India on Saturday won Russia’s backing in fighting cross-border terrorism but giant neighbour China remained largely non-committal on helping New Delhi mobilise global opinion against militant safe havens such as Pakistan.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held separate bilateral meetings with the leaders of the two countries – ahead of Sunday’s BRICS Summit – focussing most of his discussions on the need for countries to deny sanctuaries to terrorists and reconsider the way the United Nations designates terrorists.
While Russian President Vladimir Putin strongly condemned terrorism in all forms, prompting Modi to say Moscow’s stand on the issue “mirrors our own”, Indian officials speaking about the prime minister’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping used rather defensive language, signalling little progress in those talks.
Beijing gave no assurance on supporting New Delhi’s bid on a UN ban against Pakistan-based militant leader Masood Azhar, saying no more than that terrorism was a “key issue” and the two sides should strengthen their security dialogue and partnership.
“We can only convey our concerns. It is up to them to review their decision. We expect China will see logic in it,” Swarup said.
China is blocking India’s attempt to put Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar on a UN list of proscribed terrorists, a key objective for the Modi government. Pakistan-based Jaish was blamed for the deadly militant attack on the Indian army camp in Uri, Kashmir, which left 19 soldiers dead and further strained New Delhi’s relations with Islamabad.
New Delhi has since sought to isolate Pakistan and is looking to use the meeting of BRICS nations for its campaign against Azhar. The issue will be taken up again when National Security Adviser Ajit Doval meets his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, soon.
During their third meeting in less than a year, Modi brought up India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Xi is understood to have responded saying his government “will soon hold a second round of discussions (with India) on this and hoped it will help.”
Russian missiles, Chinese trade
China has held back on supporting India’s NSG bid, saying it would wait for a larger consensus on admitting any country to the group that hasn’t signed the non-proliferation treaty.
Earlier in the day, Modi and Putin sought to reinvigorate the two countries’ “time-tested” friendship at an annual summit-level meeting that saw robust statements on fighting terrorism and a clutch of big-ticket defence and energy deals.
Modi began with a Russian proverbial saying that sees one “old friend” as more precious than two “new friends”, in an apparent reference to the recent churning in the relations between the two countries.
Relations between India and Russia – once considered all-weather allies -- have weakened in recent times with India’s pronounced tilt towards the United States. The first-ever Russia-Pakistan joint military exercise in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa last month was Moscow’s way of signalling that it should not be taken for granted by Delhi.
The two sides announced plans for India to buy military equipment worth more than $8 billion , including 200 gunship helicopters, four warships and five S-400 surface-to-air missile systems. The leaders also signed an agreement to supply more units to a nuclear plant in Kudankulam in southern India.
Trade and business also came up in talks between Modi and Xi, who assured that Beijing was working to address their trade imbalance. Bilateral trade between the two countries has soared to $70 billion, but has left India with a deficit of nearly $50 billion.
There was no immediate comment from the Chines side on the meeting. Indian officials said it was positive as both leaders reiterated that “the commonality between India and China far outweigh the differences.”
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