China Does Not Relent on Masood Azhar, New Delhi Soft Pedals
NEW DELHI: India’s efforts to get Jaish e Mohammad Masood Azhar seem to have come a cropper with China blocking the move to designate him a terrorist in the United Nations, and Pakistan ruling out reciprocity in the Pathankot terror attack.
A strong diplomatic push to ensure that Azhar was singled out for the Pathankot terror attack has been blocked, not by Islamabad but by China that has been relentlessly countering Indian objections for nearly three weeks now to the ‘technical hold’ against Azhar being designated a terrorist by the UN Sanctions Committee. China has said this cannot be possible without more evidence from India.
China’s insistence has come as a surprise to New Delhi that has cleared two high level visits to China. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has landed at Shanghai even as this is written, with Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj set to attend a high level meeting with her Russian and Chinese counterparts from Monday. It is not clear whether she will raise this issue, that is not just an irritant but also a clear indication of Beijing’s close relations with Islamabad.
Pakistan had earlier placed Azhar in what it described as “protective custody” though initially the media had projected it as an arrest. However, although little has been heard from the JeM chief directly since then, Islamabad has ruled out the reciprocity condition that India had stipulated in the joint investigation into the Pathankot terror attack. Significantly, the reciprocity condition had been communicated to Islamabad on March 26, according to the Indian Foreign Office, with the Pakistan JIT set to arrive here the next day.
The Modi government has received considerable flak from the security establishment for allowing the Pakistan JIT team access to the Pathankot Air Force base, despite the fact that a senior officer of the ISI was part of the delegation. New Delhi had claimed that this was on a reciprocal basis, and a similar team from here would be given access to Azhar. This was denied within a day of the Pakistan team returning to Islamabad, Indian protests notwithstanding.
India had approached the UN following ‘evidence’ of JeM involvement in the Pathankot Terror Attack. China has just taken over the rotational UNSC presidency, and in a first move placed this ‘technical hold’ on the UN Sanctions Committee to prevent it from designating Azhar as a terrorist. Interestingly, this move comes after even Pakistan seemed to have concurred with the Indian view by placing Azhar in custody. It is not clear whether he still remains in custody or has been freed subsequently.
India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Syed Akbaruddin criticised the ‘hidden veto’ in dealing with the listing of terrorist outfits and their leaders recently. China has immediate countered this with, "China always deals with the listing of 1267 committee based on facts and pursuant to UN Security Council resolutions and relevant rules in a fair manner."
In a response to Indias Press Trust of Indiathe Chinese Foreign Ministry further stated "We have noticed the remarks by India's Permanent Representative to the UN."Both China and India fall victim to terrorism and share similar positions when it comes to combating terrorism.”
“China supports the UN in playing a leading role in international anti-terrorism cooperation and takes an active part in international anti-terrorism cooperation," the Ministry said.
"In order to reach international consensus on counter terrorism, China encourage all parties to fully leverage the leading and coordinating role played by the UN and the Security Council and forge international synergy on counter-terrorism," it said.
On April 1, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China dealt with the issues under the UNSC anti-terrorism committee based on "facts and relevant rules of procedures in objective and just manner".
China had asserted that JeM chief and Pathankot terror attack mastermind Masood Azhar does not qualify to be nailed as a “terrorist” to face UN sanctions as his case “did not meet” the Security Council’s requirements. “Any listing would have to meet the requirements” for blacklisting, Chinese Permanent Representative to the UN Liu Jieyi told reporters earlier in response to questions over China’s decision to place a ‘technical hold’ on designating Azhar in the UN Sanctions Committee.
The Indian newspapers reported at the time that Liu Jinsong, Deputy Chief of Mission and Minister at the Chinese Embassy, justified China’s position saying his country cannot be the judge to decide who is right and who is wrong on this issue. "At the UN, this is a very serious issue. We need to discuss (on the issue), we need some kind of understanding from the related countries, concerned countries.
"Pakistan is not your enemy right? It's your brothers, it's your neighbour. It is a nation (born) from one nation. You were one family before. You can't move neighbours. And you can have a new boyfriend or a girlfriend tomorrow, but you can't have your neighbours changed," Liu said.
He further added, "Pakistan says India's position is not good for them, it is against Pakistan. But India says its position is in its national interest. China can't be the judge (to decide) who is right, who is wrong. With Pakistan, we are good friends. With India, we are also good friends." He said because of this ,"We can't be on any side. We can't stick to one side. We can't veto, we can't (remain) absent. Only thing we can do is (to put it on a) technical hold."
Liu said that China agreed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s position that there were no good or bad terrorists. And that there could be no double standards either. He urged India and Pakistan to start the talks adding,"We always tell our Indian friends (that) if you mention something related to Pakistan then why don't you have some bilateral talks. You can have some agreement, you can have some close door argument."
Foreign Secretary Jaishankar had confirmed then that the issue had been taken up with China “at a fairly high level.” But he took care to add that this will remain limited to India and China at the UN, and not “overflow into other areas.” This had been almost immediately countered by Liu Jinsong at a function in the University of Delhi where he had said, “We agree with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s idea that there should be no discrimination when dealing with terrorists. But when it comes to naming who is a terrorist, we need more discussion at the international level.”
Chinese Ambassador to India Le Yucheng had also said, said that, “We felt that the information provided by India to the UN was inadequate, that is why we placed a ‘technical hold’— a temporary measure.”
India is down peddling the issue as the following excerpt from a Ministry of External Affairs briefing at the time indicates:
Question: We see there are some reports saying that India is considering tightening of security checks on Chinese firms and reviewing the security clearance given to Chinese firms before. According to the reports, this is because of Chinese action in UN that blocked India’s bid of sanctioning Jaish-e-Mohammed chief. Is this true?
Official Spokesperson: Just as we do not go by speculative media reports, neither should you.
Question: Masood Azhar ko lekar jo Cheen ka stand raha hai, uska prabhav Bharat aur Cheen ke sambandhon par kya kuchh pada hai aur kis tarah se is mamle par Bharat sarkar ka stand hai?
Official Spokesperson: Let me first of all tell you that this issue has been taken up at a high diplomatic level. Our conversations with the Chinese on this issue are on-going and further action will depend on the outcome of those conversations.
Question: Foreign Minister Mrs. Swaraj is going to meet the Foreign Minister of China? Will this issue also be discussed?
Official Spokesperson: I think all issues of mutual interest and concern will be discussed.
Question: Has India formally lodged a protest with China on their action at the UN?
Official Spokesperson: When I have said this issue has been taken up at a high diplomatic level, what more can you expect me to say? Of course, it has been taken up.
Question: It has been taken up. But have you lodged a protest with China?
Official Spokesperson: Our position on this issue has been stated very clearly that there cannot be different standards to judge terrorism. This point is known to China, especially in the context of China’s oft-repeated concern on spread of terrorism and their desire to cooperate with us on counterterrorism. This issue will be dealt with in the UN context and we are in constant touch with China on this matter.