Gokhale to visit China, Masood Azhar issue expected to figure in talks

New Delhi: Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale is slated to begin his official visit to Beijing on April 20.

This is the first high-level engagement between the two countries after China put a technical hold – for the fourth time – on the listing of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist at the UN Security Council following the terror outfit’s perpetrated Pulwama terror attack.

Gokhale is scheduled to meet with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his visit which, according to sources, is a part of the regular bilateral consultation process. The issue pertaining to the designation of Azhar is expected to figure during discussions.

The Chinese Ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui, has previously expressed optimism regarding the issue, telling ANI that the matter “will be resolved”.

“Regarding Masood Azhar, we fully understand and we fully believe this matter. We understand India’s concerns and are optimistic this matter will be resolved…This matter (of putting Masood Azhar on UNSC 1267 sanctions committee list) will be resolved; this is only a technical hold which means there is time for continued consultations. It will be resolved, believe me,” Luo told ANI last month.

“After Wuhan summit last year, the two-way cooperation is on right and fast track. We are so satisfied with that cooperation and I am quite optimistic about future cooperation,” he added.

On March 13, China had blocked a proposal by the US, the UK and France, among others, to enlist Azhar as a global terrorist before the UNSC committee. A day after, Beijing had defended its technical block on the proposal, saying it needed “more time” as it is “conducting a comprehensive and in-depth review” on the listing request put forth by the countries.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang had told reporters at a regular briefing that China will continue “coordinating” with all the relevant parties to find a “lasting solution” to the issue if it is to be resolved in a “responsible and sustainable way”.

“The 1267 Committee of the UN Security Council has clear criteria for the procedures to list terrorist organizations or individuals. China is conducting a comprehensive and in-depth review of the listing request put forth by the relevant countries. We still need more time and that is why we decided to put a technical hold on it,” Lu had said.

“It complies with the rules of procedure of the 1267 Committee. We hope that relevant actions taken by the 1267 Committee will help countries concerned to settle their issues through dialogue and consultation and avoid adding more complex factors to regional peace and stability. China will continue its communication and coordination with all relevant parties (including India) in a constructive and responsible way to properly settle this issue,” he had said.

India had expressed disappointment over China’s move but vowed to continue to pursue “all available avenues to ensure that terrorist leaders who are involved in heinous attacks on our citizens” are brought to justice.

The United States had also said that the failure to designate Azhar as a global terrorist “runs counter” to Washington and Beijing’s goal of regional stability and peace.

A global terrorist tag under the UN’s 1267 committee would have led to a freeze on Azhar’s assets and a ban on travel and keeping weapons.