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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday told President Xi Jinping that India and China could not afford to have differences on the scourge of terrorism and must look for common ground at the UN 1267 sanctions committee — but an unmoved Xi, despite agreeing that terrorism is a “key issue”, didn’t change the Chinese position on Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar.
In the end, the two leaders decided that China’s State Councillor Yang Jiechi — who was present at the 40-minute bilateral meeting — would travel to India again and meet National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to discuss the issue further.
Xi also did not budge on New Delhi’s other priority issue — India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group — during a “brief discussion” on the matter. They agreed the two sides would hold a second round of consultations “soon”. The first round of consultations took place between the top interlocutors in New Delhi in September.
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Pakistan remained the elephant in the room, since New Delhi believes that Beijing is stonewalling on both issues — Azhar’s listing at the UN sanctions committee and India’s entry into the NSG — to protect Islamabad’s core interests.
China had recently put a technical hold once again at the UN 1267 committee and prevented Azhar — who India believes was behind the Pathankot attack this year and the Parliament attack of 2001 — from being designated a global terrorist, despite the Jaish being a UN-proscribed terror group. Azhar lives in Pakistan and has been writing provocative anti-India articles in jihadist publications.
In the case of NSG, China had blocked consensus — with some help from a group of countries — India’s application to become a member of the NSG, and has clubbed it with Pakistan’s application. While China has insisted on a criteria-based process, the clubbing together with Islamabad’s application is certain to spike India’s chances — since the international community will find it difficult to let Pakistan become a member of NSG owing to its poor record on nuclear proliferation.
Briefing reporters after the bilateral meeting between Xi and Modi, the Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Vikas Swaup said, “Both sides recognised terrorism as a key issue. President Xi said we should strengthen our security dialogue and partnership. PM Modi said that both India and China had been victims of terrorism which was a scourge afflicting the entire region.
“Today no country is immune from terrorism, hence this is an issue on which we cannot afford to have any differences; in particular, India and China must increase their coordination in the context of the UN 1267 committee and look for common ground.”
According to the MEA spokesperson, Xi agreed that “terrorism and violent extremism were on the increase”, and alluded to the threat from the so-called Islamic State group.
The Chinese president said that China opposes terrorism in all forms and manifestations, and that there must be increased cooperation with India, according to the MEA spokesperson. President Xi, the spokesperson said, said that India and China “must step up their counter-terrorism efforts”, and that “we must maintain our strategic communication on this subject”.
Later, responding to questions, Swarup said, “There is close coordination between India and China on this issue and that particular dialogue will continue… the Chinese side is very well aware of our concerns, need for us to ensure that globally notified terrorists are designated by the UN.”
In the end, Swarup said that India was maintaining continuous dialogue with China, and expected “China to see the logic of what we are saying” — indicating New Delhi’s disappointment with Beijing’s response.
“When NSA meets State Councillor Yang Jiechi, I expect this issue will be taken up further,” he said.
On NSG, the spokesperson said, “There was a brief discussion on NSG, PM said that we look forward to working with China to realise India’s membership of NSG. One round of consultations had already taken place between the two sides, President Xi said that the second round would be happening soon.”