(Pradeep Gaur/Mint)
(Pradeep Gaur/Mint)

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale raises issue of Azhar's listing with China

  • China blocked Azhar's designation for the fourth-time -- the first since the Wuhan summit
  • Gokhale arrived in Beijing on Sunday for a two day visit

NEW DELHI : Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale on Monday held talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the progress in bilateral ties since the leaders of the two countries met a year ago in Wuhan with both stating that they were implementing decisions taken then in a manner in which "we are sensitive to each other's concerns."

Gokhale arrived in Beijing on Sunday for a two day visit. Besides Wang, he is also to meet Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou on Monday.

The Wuhan Summit took place last April with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping looking to stabilise ties rocked by the 73 day long tense military standoff in Bhutan’s Doklam area in 2017.

Gokhale’s meeting with Wang, who is also the State Councillor – a senior position in the hierarchy of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) – comes against the backdrop of Beijing last month stalling international efforts to list the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist under UN norms. Azhar’s JeM had taken responsibility for a suicide car bombing of an Indian security convoy in Pulwama on 14 February. The attack claimed 40 lives and raised tensions between India and Pakistan.

In his opening remarks, Wang said China and India were two emerging market countries besides neighbours and "each other's strategic partners."

"In that sense, it is important for the two countries to work together to increase strategic communication, deepen mutual political trust and strengthen strategic cooperation on international and regional issues," PTI quoted Wang as saying. “Given that it is timely and important for you to have regular consultations with the Chinese side," he said.

In his comments, Gokhale noted that it had been a year since Modi and Xi had met in Wuhan. He said both countries were making efforts to implement the agreements reached at the meeting.

"As your excellency said, we will work together with the Chinese side to deepen understanding to strengthen trust to implement the decisions that are taken by leaders and to do it in a manner in which we are sensitive to each other's concerns,"Gokhale was quoted as saying by PTI.

He also referred to the "brisk" political exchanges since the Wuhan summit, including Wang's visit to New Delhi in December to launch a platform for better people to people understanding with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj. Among those who visited India from the Chinese side included their ministers of defence and homeland security.

One of the issues expected to figure in Gokhale’s talks with his Chinese interlocutors was Beijings repeated stalling of efforts to Azhar designated as a global terrorist. Last month, China blocked Azhar's designation for the fourth-time -- the first since the Wuhan summit.

On New Delhi’s part, it has strong reservations about China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) given that one strand of it – the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – runs through Pakistan controlled Kashmir. India sees it as a violation of its sovereignty given that New Delhi claims all of Kashmir as its territory. Gokhale's visit comes just ahead of China holding its biggest international event of the year ie the second Belt and Road Forum (BRF) next week. India will not be sending any representative from New Delhi for the 25-27 April event.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Wang had said that differences over the BRI would not come in the way of the development of India-China relations and China is preparing for a Wuhan-style summit meeting this year.

He had also said that the CPEC was an economic project.

"One of our differences is how to look at the BRI. The Indian side has their concerns. We understand that and that is why we have stated clearly on many occasions that the BRI including the CPEC is only an economic initiative and it does not target any third country and has nothing to do with the sovereign and territorial disputes left from history between any two countries," he said.

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