External Affairs

Its Déjà Vu Again in Goa as Modi, Xi Have Inconclusive Talks on Masood Azhar, NSG

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping wearing khadi jackets in front of a sand sculpture made by Sudarsan Pattnaik in Benaulim, Goa on Saturday. Credit: PTI/Shahbaz Khan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping wearing khadi jackets in front of a sand sculpture made by Sudarsan Pattnaik in Benaulim, Goa on Saturday. Credit: PTI/Shahbaz Khan

Benaulim (Goa): His previous requests having failed to move the Chinese side, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday again raised the matter of China’s ‘hold’ on including Jaish-e-Mohammed supremo Masood Azhar in the UN’s list of terrorists, Indian officials say. And as in the past, President Xi Jinping again gave no assurance of taking immediate action against the man who has emerged as a major focus of India-China summitry over the past few years.

Modi and Xi met a day before the BRICS  summit of five emerging economies scheduled here for Sunday.

Earlier this month, China had renewed its ‘technical hold’ on India’s application to the 1267 committee which was submitted in March. India had approached the UN Security Council sanctions panel after the attack on the Pathankot air force base, which it blamed on the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed.

According to India’s external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup, who briefed reporters after the meeting, Modi told that Xi that “no country was immune from terrorism” and therefore, this was “one issue on which we cannot afford” to have differences.

Raising the issue of Azhar, Swarup said that there was “need for coordination in the context of the 1267 committee and [to] look for common ground”.

While he noted that “China clearly understood the danger of terrorism”, the Indian spokesperson did not indicate if China had given any assurance about removing its hold. He added that this discussion would continue with China’s state councillor Yang Jiechi, who would be visiting Delhi on the invitation of his counterpart, national security advisor Ajit Doval.

At the time of renewing the ‘hold’, China had said that there was difference of opinion on whether Azhar met the criteria of being designated a terrorist. India had termed it as “incomprehensible” that while the JeM had been listed as a terrorist organisation since 2001, the “group’s main leader, financier and motivator” was not being sanctioned.

The Chinese president told Modi that “terrorism and violence were on the rise and alluded to ISIS”. He also stressed the need to step up counter-terrorism efforts.

“On terrorism, both leaders felt that this was a scourge for the region,” India’s ambassador to China, Vijay Gokhale, who was also present at the meeting between the two leaders.

Last month, India and China held their first counter-terror dialogue, which was co-chaired by the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, R.N. Ravi and the secretary general of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission of China, Wang Yongqing.

“They agreed to enhance counter-terrorism coordination for the benefit of the Asian region as a whole,” added Gokhale, using one of those boilerplate phrases diplomats love to put out when there is no concrete outcome to report.

In the context of Pakistan, India also reiterated its objection to the portion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which goes through Gilgit-Baltistan – a part of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir which acceded to India in 1947 but which has remained in Pakistan’s possession since 1948.

India’s application for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group – to which China has been a hurdle – also came up in the talks. Swarup said that Xi assured Modi that the second round of director-general level talks on the NSG will be held soon. The first round ended inconclusively.

The trade imbalance between India and China was also taken up, with Xi promising to “address the issue” and “encourage Chinese companies to invest in India.

According to Swarup, Xi also stressed that “commonalities” between India and China “far outweigh the differences”.

This is the third encounter between Xi and Modi this year, after their meetings in Tashkent and Hangzhou, on the sidelines of the SCO and G-20 summits.