India needs to be Cautious on Chinese Rail Diplomacy

Chinese rail diplomacy with India may have security ramifications – Nation may face unwelcome consequences due to repeated double standards and lack of collective conscience view on terrorism by China, particularly when the China is holding a responsible permanent Membership in UN Security Council. Chinese complex moves on terrorism related issues and continuous practice of derailing India’s efforts to nail down the dreaded global terrorists emerging from Pakistan soil may have serious repercussions, leave alone the key role-play by Chinese, thus forcing India to change its total strategy in dealing with China as a country henceforth!

Mumbai Train blasts masterminded by dreaded terrorists based out of Pakistan soil
Mumbai Train blasts masterminded by dreaded terrorists based out of Pakistan soil

India doesn’t require Chinese help in building High Speed Rail system and other Rail technology partnerships particularly when the Chinese had very cleverly derailed the process of bringing the Jaish-e-Mohammad Chief and the Mastermind of the attack on the Pathankot Airbase in Punjab to justice. This is a clear signal that China is indirectly abetting Pakistan sponsored terrorism in India, which should be construed as indirect sponsorship of terrorism in India by China itself, through Pakistan!

Clinging to its pro-Pakistan stance, China has as usual asserted that JeM chief and Pathankot terror attack mastermind Masood Azhar does not qualify to be nailed as a “Terrorist” to face UN sanctions as his case “did not meet” the Security Council’s requirements, despite India’s submission of sufficient and extraordinary proofs of Masood Azhar’s involvement in the deadly terror attacks in India.  When questioned by the media, Chinese Permanent Representative to the UN Liu Jieyi told reporters on Friday last that Any listing would have to meet the requirements” for blacklisting, in response to questions over China’s decision to place a ‘technical hold’ on designating Azhar in the UN Sanctions Committee.

Liu’s comments came on a day when China, one of the five permanent members of the 15-nation Council, assumed the rotating presidency of the UNSC for April.

India has reacted strongly to China’s blocking of its bid at the UN to ban the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief, saying that the Sanctions Committee was taking a “selective approach” in tackling global terrorism, and importantly Chinese being one of the permanent Security Council Member in UN!

In the Masood Azhar fiasco, a lesson for India: Time to get real. New Delhi doesn’t require Chinese help in Railway development given the situations.  India needs to be clear-eyed about just how little the international sanctions regime is actually worth before deciding how to respond further

India on Friday said it is disappointed that a “technical hold” has been put on its application to include Azhar in the UN sanctions list, terming the move “incomprehensible” that this is despite the JeM being listed in the UN Security Council Committee as far back as 2001 for its known terror activities and links to the Al Qaeda.

This is not the first time China has blocked India’s bid to get Pakistan-based militant groups and leaders proscribed by the UN.

The UN had banned the JeM in 2001 but India’s efforts for a ban on Azhar after the 2008 Mumbai terror attack also did not fructify as China, that has veto powers, did not allow the ban apparently at the behest of Pakistan again.

Last July, China had similarly halted India’s move in the UN to take action against Pakistan for its release of Mumbai terror attack mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, saying that its stand was “based on facts and in the spirit of objectiveness and fairness” with Beijing again claiming at the time that it was in touch with New Delhi.

It is time for Indian Railways and all the emerging Metro Rail systems across the country to be extra cautious of Chinese involvement in doing Rail business and their anchoring of Rail diplomacy with Indian establishments

Now it is time India to take stringent and deterrent against Chinese Rail diplomacy and its business in India, particularly when China woos Indian Rail industry for building high-speed rail networks, cooperate in Metro Rail systems from consultancy to build, whereas, it’s actions are not at all in the spirit of true evangelism with an objective and balanced outcome when the same diplomacy is advocated in tackling terrorism.

Indian Railways may be the oldest form of mass land transport system, and China has global ambitions to export its latest railway technology, with the twin objectives of securing access to Indian large cities, its transport systems, energy and other commodities in return for financial and technical support. The Indian ventures would be a stepping stone towards realising ambitious proposals to build high-speed railway lines from China to Europe, North America and Southeast Asia, and across South America and Africa.

Train Blasts in Mumbai masterminded from Pakistan soilBuilding high-speed railways across borders is another matter, politically and economically, however, and visions should not be easily turned into reality. For example, since Thailand approved two high-speed lines with China, part of a planned link between Kunming in the southwest and Singapore, environmental and social concerns have thrown doubt on a section between Myanmar’s Rakhine state and Kunming. Such huge projects are also costly, raising questions about the cost-benefit equation for China and the ability of foreign governments to pick up a big enough share of the investment. Funding, technical and operational issues are magnified by distance, geography and the number of countries involved.

