How Modi sold India’s reputation to get his Masood Azhar ‘trophy’

Published: May 2, 2019

Activists protest against JeM chief Masood Azhar in Mumbai in January 2016 after the attack on the Pathankot airbase. PHOTO: AFP

Most of Indian media is portraying Masood Azhar’s United Nations Security Council (UNSC) terrorist designation as a long-sought victory for their country, one that was only brought about by Narendra Modi’s campaign of pressure on Pakistan which supposedly got China to reverse its position on this issue and finally agree to the sanction.

While that narrative is easily believed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) hyper-nationalist Hindutva base, the political opposition immediately pointed out that the global body’s official statement made no mention of the many attacks that New Delhi accused him of masterminding.

The conspicuous omission of the 2001 Parliament attack, the 2008 Mumbai ‘false flag’ attack, the 2016 Pathankot incident, the recent Pulwama one, and anything at all having to do with occupied Kashmir shows that Modi was so obsessed with getting Azhar listed as a terrorist by the UNSC that he sold out India’s international reputation to do so. This makes this latest development a cheap short-term election gimmick in a heated race that carries with it profound long-term consequences for the country’s image abroad.

Modi got his trophy, but he paid for it in a way that he never otherwise would have, had he not been so desperate to exploit this event to help him get re-elected. India’s credibility is forever undercut because the global community will never take its claims at face value anymore after the UNSC didn’t conclude that Azhar had any plausible connection to the aforementioned incidents that New Delhi accused him of masterminding, other than being vaguely “associated with” al Qaeda and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), which are the legal technicalities that got the council to designate him as a terrorist.

Contrary to the chorus coming out of Indian media, China didn’t “submit” to what they say was “increased international pressure” on Pakistan after Pulwama. Rather, it was Modi himself who submitted to Beijing and Islamabad by going along with their request to remove any mention of India’s claims against Azhar in exchange for China agreeing to his terrorist designation, which is expected to give the incumbent a boost at the polls ahead of the last three phases of the ongoing election in his country.

China held the cards all along, and only had to wait for India to beg for it behind the scenes to support Azhar’s terrorist designation. In exchange for this is what Beijing wanted the entire time: for New Delhi to discredit itself on the world stage by accepting Azhar’s UNSC listing without any mention of the many attacks it had previously accused him of.

By publicly celebrating this as a “victory,” India proved to the world that its original claims never had any merit to begin with and that Azhar was just a convenient bogeyman to drum up hyper-nationalistic fervour from time to time. Modi decided to tacitly admit to this because he expects that his nation’s Bollywood-influenced media will do enough damage control over the next couple of weeks by distracting the population with ultra-jingoist claims of “victory” against Pakistan so that they won’t realise the long-term loss he inflicted on India’s international reputation until after the election ends in late May. By then it will be too late to remove him from office once the “high” wears off and everyone sobers up.

Taking stock of the self-inflicted damage that’s been done to India’s image abroad over the past two months alone, India’s ambassador to Russia was proven to have lied to his hosts about supposedly rejecting international mediation between his country and Pakistan. Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj publicly contradicted her government’s prior claims that “hundreds” of targets were taken out in February’s so-called “surgical strike” by admitting that no Pakistani citizen or soldier was killed. The US debunked New Delhi’s F-16 conspiracy theory. Then the Indian military turned itself into a laughing stock earlier this week by tweeting that it found “Yeti’s footprints”.

Now, Modi has discredited almost two decades of his country’s national security narratives by celebrating Azhar’s UNSC terrorist designation which made no mention of his alleged role in any previous attacks in India or occupied Kashmir. Indian media is right though, since his designation is indeed a major victory, albeit one for China and Pakistan at India’s agreed expense, after Modi sold out his homeland’s international reputation in order to get the trophy that he so desperately needs to have a chance at re-election.

This post originally appeared here

Andrew Korybko

Andrew Korybko

The author is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He tweets at @AKorybko (

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