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Need to address each other’s concerns: India

China visit: Foreign secy Gokhale discusses Masood Azhar issue

world Updated: Apr 23, 2019 09:51 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
China visit,foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale,Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping
Indian foreign secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale (left) and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi at Zhongnanhai in Beijing on Monday.(AP)

India and China should be sensitive to each other’s concerns as they work to enhance trust, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale said during talks with key Chinese officials in Beijing on Monday.

The talks were held against the backdrop of prickly differences between the two sides despite the bonhomie generated by the informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in Wuhan a year ago.

Key issues such as coordinating the positions of the two countries at international forums and the listing of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist at the UN were discussed, people familiar with developments said.

In his opening remarks at a meeting with China’s state councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi, Gokhale said India will work with the Chinese side “to deepen understanding to strengthen trust to implement the decisions that were taken by leaders and to do it in a manner in which we are sensitive to each other’s concerns”.

Wang too said spoke of the need to enhance mutual trust and strategic cooperation.

“As each other’s strategic partners, 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. Given that, it is important to have regular consultations with China,” Wang said.

After calling on Wang, Gokhale had a day-long meeting with vice foreign minister Kong Xuanyou. He also met executive vice foreign minister Le Yucheng, who earlier served as the envoy to India.

Gokhale, who earlier served as the ambassador to Beijing, told Wang that he and Kong Xuanyou were following up efforts to implement the understandings reached at the Wuhan meeting.

He said the past year had witnessed “brisk political exchanges” and Wang had visited New Delhi for the first meeting of the people-to-people exchange mechanism and that the external affairs minister is set to travel to China this year.

Both sides discussed the agenda for bilateral engagement in the coming months and exchanged views on regional and global issues of common interest, including the Indo-Pacific, said a statement from the external affairs ministry.

In addition to talks aimed at maintaining momentum in ties in the wake of the Wuhan summit, Gokhale is believed to have discussed coordinating India and China’s positions on key global issues at forums such as the G20 Summit to be held in Tokyo in June.

Though India has said Monday’s talks were scheduled some time ago, Gokhale visited Beijing days ahead of the second Belt and Road Forum (BRF), which India will skip because of concerns over territorial sovereignty related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The three-day BRF will be attended by nearly 40 heads of state and government. India had also boycotted the first edition of the forum in 2017.

China’s blocking of the latest effort to list the JeM chief as a global terrorist at the UN’s 1267 Sanctions Committee has emerged as an irritant in bilateral ties.

In New Delhi, external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar referred to discussions with Beijing on this issue and said: “We have shared with China all evidences of terrorist activities of JeM and its leader Masood Azhar. It is now for the 1267 Sanctions Committee and other authorised bodies of the UN to take a decision on the listing of Masood Azhar.”

India, he said, will continue to pursue “all available avenues to ensure that terrorist leaders who are involved in heinous attacks on our citizens are brought to justice”.

Wang Dehua, head of the Institute for South and Central Asian studies at Shanghai Municipal Centre for International Studies, said India would have tried to convince China about Azhar’s involvement in terrorism in Monday’s talks.

“There is a difference of opinion between India and China on Masood Azhar. (But) I think I will not exclude (the possibility) that they will reach an agreement during the meeting if the foreign secretary can persuade our deputy foreign minister with evidence that Azhar is a terrorist and that JeM is a terrorist outfit,” Wang Dehua said.

Monday’s talks were about keeping up the momentum of ties through high-level exchanges, said Lan Jianxue, deputy director for Asia-Pacific Studies at China Institute of International Studies. “Indian elections are going on and India will not show up for the Belt and Road Forum. So, there are some uncertainties in bilateral relations,” Lan said.

First Published: Apr 23, 2019 08:56 IST