows to fight against the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism, and extremism in order to safeguard regional peace. President Xi Jinping in 2017 SCO meeting in Astana emphasized on the need to intensify the counterterrorism efforts. In order to stop such activities, it will be crucial for China to have a firm stand on cross-border terrorism in its neighborhood. Finally, on 22nd February China in the UNSC condemned the Pulwama attack perpetrated by Jaish-e-Mohammed, albeit the initial uncertainties and diplomatic statements stated by the Chinese authorities made it almost irrelevant.
President Xi’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative has infrastructure projects such as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC; with about 62 billion USD investment) that are quite vulnerable because of various terrorist outfits operating in Pakistan. These can become a serious problem for China and can cause huge damage to the Chinese dream of One Belt, One Road. As not just the United States and India but a number of other countries have substantially suffered from Pakistan’s ‘Frankenstein’s monster’, terrorism, it is time for China to factor this and not let terrorism tarnish its international image.
*** The author is currently a PhD scholar at the Centre for Canadian, US & Latin American Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University ***