China’s stand on Masood Azhar could impact ties with India

  • Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Beijing
  • Updated: Apr 19, 2016 20:44 IST
File photo of JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar arrives at the Karachi airport in Pakistan. China has justified its decision to block India’s bid to get Azhar banned by the UN. (AP)

China’s stubborn stand on blocking India’s bid to ban JeM chief Masood Azhar, the Pakistan-based terrorist accused of masterminding the Pathankot attack, could put a chill on bilateral relations plagued by multiple issues.

On Tuesday, the Chinese government again failed to furnish specific reasons why it had put on hold India’s move to sanction Azhar at the UN Security Council.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and defence minister Manohar Parrikar raised the issue of Azhar with their Chinese counterparts in Moscow and Beijing on Monday.

Parrikar, who met Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday, told Beijing-based Indian reporters he had informed Chinese officials the “decision wasn’t in the right direction”.

Asked to explain China’s stand, foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said: “I can understand your concern. I would like to repeat our position that we support the central coordinating role of the UN Security Council in the world counter-terrorism campaign.

“We always deal with the listing matter in the UN Security Council according to rules of procedures and basic facts.”

Hua did not specify the reasons for China’s stand, including the procedures and facts that led to the blocking.

The spokesperson was quick to dismiss the issue of China having “double standards” on terrorism.

“China is firmly opposed to double standards on the counter-terrorism issue. China is also a victim of terrorism. We believe that only by working as one can the world fight against terrorism and maintain peace and stability of the whole world,” she said.

“There is no doubt about that,” she said. On the specific issue of Azhar, China is in “close communication with all relevant parties including India”, she added.

India has blamed the Jaish-e-Mohammed for the January 2 attack on Pathankot airbase, which killed seven security personnel. It is believed China blocked the move to sanction Azhar at the behest of its close ally Pakistan. Beijing has blocked several past attempts to ban Azhar.

Noted South Asian expert Hu Shisheng told Hindustan Times that the matter involving Azhar was an “annoying issue” but should not be seen in isolation.

“Such an issue is really annoying, and requires more urgently for both parties to talk with each other to reduce as much as possible the misunderstandings. It is much better for the Indian side to raise this issue directly before their Chinese counterparts,” Hu, who is with the influential China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said.

According to Hu, such issues should not disturb bilateral relations. At the same, according to Hu, “rumours like Indian agents making efforts to damage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which could also be a disturbance, should also be discussed”.

He said: “It is the time to strengthen mutual understandings in terms of security between China and India now.

“Only through military-to-military or security high-level dialogues, such mutual suspicions and eventualities could be addressed.”

But for that to happen, China may have to rethink its policy on Azhar.

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