A day after China put a technical hold on a proposal to list Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist at the United Nations Security Council, New Delhi was cautious in its response to what it sees as a deeply complex relationship with China.
Mindful of the consensus evolved from Astana to Xiamen to Wuhan that “differences cannot become disputes”, sources said that Delhi’s calibrated response to China’s technical hold was a “carefully thought-out response.”
Minister of State (External Affairs) Gen (retd) V K Singh tweeted, “Is China’s stance on Masood Azhar a reflection of the soft position that some leaders & political parties have taken?
Blocking us for the 4th time at the UN, China is not setting the right example for the global fight against terrorism.”
Considering the outrage on social media and the flak from the Opposition in an election season, this was a much mellowed response by a government representative.
For its part, China, on Thursday, said that it needed more time to assess the proposal. Its Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said that the United Nations Security Council 1267 Committee has “clear standards on the procedures of designating terrorist organisations and individuals”. “China conducts thorough and in-depth assessment of these applications and we still need more time so that is why we put forward the technical hold,” he said.
Elaborating on this hold, Lu said: “Our action is to make sure this committee will have enough time to study the matter and so the relevant sides could have enough time for dialogue and consultation…I said earlier that only a solution that is acceptable to all sides could fundamentally provide a chance of lasting solution to the issue. China is ready to communicate and coordinate with all sides including India to properly handle this issue.”
He also noted that China’s actions were “in line” with the rules of the committee. “China sincerely hopes that the relevant action taken by this committee will help relevant countries to engage in dialogue and consultation to solve the problem and prevent adding more complicated factors into regional peace and stability,” Lu said.
New Delhi’s response, top government sources pointed out, was evident from the Ministry of External Affairs statement which did not name China and just said it was “disappointed” by this outcome.
Saying that the sanctions committee was not able to decide on Masood Azhar “on account of a member placing the proposal on hold,” it said: “We are disappointed by this outcome. This has prevented action by the international community to designate the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a proscribed and active terrorist organization which has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir on 14 February 2019.”
Sources said this was the first time such a proposal was moved after the informal Wuhan summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Consider the last statement on the issue by the Indian government when China had stalled Azhar’s listing in November 2017.
“We are deeply disappointed that once again, a single country has blocked international consensus on the designation of an acknowledged terrorist and leader of UN-designated terrorist organization, Masood Azhar. India strongly believes that double standards and selective approaches will only undermine the international community’s resolve to combat terrorism. We can only hope that there will be a realization that accommodating with terrorism for narrow objectives is both short-sighted and counter productive,” the MEA had said then.
The year before, in 2016, India had come out with blistering attack, naming China in the statement four times and calling out the “Chinese block” for “double standards” in the fight against terrorism.
The MEA had then said: “We note with concern China’s decision to block the proposal to list Masood Azhar as a designated terrorist…(it) is an unfortunate blow to the concerted efforts to effectively counter all forms of terrorism, and confirms prevalence of double standards in the fight against terrorism…This decision by China is surprising as China herself has been affected by the scourge of terrorism…We had expected China would have been more understanding of the danger posed to all by terrorism and would join India and others in fighting the common challenge.”
Earlier in 2016, when China had put a technical hold, New Delhi had said that it was “disappointed” and had criticised what it called a “selective approach”.
Sources said that the “multi-layered relationship” with China makes it difficult to “rock the boat.”
“We want the elections to get over and the new government to take charge, before any such measures are taken,” a South Block source told The Indian Express.
With China, the next engagement with be in Osaka in Japan for the G-20 summit in the later half of June and then an informal summit in India when Xi is expected to come to India. That patience is wearing thin in Delhi was evident as Ex Dy NSA Arvind Gupta sought for “re-examining the Wuhan spirit”.
Gupta, who heads the Vivekananda International Foundation, tweeted: “We need to re-examine Wuhan spirit…How to weaken China Pak nexus? Back to the drawing board! China’s tech hold at UNSC committee on Masood Azhar listing was disappointing but entirely expected. Shows depth of China-Pak strategic nexus at India’s expense. India should take calibrated long-term action on economic front to show displeasure. Mere statements not enough.”
The Chinese Foreign ministry spokesperson Lu, to a question on India and China’s relations following the Wuhan summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that China is “full of sincerity” and is ready to work with India.
To a question on Kashmir, Lu said: “China’s position on Kashmir is clear and consistent. This is an issue left over from history between India and Pakistan. We hope that the two sides (India and Pakistan) will engage in friendly dialogue and consultation and solve this issue and other relating issues.”