India and China have agreed to renew and expand their decade-old counter terrorism pact though dusts are yet to settle over Beijing blocking New Delhi’s efforts to designate Mazood Azhar, the chief of Pakistan-based militant outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed it had blamed for the attack on Pathankot airbase in January.
However, this amounts to a breakthrough in an area of crucial significance for the neighbours ahead of President Pranab Mukherjee’s four-day visit to China from May 24.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation between Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Public Security on counter terrorism measures were signed in 2005.
“The MoU had lapsed and two sides were looking at renewing it for sometime tow. The two countries have reached a consensus on renewing it,” said an official.
The same official added both sides have been discussing the various means to expand their counterterrorism cooperation along with the renewal of the MoU.
The two sides underscored the need to step up their joint efforts on counter-terrorism measures during their bilateral counter-terrorism consultation in November last year, which was the first special-focus meeting on the issue after the NDA government came to power in 2014.
In the same month, Home Minister Rajnath Singh made a strong pitch for the issue during his visit to China.
Though the meetings and exchange of notes were making their own progress on the issue, China blocking Pakistan based militants from getting designated at the UN sanctions committee have taken much steam off the efforts. China twice scuppered Indian efforts to designate Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Mazood Azhar. The individuals listed in the UN sanctions committee would face asset-freeze, travel ban and arms embargo, measures aimed at crippling their ability to indulge in terrorist activities.
China had also blocked a motion initiated by India at the United Nations last year to question its close ally Pakistan over the release of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, a Lashkar-e-Taiba commander behind the terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008.
“But two sides agree that counter-terrorism is an area that needs immediate focus”, said an official, adding the matter was discussed in detail when national security adviser Ajit Doval visited China in April.
The two countries, thus, would exchange information on terrorist groups and their linkages that are threat to their security and regional stability, exchange of experience and expertise by counter-terrorism experts. Cyber security issues, telecom-related and economic crimes will also be focused besides cooperation in the law enforcement capacity building. When asked about when the two sides will sign the MoU on the counter-terrorism cooperation, an official said “we hope soon,” without indicating any time-frame.