Chinese Response to Pulwama
Dr Teshu Singh, Research Fellow, VIF

For the fourth time, China has refused to designate Masood Azhar,1 leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) as a global terrorist. On 14 March 2019, the spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Affairs said, “China is conducting a comprehensive and in-depth review on 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.” 2

In fact, the Chinese response to the entire developments in the aftermath of Pulwama has questioned the ‘Wuhan Spirit’ in India-China relations. China has taken a stand that makes it evident that it supports Pakistan no matter what. It has taken at most care to issue politically correct statements.

Four trends are evident from the Chinese response: First, in all its responses China has taken care of not naming Masood Azhar. The Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi had sent a condolence message to his counterpart in India condemning the attack and expressing deep sympathy to the families of the victims. But yet again, there was no mention of Masood Azhar.3 Chinese official response came after a day of the attack. On 15 February 2019, the spokesperson’s said, “We have noted relevant reports and are greatly shocked by this attack on Masood Azhar. As for the listing of the certain organizations and individuals by the UN Security Council 1267 Committee you asked about, the UN Security Council 1267 Committee has detailed criteria for the listing and designation procedures for terrorist entities or individuals. The JeM which claimed responsibility for this attack is already on the Security Council sanctions list against terrorism. China will continue to deal with the relevant listing issue in a constructive and responsible manner.” 4

Second, China has called for restraint. The Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou visited Pakistan to discuss the crisis situation in India-Pakistan relations following Pulwama. During his visit, he stressed that China has been helping in upholding peace and stability in the regions and believes that India and Pakistan will maintain “friendly relations”. Further, the spokesperson said, “Pakistan and India are both important countries in South Asia. A stable Pakistan-India relationship is crucial to regional peace, stability and development. At present, the situation in South Asia is generally stable, which is hard-won and should be cherished and upheld by relevant parties. China hopes that Pakistan and India can exercise restraint, engage in dialogues and realise an early ‘soft landing’ of this issue.”5

Third, China reiterated that “Pakistan has exercised restraint, remained calm and insisted on bringing down tensions.” China applauded the release of the Wing Commander, Abhinandan Varthaman, and said that it is the “signal of goodwill to India”.6

Fourth, the technical hold indicates China’s support to the activities of Masood Azhar. After Pulwama attack, three permanent members of the Security Council, the United States, France and the United Kingdom made fresh efforts by moving a resolution to designate Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. Except for China, all other UNSC members voted for the resolution. India has expressed “disappointment by this outcome”, and “will continue to pursue all available avenues to ensure that terrorist leaders who were involved in heinous attacks” are brought to justice.7

This development can be seen in the light of agreement and meetings between the two sides. On 23 October 2018, India and China signed the first agreement on security cooperation to strengthen and consolidate assistance in counter-terrorism, organised crimes, drug control, human trafficking and exchange of information. The agreement was signed by Union Minister Rajnath Singh and China’s State Councilor and Minister of Public Security Zhao Kezhi. Soon after the signing of the agreement, the first high-level meeting on bilateral security cooperation was co-chaired by Rajnath Singh and Zhao Kezhi. After the meeting, the Union Minister tweeted, “Had a fruitful meeting with the State Councilor and Minister of Public Security of China, Zhao Kezhi in New Delhi”. 8

The 8th meeting of India-China Joint Working Group on counter-terrorism was held in Beijing on 29-30 January 2019. The head of the Indian delegation was Mahaveer Singhvi, Joint Secretary for Counter-Terrorism at the Ministry of External Affairs. The Chinese delegation was headed by Liu Shaobin, Director General, and Department of External Security Affairs. Both sides assessed and exchanged views on regional and international counter-terrorism situation, areas of mutual concerns including cooperation at the bilateral and multilateral levels.9 On 27 February 2019, at the 16th meeting of the Russia India and China (RIC) Foreign Ministers, the members condemned “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and called for closer policy coordination to eradicate the “breeding grounds of terrorism”.10

Despite the above mentioned convergence and related understanding of the term “terrorism”, China has not issued a single statement condemning the Pulwama attack. The reason for China’s support to Masood Azhar are: first, the China-Pakistan “all-weather friendship”, China believes that by keeping the issue alive, it can make India’s neighbourhood volatile; second, retaliation to the asylum given by India to Dalai Lama; third, to protect and expand the investments made by China in Pakistan, especially under the guise of CPEC. The project, once completed, is expected to provide better connectivity to China and access to the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. 11

Overall, it is evident that China is entirely supporting its “all-weather friend”. By putting the technical hold for the fourth time China is only strengthening Masood Azhar’s role and his activities. This sends a hostile signal to India and will inevitably impact India-China relations in the coming years.

  1. Masood Azhar was released in exchange for the passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC-814 by India. He was released along with two other terrorists; Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar and Omar Sheikh. Prior to the Pulwana attack, Jaish-e-Mohammed had killed 30 Indian Security forces in 2016 in the Indian airbase in Pathankot and the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament.
  2. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang's Regular Press Conference on March 14, 2019 accessed at
  3. Pulwama terror attack: India starts briefing international Community about Pakistan’s active role accessed at
  4. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang's Regular Press Conference on February 15, 2019 accessed at
  5. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang's Regular Press Conference on February 19, 2019 accessed at
  6. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang's Regular Press Conference on March 1, 2019 accessed at
  7. 1267 Sanctions Committee not able to come to a decision on the proposal for listing Mohammed Masood Azhar Alvi under the UN Sanctions regime accessed at
  8. India, China sign first security cooperation agreement accessed at
  9. The 8th India-China Joint Working Group Meeting on Counter-terrorism
  10. Russia, India, China resolve to step up counter-terror cooperation
  11. Why is Masood Azhar so important to China? accessed at

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