India Today

Checking China

Despite the recent success getting Masood Azhar designated a global terrorist, India faces a daunting challenge in dealing with the growing economic might of its northern neighbour.

On May 3, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) designated Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist, ending weeks of hectic diplomatic manoeuvring between India, the US, the UK, France and China. The Narendra Modi government was quick to claim it as a diplomatic victory for the country under its watch, dubbing the UNSC's move the third strike against Pakistan after the surgical strikes in September 2016 and the air strikes this February in Balakot. "This terrorist will not be able to enjoy privilege in Pakistan now. This is the third strike. The arrogance of Pakistan has been shattered," Prime Minister Modi said at an election rally in Rajasthan on May 3. Getting Azhar listed was certainly a diplomatic win for the Modi government. Yet even what should have been a straightforward designation of a terrorist took four attempts, and nine years of hard bargaining with China, who appeared to finally relent in the face of American pressure and an unprecedented diplomatic coalition built by India at the UN.

The BJP expects the UNSC move to bring it electoral rewards in the remaining phases of the ongoing Lok Sabha election. However, the success with the Azhar listing should not obscure the fact that the question of tackling an increasingly confident China has only grown more difficult over the past decade.

Notwithstanding its satisfactory denouement, the long-running Azhar saga was the latest reminder of the stark challenge in dealing with the five-times-larger economic behemoth next door, particularly with India falling deeper into its economic orbit.

Every political slugfest with China seems to trigger five stages of grief. Denial that Beijing will play spoilsport is followed by anger, bargaining, depression and, then, acceptance that the intractable neighbour across the Himalayas will forever remain so. The political debate gets most heated in stages two and three, when the focus shifts to what options

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