‘India Must Remain Transactional With China For Results On Masood Azhar’

Nitin A. Gokhale New Delhi 14 March 2019

Although disappointed with China’s continuing intransigence on Masood Azhar, India’s former Ambassador to China Gautam Bambawale feels India should stay the course and even be transactional with Beijing to get the desired results.




Q: Ambassador Gautam Bambawale, you’ve been India’s Ambassador to China and of course you are keeping a watch on what’s happening in the past month or so, ever since the Pulwama attack happened. You must have also seen the UN proceedings in New York where once again China has put a hold on Masood Azhar being listed as a designated terrorist. What is your first, quick take on what has happened in New York?

A: My quick take is that it’s disappointing that China has again this time put a hold on the listing of Masood Azhar. As you know I don’t speak for the Government but (sure) I personally felt there was a certain momentum that had built up this time around on the listing: the Pulwama attack, everything that happened after that, action, reaction etc. The important point, Nitin, is that almost every other country across the globe, in the Security Council, in the United Nations, is supportive of this listing. So, there is only one country, China, which is opposing it. I am surprised given the momentum, and given the pressure, that China still continues to adhere to this stand.


Q: Given that in the past, that they’ve done this on at least three occasions and that they’ve not really budged, despite all kinds of pressure on Pakistan and China, realistically we should have expected this. But what are the steps forward that India should take, what would you recommend as somebody who has dealt with both Pakistan and China?

A: That’s a very good question. I think though we are disappointed, we should continue to work with China for getting the listing to move ahead. They can remove the hold at any point of time that they want. The hold will be in place for the next few months, maybe six months, maybe up to nine months, but if China removes the hold at any point of time the listing will go ahead. So, during this period, I think that even though we’re disappointed, we should continue to work with China to get them to see that terrorism across our borders from Pakistan is something that is not only bad for India, but is bad for all countries across the globe including China. I have been on record, Nitin, to have said that we need to be transactional with China (I remember that). What I mean by that is can we do something for them at the United Nations, support them in some particular election, and in return if they will give this up – give up the hold on the MasoodAzhar listing, that’s what I mean. So, I think we need to be a bit transactional with China on this issue.   


Q: True. I think you also mentioned about in that interview where you spoke about being transactional, you also mentioned what we did with China on FATF(Financial Action Task Force), the way we worked with China to give them the chairmanship and get Pakistan on the grey list…The Chinese nation state is also not a very emotional state or gets perturbed…so why are you getting perturbed by a terrorist organization and is it not good to disassociate yourself? Will that track also work?

A: I think that track has been tried. It has not worked completely. It is a good argument. It is a good case because China has its own position on terrorism which is China opposes terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. And if does oppose terrorism in all its forms and manifestations then it should oppose this kind of terror which is located in Pakistan and aimed at India. But, I believe that argument in itself may not be enough. So, we need to find something which we can work with China on. I think China should also realise, as you rightly said, that this is the fourth time that they have applied this hold and have tried to block the listing ofMasood Azhar at the Security Council under the 1267 sanctions and I think China should realise there will be a diplomatic cost for them vis-à-vis India for having done this. And, I think they should factor that in. I’m sure they have factored that in. I feel that maybe we should increase the cost for the listing of Masood Azhar. What that can be only people in the Government will know because outside Government we’re not sure what all options are on the table.


Q: It’s a very interesting thought. China is under a lot of pressure from the U.S. on trade issues and also slightly isolated on other issues with other countries like India. So, does India have leverage on that front with China, that you also have trade with us, a large volume of trade. Maybe India can use that as a leverage?

A: You’re absolutely right, there are many points of leverage which are with us in India. We don’t want to get into any kind of slanging match or any kind of tit-for-tat with China on this matter, but I think we have to send a very clear message to China. If they are not sensitive to areas of concern to India, then how can we be sensitive to concerns of theirs? I think this message needs to go out. I am not suggesting this but one idea which is in my mind, Nitin, that one of the sensitive areas for China these days is the development of 5G technologies by Chinese companies along with companies with the the rest of the world. So, China shouldrealise we do have some cards in our hands, and if they are not sensitive to us, we should not be sensitive to them. I think this message needs to be driven home to them in a manner that is measured, which is unemotional, which is clinical. But I think China can be transactional and we need to be transactional with them on this point.


Q: That’s a very valid point. But, let me move away from China and come to a couple of questions on Pakistan because you were also our High Commissioner to Pakistan. What is it that Pakistan can really deliver? We keep telling Pakistan and it hasn’t delivered in the past that we know. But, do we have any leverage with Pakistan apart from the usual points that we talk about such as the Indus Water Treaty and FATF. What do you think we should do with Pakistan? What should India’s policy be after this development?

A: I think what we want from Pakistan is for them to stop the terror that is being supported, aided, abetted, financed from Pakistan soil which is aimed at us and is hurting us. And, in order to do this, we should use all the possible diplomatic means in our quiver. FATF is a very strong means, is a very strong way of sending a message to Pakistan. And, as we all know, they are not in compliance with many of the requirements of the FATF – on money laundering, on supporting and sponsoring and financing of terror. So, we need to continue to put this pressure on Pakistan, not only through the FATF, but also through the other countries that are part of the FATF.


Q: That’s a great step. I’m sure it’s being thought about. One final question. PostPulwama, post-Balakot, if people in India think that Pakistan will alter its behaviour, do you think it’s an unrealistic expectation? Or do you think there will be some amendment, some change in Pakistan’s attitude?

A: Nitin, as you know, and we all know, we’re all realists who live in this real world. What we have indicated to Pakistan is that the cost of undertaking this cross-border terrorism has now increased and it’s not as simple and low-cost as it used to be in the past. It’s also a message to Pakistan that not only the Government of India but the people of India have had it up to their necks with cross-border terrorism and the people of India will support the Government if it takes strong measures against Pakistan. I think the Government of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan should understand this and it is their own interest to dial down and clamp down on the terrorism that is so prevalent in their country and especially terror groups that are aided, sponsored, abetted and financed by them.


Q: They should be made to realise by whatever means that they might be devoured by their own creation going forward.

A: Absolutely, when you play with fire, you can be sure that one day you will be burnt by that same fire. So, they should be aware of that. It has happened in the past and I’m pretty confident that these same terrorists will strike Pakistan themselves in the future too.


Q: So, I think just to sum up that despite this disappointment, India must continue to get Pakistan to dial down and to get China to see what reality is. We also know that listing Masood Azhar will be just a first step, really in practical terms, but we should continue to make this effort is what you recommend, I guess?

A: Absolutely. You’re right. That’s what I mean.


Q: Right. Thank you, Gautam. Thank you very much for your time and thank you for these thoughts. They are very useful for people to know what’s happening with Pakistan and China. It’s a great pleasure talking to you as always.

A: Thank you so much.


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