India-China relations took another hit recently after China blocked India’s bid to get the UN to designate Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar as a terrorist for the second time. A clear stance of China on matters of terrorism and role in India-Pakistan conflict becomes necessary as it continues to quietly side with Pakistan and press ahead with its diplomatic balancing act with India on economic corridors.
The stalemate continues between the two countries and may also cast a shadow on the BRICS summit that is scheduled to be held this month. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to meet at the summit and recent turn of events along the LoC are likely to have a bearing on the negotiations between the two countries. Earlier this year, China also blocked India’s bid to gain entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
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Jinping has asserted on multiple occasions that he is committed to improving bilateral trade and diplomatic ties with India. Both countries are on the fast track of economic development and both are interested in maintaining amicable ties with each other to ensure sustained economic growth and bilateral trade. But, China’s announcement to build a $740 million hydropower project on the Xiabuqu river, a tributary of the Brahmaputra also known as the Yarlung Zangbo in China, comes as another alert.
The dam itself will not affect the flow of the river in India as it only accounts for less than one per cent of the total discharge of the river in India. However, as the Indus Waters Treaty sits in the spotlight, such moves will need to be looked at vigilantly. Brahmaputra has over 66000 MW of hydroelectric power production potential but that potential hasn’t been tapped by even 10 per cent yet. China still has the water weapon in its armoury to offer indirect support to its all-weather friend Pakistan.
China exercised its veto power as 14 out of 15 countries voted in favour of India’s request. However, China has argued that the 1267 Committee of the UN–which reviewed the request– needs to look at these issues impartially. The argument reeks of indifference towards India and an unwillingness to play a positive role in achieving a stable security situation in the South Asian region. The Indian government will know that China’s $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, that runs through Pakistan all the way up to Gwadar Port, will influence its decisions in security council decisions. India now needs to play hardball with the dragon to ensure its own interests are met even at the cost of dislodging China from its diplomatic ropewalk at BRICS.