Gokhale to meet Chinese FM, Azhar likely on agenda

Photo: IANS

Beijing (IANS) India's Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale will be on a two-day China visit from Sunday to meet Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi where he is likely to discuss the issue of blacklisting Pakistan-based terrorist Masood Azhar.

He will be visiting Beijing for regular consultation and is scheduled to meet Wang on Monday, an official at the Indian Embassy said here.

Gokhale's visit comes at a time when Beijing is facing mounting international pressure to declare Azhar, wanted in India for grisly terror attacks, an international terrorist at a UN 1267 sanctions committee.

The top Indian diplomat is visiting China the same week when Beijing holds the second edition of the Belt and Road forum, which New Delhi is highly likely to skip over the issue of sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

The issues of China shielding Azhar and India opposing Beijing's ambitious connectivity project have caused frictions between the two Asian powers that already deal with a festering border dispute.

China's repeated blocking of all the resolutions by India, the US, Britain and France seeking a ban on Azhar has frustrated New Delhi, which calls itself a victim of terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

China is Pakistan's closest ally. 

Last month, China placed its fourth technical hold on the US-sponsored resolution to ban Azhar whose outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for a deadly terror attack in Jammu Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troopers in February. 

Beijing's move has tested Sino-Indian ties that had been on an upswing after the icebreaking meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year.

Beijing, however, last week said the issue of declaring Azhar an international terrorist was heading for "settlement" and warned the US not to push its own resolution at the UN Security Council.

China's latest technical hold on the resolution at the UN 1267 committee prompted the US to go directly to the UN Security Council and move and circulate a new resolution at the agency. 

This has angered Beijing which says the US bypassing the 1267 panel will complicate matters when "positive progress" on the issue has already been made.

Washington's move has put Beijing in a bind as it might have to explain its stance at the UN Security Council if it vetoes the resolution. At the UN 1267 committee, a member can do so without explaining. 

Gokhale will likely raise the matter with Wang, who is also China's top diplomat. 

Besides, it is also to be seen if India's opposition to the Belt and Road forum will figure in the talks. 

India is likely to skip for the second straight year China's Belt and Road forum, a mega event that Beijing claims will be attended by the heads of 37 countries and over 100 international organisations.

The Belt and Road is a trillion-dollar project that aims to connect Asia, Africa and Europe through a network of highways, sea lanes and ports. 

India opposes its key artery, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as it cuts through the disputed part of Kashmir held by Islamabad. 

In 2017, India had boycotted the launch of the forum over the same issue.

In a press conference on Friday, Wang Yi appealed to India again to shed its inhibition on the CPEC, saying the project has nothing to do with the issue of Kashmir.

He said India joining the Belt and Road project will be a good choice for it. 

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