That said, cross-border high-speed rail is more than a practical tool of China’s resources diplomacy. Although it has rich potential for economies, for business in cargo and passenger transport, and job creation, but it equally has the threat perception emanating from Chinese in safeguarding the national interest.  But the new age of rail calls for persistence and resilience to setbacks as well as vision.

Among the agreements signed, the Rs 98,000 crore deal to build India’s first bullet train network, which will link Mumbai and Ahmedabad, emerged as the most eye-catching issue, mainly because of the China factor. Tokyo, Spain and Beijing have competed fiercely to export their high-speed railway systems. India’s decision to opt for Japan’s Shinkansen system came as a shocker to China.  That might be one of the reasons for Chinese to resort to double standards and nailed down India’s chances of listing dreaded JEM terrorist Massod Azhar as wanted terrorist.  In a tit-for-tat, India has issued an electronic visa to Chinese dissident and World Uighur Congress leader Dolkun Isa to attend a democracy conference at Dharamsala. Whether or not he attends it, the political significance of the visa could not have been lost on Beijing. Dolkun has been in Germany and Interpol has issued an advisory on him at China’s behest. China describes him as a “terrorist”, though few outside the Chinese administration see him in this light. In any case, the Chinese would not have been happy with India’s permission to hold the conference at Dharamsala, capital of the Tibetan government in exile and home to the Dalai Lama.

The Indo-Japanese rail agreement is widely seen as a blow to China’s “high-speed rail diplomacy”. However, it is premature to conclude that China is out of the game. In fact, China won the contract to assess the feasibility of a high-speed train between Delhi and Mumbai.

However, it does not require much prescience to know that this is India’s response to China’s decision to veto the proposal to seek a United Nations ban on Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar, the terrorist behind the Pathankot attack. The Chinese veto disappointed all who look askance at Pakistan becoming a home for terrorism. Incidentally, China blames Islamist militants for trying to establish an independent state called East Turkestan for ethnic minority Uighurs, a mostly Muslim people who speak a Turkic language and hail from Xinjiang. While trying to favour Pakistan, Beijing is oblivious of the danger of letting terrorist outfits like JeM establish legitimacy. In contrast, China has been trying to play footsie with India on the border issue without offering any concrete proposals. Its latest stance that it is ready to meet India half-way is as confusing as it is elucidatory. China must, first and foremost, return Aksai Chin to India.

By now realisation would have dawned on China that India cannot be so easily placated. It would have noticed that India has been forging better ties with Japan and the US. American defence secretary Ashton Carter’s visit to India showed the contours of the strategic relationship. It would have been clear to Beijing that India would not like to abandon its investments in South China Sea just because Beijing takes a dim view of it. True, India has no plan to be part of an Asian NATO but it all depends on China’s response. It may even create a war-like situation on borders along Arunachal Pradesh, a price India must be ready to pay for its independence. Abe’s visit also sounded a new warning to Beijing. For the first time, an Indo-Japanese joint statement underlined the countries’ concerns about developments in the South China Sea, and requested other states to avoid unilateral actions that could lead to tensions in the region. Chinese scholars have repudiated the statement as meaningless, arguing that neither Japan nor India is party to the South China Sea issue. But it reminded people that India first mentioned the South China Sea dispute in the Indo-US joint statements during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to Washington last September. Despite China’s protests, India is again trying to build up its presence in the region.

Proposed-Route-Map-of-Pakistan-China-Railway-Line-1Beijing is also warily watching the growing defence and nuclear cooperation between Delhi and Tokyo. After much talk about the chemistry between the two leaders, Modi and Abe have finally transformed their rapport into a political advantage. In China, Abe’s visit is being considered more an India-Japan strategic manoeuvre against Beijing than an attempt to improve bilateral economic ties.  There is no doubt that Beijing has been apprehensive of the growing proximity between India and Japan. It makes sense for China to be more proactive in pursuing a good-neighbourly policy towards India in order to persuade Delhi to keep a distance from Tokyo.

India may emerge as the big winner of this round. Pakistan is working to lay an new railway track between China and Pakistan through Giligit Balistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan for reaching out to Gwadar port in Pakistan which is considered as the shortest route for China to reach out to Middle East and West of Indian Ocean. This historical and mega project is purportedly part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The railway line will travel from Quetta and Jacobabad with 560 Km track to be laid from Bostan to Kotla Jam on Main Line-II via Zhob and Dera Islamil Khan.  While 682 KM of track will be laid from Havelian to Khunjrab pass. India had raised concerns on this project and should be firm on its stand in dealing with China.

