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New Delhi: China on Wednesday said differences with India over its bid to become a member of the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group or NSG and New Delhi’s attempts to get Pakistan-based Islamist militant Maulana Masood Azhar declared a terrorist by the UN should not be “stumbling blocks" in developing bilateral ties.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying’s remarks at a media briefing in Beijing came on a day when Indian foreign secretary S. Jaishankar urged China to be sensitive to issues relating to India’s sovereignty like it was to its own—in comments mirroring those made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.

In his remarks to an international conference hosted by the Indian foreign ministry and the Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation think tank, Modi had said he viewed the “development of India and China as an unprecedented opportunity," for themselves as well as the world.

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Modi, however, also added: “In the management of our relationship, and for peace and progress in the region, both our countries need to show sensitivity and respect for each other’s core concerns and interests."

India has been upset by China’s repeated attempts to thwart its moves to get Masood Azhar on a UN designated list of terrorists with the aim of cutting down Azhar’s access to funds as well as restrict his travel.

China had put a technical hold on India’s move in April, renewed it in September and then finally blocked it in December.

In the case of India’s NSG membership, China has sought the framing of membership rules for countries that are not signatories to the nuclear non proliferation treaty (NPT). India is not a signatory but has pointed out that France was not a signatory either when it joined the NSG.

India is of the view that China’s actions are aimed at keeping India locked into South Asia and not allowing its growth as a global power—something New Delhi aspires for.

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In her remarks, Hua said China appreciated Modi’s positive remarks.

“The consensus is that the common interests far outweigh our differences," she said.

Asked about India’s concerns over China blocking India’s NSG membership bid and efforts to get Azhar banned by the UN, Hua said the two were multilateral issues and both sides should understand each other’s positions instead of pointing fingers.

“I think we need to try to understand from the other party’s position. Respecting each other’s core interests is our basic position. We have common interests and we also have differences," she said. “The key is to resolve these differences through friendly consultation, instead of pointing fingers at each other and accusing the other of neglecting core interests," she said.

On the Masood Azhar issue, Hua said “this issue will be resolved when all parties reach consensus. We need more time for more thorough deliberations so that consensus is reached," she said.

“So these two issues shall not be stumbling blocks for China-India to develop their relationship. We need to look further and seek common ground to remain and maintain our mutually beneficial cooperation and together seek a solution to these issues," she added.

Earlier in the day, foreign secretary Jaishankar said India had been trying to convince the Chinese government that its ascent is not harmful to the rise of China and that both countries should be sensitive on matters relating to sovereignty.

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Jaishankar took strong objection to the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which passes through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, saying there should have been some reflection on India’s unhappiness over it. “What we are trying to do is to convince China that our rise is not harmful to China’s rise just as China’s rise need not be to India’s rise," he said.

“China is a country which is very sensitive on matters concerning its sovereignty. So we would expect that they would have some understanding of other people’s sensitivity on their sovereignty," Jaishankar said, adding that the CPEC passes through a “piece of land that we call Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) which is territory (that) belongs to India and which is illegally occupied by Pakistan."

He said the project has been undertaken without consultation with India and that its sensitivity and concerns towards it are natural.

The foreign secretary also said that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) was made “ineffective due to the insecurity of one member"—ie Pakistan.

PTI contributed to this report

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