For several years now, China has been content to let its trade with India grow while blocking forward movement on issues that really matter to New Delhi, ranging from terrorism to the place India perceives for itself on the world stage. Thus, we have seen in the past few months China blocking India’s bid to enter the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and putting a “technical hold” on New Delhi’s efforts to get the UN Security Council to designate Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar a terrorist. These moves smack of hypocrisy, given Beijing’s questionable track record in both these areas. Despite its offer for more consultations on the NSG issue ahead of the BRICS Summit in Goa, China has already linked India’s membership of the elite group to the candidature of its “iron brother” Pakistan. It is no secret that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme grew with support from China, which is also building two atomic reactors in Karachi, which, experts say, do not have the sanction of the NSG. It is, therefore, unusual that China has argued that India’s entry to the NSG will weaken the global non-proliferation regime.
On the issue of terror, Beijing has chosen to act when its interests have been affected — such as its demand for action by Pakistan against Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan members operating from Pakistani soil. It is strange that China has used its “technical hold” in the case of Azhar, saying there is a need for more information on his case. This, after all, is the man who owes his career growth to an act of terrorism — Azhar formed the JeM after he was freed from an Indian jail in exchange for passengers of an Indian Airlines flight hijacked to Kandahar in 1999.
There are also the constant jousts and jabs on the Line of Actual control to test how India will react to China’s policy of aggressive patrolling. And while bilateral trade has soared to about $70 billion, India’s trade deficit is nearly $50 billion, the largest with any country, and China’s investment in India has been only $1.36 billion over the past decade and a half. India should not, however, allow its misgivings about China’s role in these matters to cast a cloud over the BRICS Summit, which could be useful in opening up many sectors.