The 11 July 2006 Mumbai train bombings were a series of seven bomb blasts that took place over a period of 11 minutes on the Suburban Railway in Mumbai, the capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra and the nation’s financial capital. The bombs were set off in pressure cookers on trains plying the Western line of the Suburban Railway network. 209 people were killed and over 700 were injured.

Pressure cooker bombs were placed on trains on the western line of the suburban (“local”) train network, which forms the backbone of the city’s transport network. Pressure cookers were used in this bombing and other recent explosions to increase the afterburn in a thermobaric reaction, more powerful than conventional high explosives.The first blast reportedly took place at 18:24 IST(12:54 UTC), and the explosions continued for approximately eleven minutes, until 18:35, during the after-work rush hour. All the bombs had been placed in the first-class “general” compartments (some compartments are reserved for women, called “ladies” compartments) of several trains running from Churchgate, the city-centre end of the western railway line, to the western suburbs of the city. They exploded at or in the near vicinity of the suburban railway stations of Matunga Road, Mahim, Bandra, Khar Road, Jogeshwari, Bhayandar and Borivali. Home Minister Shivraj Patil told reporters that authorities had “some” information an attack was coming, “but place and time was not known”.

The bomb attacks in Mumbai came hours after a series of grenade attacks in Srinagar, the largest city in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Home Secretary V K Duggal said there was no link between the Srinagar and Mumbai bomb blasts.

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister R.R.Patil confirmed that a total of 200 people were killed and another 714 others have been injured. Additionally, various news organisations have reported that at least 200 people have died and that more than 700 others have been injured. A week after the blasts in Mumbai the confirmed death toll rose to 207. In September 2006 it was confirmed that the death toll had risen to 209.

A state of high alert was declared in India’s major cities. Both the airports in Mumbai were placed on high alert. The western line of the Mumbai Suburban Railway network was at first shut down, although some trains resumed service later, and stringent security arrangements, including frisking and searching of commuters, were instituted on the other lines of the network. The city’s bus service, the BEST, pressed extra buses into service to transport stranded commuters home. The Prime Minister also held a security meeting at his residence attended by Home Minister Shivraj Patil, National Security Advisor M K Narayanan, and Home Secretary V K Duggal.

Western Railway services were restored on 11 July by 10.45 pm. As a show of investor confidence, the Mumbai Stock Exchange rebounded, starting the day with the BSE Sensex Index up by nearly 1% in morning trade. Foreign investors also retained confidence, with the Sensex up almost 3% at 10,930.09 at the end of the day’s trade.

  • Initial rescue efforts were hampered by the heavy rains and the prevalent monsoon flooding, but quickly took momentum after fellow passengers and bystanders helped victims to reach waiting ambulances and/or provided first aid.
  • Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh announced ex-gratia payments of Rs 1,00,000 (approximately US$2,200) to the next of kin of those who died in the explosion. The injured would be given Rs 50,000 (approximately US$1,100) each.
  • Indian Railways announced Rs 5,00,000 (approximately US$10,000) compensation and a job to the next of kin of those killed in the serial blasts in Mumbai. The announcements were made by Railways Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav after visiting those injured in the blasts at a hospital in Mumbai.

However a study commissioned by former MP Kirit Somaiya noted that that only 174 of the 1,077 victims had received compensation through the Railway Claims Tribunal. For the handicapped victims, only 15 out of 235 eligible cases had been taken care of. Regarding the Prime Minister’s promise to India concerning the rehabilitation of the victims, L. K. Advani noted that “none of the above mentioned assurances has been fulfilled to any degree of satisfaction”

Due to the mobile phone networks being jammed, news channels such as NDTV ran tickertapes with information of injured individuals as well as SMS messages from those who wished to contact their families. Reports indicated that at around 18:00 UTC on 11 July (midnight in Mumbai), the phone networks were restoring service; telephone service was completely restored during the night.

Mumbai Help, a blog run by around thirty bloggers, was a useful source of information, especially for those outside India.

Some 350 people were detained 36 hours after the incident in Maharashtra — police claim that these are people rounded up for investigations. On 14 July, Lashkar-e-Qahhar, a terrorist organisation possibly linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), claimed responsibility for the bombings. In an e-mail to an Indian TV channel, the outfit says it organised the bombings using 16 people who are all “safe”. According to the e-mail, the main motive seems to have been a retaliation to the situation in the Gujarat and Kashmir regions, possibly referring to the alleged oppression of Muslim minorities in certain parts of the region. It also says that the blasts were part of a series of attacks aimed at other sites such as the Mumbai international airport, Gateway of India, the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Red Fort in New Delhi. The authorities are investigating this claim and are trying to track the location of the e-mail sender. However, on 17 July, the forensic science laboratory Mumbai has confirmed the use of a mixture of the highly explosive RDX and Ammonium Nitrate for the bombings. The presence of these explosives in the post explosive debris was confirmed by modern techniques such as Liquid Chromatography with mass detector (LCMS), Gas Chromatography with mass detector (GCMS) and Ion Scan Chromatography. They have indicated a strong possibility of all explosives being planted at theChurchgate railway station, which was the starting point for all affected trains.

