New Delhi: India has ruled out the possibility of punishing China for blocking the inclusion of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar’s name in the United Nations terror list by turning the screw on Chinese firms working in the country, with foreign secretary S. Jaishankar stating that the matter will only be pursued “in the UN context”.
Jaishankar’s remarks assume significance against the backdrop of recent media reports claiming that an inter-ministerial meeting will be held next week to decide whether China should be put back into the ‘country of concern’ category, thus affecting the ease with Chinese firms would be able to operate in India. This was apparently going to be New Delhi’s way of showing its displeasure at China bringing up technical reasons to inordinately delay the listing of Azhar – accused by India of being behind the attack on the Pathankot air force base – with UN Security Council sanctions committee.
Speaking at the launch of a new think-tank in the capital, Carnegie India, the foreign secretary seemed to be refuting those reports when he said India’s differences with China would not “overflow into other areas”.
“I think in diplomacy, you don’t speak of carrots and sticks. It is undiplomatic,” he said.
Jaishankar reiterated that India has been talking to Beijing about removing its objections on listing of Pakistan-based terrorists who have targeted India. “We have taken it up with the Chinese at a fairly high level and we will continue to pursue this with the Chinese,” he said.
India’s top diplomat clarified that this issue will not impact other aspects of India’s relationship with China. “This is an issue to be pursued with the Chinese in the UN context. I wouldn’t want to give the impression that somehow this will overflow into other areas. We have had a backing and forthing on this issue so you will have to wait and see where this goes”.
China had asked the panel to put a hold on designating Azhar, just hours before the deadline on March 31. India had termed the Chinese move as “incomprehensible”. Speaking at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington the next day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi deplored what he said was a “selective approach” to terrorism, saying that it demonstrated the international community was not serious in tackling the problem.
China has argued that its actions were “on the basis of facts and in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions and relevant rules of procedure”.
In answer to another question on China, Jaishankar noted “what is happening on the border is really two countries meeting as modern nation states for the first time… Obviously, they have claims on each other,” he said.
“How much disturbance of the status quo there is is both a function of intent and capabilities. If capabilities are more one-sided, there is greater temptation to disturb the status quo. So to the extent the capabilities are better balanced, the status quo is better preserved,” explained Jaishankar.
Balancing of “capabilities” requires “better infrastructure, better equipment, better preparation”, he said, adding, “That is very much the focus of the policy within the government”.
Ties with Pakistan
Talking about India’s other major neighbour, Jaishankar said terrorism “remains very much the focus of the relationship (with Pakistan) and Pathankot has made it as well”.
“Unless we are able to address the issue effectively, obviously it is hard for us to say the relationship is normal – because this is what puts Pakistan in a different category than our other neighbours,” he said.
The foreign secretary asserted that “one change” that has taken place since the Modi government took over “has been the centrality of addressing the issue of terrorism to dialogue between the two nations”.
“That was reflected when the two prime ministers met in Ufa… was underlined in Bangkok when the national security advisors met…If you see the reconstituted dialogue that we have, the comprehensive bilateral dialogue…the salience of terrorism. This is not a point of argumentation. It is taking into account what is happening on the ground,” he said.
In a prepared speech where Jaishankar argued for a more muscular foreign policy, he accepted that “forging an international consensus on a difficult issue like terrorism is a test that still awaits us, even if there has been progress in this respect”.
Addressing the challenges of India emerging a ‘leading power’, the foreign secretary said India’s reaction to the changes and “power shifts” underway globally – including the rise of “new ideologies” and the erosion of sovereignty – could not be to “fall back on passivity as a default position.” India cannot afford to be a “perpetual spectator”, he stressed, quoting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg , “In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”