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China dispels hopes of early breakthrough on NSG, sticks to its guns on Azhar

File photo of Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar.   | Photo Credit: Mian Khursheed

China has said it is ready to continue its dialogue, to “build consensus” with India, on its membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). It also stuck to its guns regarding the decision to stall U.N. sanctions on Masood Azhar, the chief of the banned Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) group.

Briefing the media ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India for the BRICS summit in Goa, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong made two points.

First, China was ready to continue its dialogue with India in order to “build consensus,” on its membership to the NSG. Second, India’s membership to the NSG would have to be based on the consensus among all members of the 48-nation club.

In August, India and China had established a NSG-specific dialogue mechanism headed by the Joint Secretary in the Disarmament and International Security Division in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and his counterpart in the Chinese foreign office. The first meeting under this mechanism has already been held in New Delhi. China has convened a similar meeting with Pakistan, which is also bidding for NSG membership.

Asked specifically to comment on whether Beijing foresaw any progress on the NSG issue during the meeting between Mr. Xi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the BRICS summit, Mr. Li said: “These rules are not to be decided by China alone. On the issue, China and India have maintained good communication and we are ready to continue consultations with India to build consensus and we also hope India can go to other members of the NSG as well,” He added: “In this aspect we are also ready for discussions with India to explore possibilities but things need to be in keeping up with procedures, norms and regulations of the NSG. On this issue, China position is consistent. That is why China has often said international law must be observed.”

In previous discussions, China has linked India’s entry to the NSG, to Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) — a regime meant to stop proliferation or spread of atomic weapons, which New Delhi has not signed yet. But highly placed sources told The Hindu that India has conveyed to the Chinese side that NSG rules have not spelt out that NPT membership is necessary for the entry into the 48-country grouping. On the contrary, in India’s perception, the NSG is not directly geared towards non-proliferation, but is a mechanism for “export control” of nuclear technology, of which New Delhi has an “impeccable record”.

'Shouldn't pursue political gains in the name of counter-terrorism'

Replying to a question on China’s decision to stall a ban on Masood Azhar by exercising a “technical hold” at the UN, Mr. Li, in a veiled reference to India, warned against politicising counter-terrorism.

“There should be no double standards on counter- terrorism. Nor should one pursue own political gains in the name of counter-terrorism,” he observed. “China is opposed to all forms of terrorism.”

On October 1, China announced that it would extend its “technical hold” on sanctioning the JeM chief by another three months.

Analysts say that China’s decision on Masood Azhar has in part been driven by its reliance on Pakistan to help counter armed separatists targeting Xinjiang, and to insure stability in Afghanistan, a country critical to Beijing’s One Belt One Road connectivity initiative. Consequently, on August 3, top military commanders from China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan met in Urumqi, capital of China’s Xinjiang province, to form a “Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism in Counter Terrorism.”

Mr. Li, during his briefing underscored that counter-terrorism cooperation will be an important part of discussions during the BRICS Summit.

“On counter-terrorism, it is an important area for cooperation among BRICS members for political security. Cooperation on this front will enhance BRICS communication and coordination and will contribute to world peace and security. That is quite obvious,” he said. Last month the National Security Advisers of the five BRICS countries met in New Delhi to discuss counter-terrorism, cyber security and energy security, as part of preparation for the Goa summit. "They also exchanged assessments of recent developments in the West Asia and North Africa (WANA) region," a MEA statement had said.

“We hope and believe that this Goa summit will build on the past consensus and continue to strengthen cooperation in counter-terrorism and other issues of political security and contribute to world peace and security,” Mr. Li observed.


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