Initially, religious extremists from the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the banned Students Islamic Movement of India terrorist groups, and Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI were the prime suspects. Both Lashkar and SIMI denied responsibility for the bombings. There was also evidence about the involvement of the international Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaeda following a phone call from a man claiming to be a spokesperson for the group on 13 July. The alleged al-Qaeda spokesman had said the blasts were a “consequence of Indian oppression and suppression of minorities, particularly Muslims.”

On 30 September 2006 CNN reported that “The Indian government accused Pakistan’s military spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, of planning the 11 July Mumbai train bombings that killed 209 people”.

On 21 July 2006 police arrested three people suspected to be involved in the bombings. Police have detained more than 300 suspects since 18 July but these are the first arrests in the case. Two of the men were detained on Thursday in the northern state of Bihar and the third later in Mumbai. All three are said to belong to the banned SIMI organisation.

On the same day, Abdul Karim Tunda was thought to be arrested in Mombasa, Kenya on suspicions of involvement in the train bombings. but it was the wrong person. He was one of India’s most wanted men and also a suspected organiser for the banned Islamic terrorist group Lashkar-e-Toiba. He was arrested in 2013 near the Nepal border.

In late 2006, all the seven key accused in the Mumbai train blasts in July retracted their alleged confession to the police, saying they were illegally forced to sign blank papers, an Indian TV channel reported.

Following the blasts, almost immediately, police arrested hundreds of Muslims for the investigation purposes. Although the police denied singling out any group, the critics retorted that police had been mostly raiding the Muslim dominated-pockets in India as all of the perpetrators were Muslims in the blasts.

The imam of India’s largest mosque — the Jama Masjid in New Delhi — Syed Ahmed Bukhari said, “Of course this is a deliberate targeting of Muslims”. Another Muslim leader Anees Durrani echoed Imam Bukhari’s views. He said, “very biased against Muslims”. He further added, “You can see that very plainly by the way the investigations are proceeding. Leaders of Indian Muslims have condemned the Mumbai blasts and others before 11 July. No one knows who carried out the blasts but the needle of suspicion is always pointed towards us”.

M K Narayanan, the Indian National Security Advisor, has said that India doesn’t have “clinching” evidence of the involvement of ISI in the Mumbai train blasts of 11 July.

“I would hesitate to say we have clinching evidence but we have pretty good evidence,” he was quoted as saying on CNN-IBN.

Following Narayanan’s remarks, the Union Home Secretary V.K. Duggal on Monday characterised the evidence as “very good; it is fairly solid evidence,”. 5 On 25 September 2008, Hindustan Times reported that “the Crime branch also learnt that the men [behind 2008 Delhi bombings] are those very operatives who had introduced themselves as Pakistanis to perpetrators of 11 July 2006 Mumbai train bombings.

Jemaah Islamiyah is known to use pressure cooker bombs with RDX and like explosives with taggants. Note that Jemaah Islamiyah had operatives in the Pakistan areas active in religious indoctrination and that were working with Egyptian Islamic Jihad through al-Zawahiri who taught on the use of pressure cooker bombs. As such it is quite possible that Jemaah Islamiyah was involved in the attack possibly through Indian Mujahideen which it also forms part of. Note that Jemaah Islamiyah was behind the 9-11 anthrax attacks as well.

On 27 February 2009, Sadiq Sheikh, an arrested leader of the Indian Mujahideen confessed to his alleged role in the bombings in a news channel broadcast. He claimed to have engineered the pressure cooker bombs with his associates in a flat in central Mumbai. If verified, these allegations could invalidate the previous claims by the ATS that the ISI or the SIMI were involved. Sadiq states in his confession, ‘‘All five of us arranged local first class train passes beforehand. We also had the local train time table with us so that we could choose a train as per our convenience. We purchased bags and pressure cookers in Bombay.’’ He also claimed to have misled investigators by blaming the attacks on the Al-Qaeda. On 6 April 2013, IM co-founder Sadiq Sheikh declared hostile witness by defence advocates.

