India and China should remain ‘sensitive to each other’s concerns’: Vijay Gokhale


Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, who is in Beijing for “bilateral consultations,” on Monday said that as they go forward, India and China should remain “sensitive to each other’s concerns”.

At a meeting with Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Mr. Gokhale stressed that India “will work together with the Chinese side to deepen mutual understanding, strengthen mutual trust to implement the decisions taken by our leaders and do it in a manner where we are sensitive to each other’s concerns”.

The two countries also reaffirmed that last year’s Wuhan informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping remains the foundation for advancing India-China ties, which should shape the global agenda.

“It is one year since our leaders met in Wuhan and my colleague and Vice (foreign) Minister Kong Xuanyou have been following up on efforts to see that we implement many of the understandings reached in that meeting,” Mr. Gokhale said in his opening remarks.

Pointing to the momentum generated in India-China ties following the Wuhan event, the foreign secretary said that last year “we (India and China) had very brisk political exchanges,” which included Mr. Wang’s visit to India for the first high level meeting for people- to -people exchanges, which will be followed by a similar undertaking in China later this year.

“Step up strategic communication”

In his brief observations open to the media, Mr. Wang stressed that as neighbours, China and India must step up their “strategic communication” to shape the global agenda, on account of their status as “emerging markets” and “strategic partners”.

“China and India are two major countries who are neighbours of each other. They are also two emerging market countries and are each other’s emerging partners,” he said. “In this sense, it’s very important for two countries to work together to increase strategic communications… even geopolitical trust … and strategic cooperation on international and regional issues.”

In view of the big picture, China has been underplaying its differences with India on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) its mega-Eurasian connectivity initiative. Last week, briefing media on the upcoming Belt and Road Forum (BRF), where India is apparently not sending an official delegation, Mr. Wang was emphatic that ties between India and China were insulated from their differences on BRI.

“The two leaders [President Xi and Prime Minister Modi] had a very successful meeting in Wuhan. Particularly, they established mutual trust and they jointly planned for the future of improvement and the strengthening of the China-India relationship. After the Wuhan summit, we see progress in all areas of cooperation,” Mr. Wang had said in the media briefing.

The Chinese state councilor had also pointed out that India and China were limiting the threshold of their differences so that overall development of ties remained unhampered.

Masood Azhar

Analysts say that despite the “re-rest” achieved in ties during the Wuhan informal summit, the two countries have so far sharply diverged on designating Masood Azhar as a global terrorist.

Azhar’s designation was highlighted across the globe when China placed a “technical hold” on listing the head of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) as a global terrorist following the February 14 Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.

Despite its special ties with Pakistan, there are now signs that China could be reviewing its position on Azhar’s designation, despite possible reservations from Islamabad. Last week, the Chinese foreign ministry said that the Azhar issue “is moving towards the direction of settlement,” in the 1267 committee of the Security Council. Since April 1, China has been saying that a consensus was emerging within the 1267 committee on designating Azhar, after rejecting a parallel initiative by the United States, backed by Britain and France, to seek a ban on him through a separate resolution in the Security Council plenary.

Pakistan, on its part, has so far been linking the Pulwama strike, for which the JeM has taken responsibility with the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir. “This [situation in J&K] is a concern because that leads to a reaction, and that reaction at times creates tension in the region, which must be avoided,” Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said at a Beijing press conference on March 19.


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