In September 2015, 12 people were convicted in this case. On 30 September 2015, a special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court sentenced to death Faisal Sheikh, Asif Khan, Kamal Ansari, Ehtesham Sidduqui and Naveed Khan who planted the bombs in various trains.

The other seven convicts—Mohammed Sajid Ansari, who prepared the electrical circuits for the bombs, Mohammed Ali, who provided his Govandi residence to make the bombs, Dr Tanveer Ansari, one of the conspirators, and Majid Shafi, Muzzammil Shaikh, Sohail Shaikh and Zamir Shaikh who provided logistical support – were sentenced to life.

Who is Masood Azhar

Masood Azhar
Masood Azhar, whom China does not treat as a Terrorist and mastermind of various attacks on India, clearly speaks about the nexus between China and Pakistan in waging a covert war against India

Masood Azhar is the founder and leader of the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, a militant group based mainly in the Pakistan-administered portion of the state of Kashmir. Pakistani authorities detained him after the Pathankot attack in India. India had listed Masood Azhar as one of its most wanted terrorists due to his history of militant activities.

Azhar was born in Bahawalpur , Punjab on July 10, 1968 as one of ten siblings although some sources list his birth date as August 7, 1968 as the third of 11 children. Azhar’s father, Allah Bakhsh Shabbir, was the headmaster at a government-run school, and his family operated a dairy and poultry farm. Azhar studied at the Jamia Uloom ul IslamiaBanuri Town in Karachi, where he became involved with Harkat-ul-Ansar. After he suffered injuries in the Soviet-Afghan War, Azhar was chosen as the head of Harkat’s department of motivation and became an editor for the Urdu-language Sad’e Mujahidin and the Arabic-language Sawte Kashmir.

Azhar later became the general secretary of Harkat-ul-Ansar and visited many international locations to recruit, to raise funds and to spread the message of Pan-Islamism. Among his destinations were Zambia, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Mongolia, the United Kingdom and Albania.

Activities in Somalia

Azhar confessed that in 1993 he traveled to Nairobi, Kenya to meet with leaders of al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, an al-Qaeda-aligned Somali group, who had requested money and recruits from Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM). Indian intelligence officials believe that he made at least three trips to Somalia and that he also helped bring Yemeni mercenaries to Somalia.

Activities in the UK

In August 1993 Azhar entered the UK for a speaking, fundraising, and recruitment tour. His message of jihad was given at some of Britain’s most prestigious Islamic institutions including the Darul Uloom Bury seminary, Zakariya Mosque, Madina Masjid in Blackburn and Burnley, and Jamia Masjid. His message was that “substantial proportion of the Koran had been devoted to ‘killing for the sake of Allah’ and that a substantial volume of sayings of the Prophet Muhammad were on the issue of jihad.” Azhar made contacts in Britain who helped to provide training and logistical support the terror plots including “7/7, 21/7 and the attempt in 2006 to smuggle liquid bomb-making substances on to transatlantic airlines.”

1994 arrest – 1999 release

In early 1994, Azhar traveled to Srinagar to ease tensions between Harkat-ul-Ansar’s feuding factions of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. India arrested him in February and imprisoned him for his terrorist activities with the groups.

In 1995, foreign tourists were kidnapped in Jammu and Kashmir. The kidnappers, referring to themselves as Al-Faran, included the release of Masood Azhar among their demands. One of the hostages managed to escape but the rest were eventually killed.

In December 1999, he was freed by the Indian government in exchange for passengers on the hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814 (IC814) that had eventually landed in Kandahar,Afghanistan, which at the time the Taliban controlled. The hijackers of IC814 were led by Masood Azhar’s brother, Ibrahim Athar. His release from Kot Bhalwal jail was supervised by an IPS officer, S P Vaid. His younger brother Abdul Rauf Asghar had planned this attack. Once Masood Azhar was handed over to the hijackers, they fled to Pakistani territory. Pakistan had said the hijackers would be arrested if found, a difficult task given the length of the border and multitude of access points from Afghanistan. The Pakistani government also previously indicated that Azhar would be allowed to return home since he did not face any charges there.

Shortly after his release, Azhar made a public address to an estimated 10,000 people in Karachi. He proclaimed, “I have come here because this is my duty to tell you that Muslims should not rest in peace until we have destroyed India,” vowing to liberate the Kashmir region from Indian rule.

2001 arrest – 2002 release

Masood Azhar’s outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed allegedly carried out a string of deadly attacks against Indian targets, including the attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001 that brought India and Pakistan to the brink of a full-scale war. Soon after the Indian parliament attack, Masood Azhar was detained for a year by Pakistani authorities in connection but was never formally charged. The Lahore High Court ordered an end to the house arrest on 14 December 2002, much to the fury of India.


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