NEW DELHI: Did India and China strike a deal to ensure China withdrew its opposition to its “all-weather” friend Pakistan being put on a financial terror watchlist?
On Friday, Pakistan was given till June to clean up its act or face being greylisted by the Financial Action Task Force, which monitors and suggests ways to check money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats, at its plenary meeting in Paris.
Soon afterwards, there were reports that India had struck a deal with China under which Beijing would drop its opposition to the FATF move in return for greater Indian support in the body. Saudi Arabia too withdrew its objections under US pressure, the reports said.
On Saturday, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale was in Beijing, ostensibly to prepare for the talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit to be held in Qingdao, China, in June. India and Pakistan became full SCO members last year. According to a ministry release later, the two sides agreed to expedite various dialogue mechanisms in order to promote “multifaceted cooperation across diverse fields of India-China engagement.”
On Sunday, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted, “Congratulations to China on its election as Vice President of Financial Action Task Force at the #FATF plenary mtg. on 23 February 2018. We remain hopeful that China would uphold & support the objectives & standards of FATF in a balanced, objective, impartial & holistic way.”
US Vice President Jennifer Fowler is expected to be named FATF president in June. Both New Delhi and Beijing declined to comment on whether such a deal was indeed struck between the two nations. In fact, the Chinese media did not even think China’s election as the FATF vice-president, which usually precedes a presidency, was worth reporting on.
While some experts said the evidence linking a Sino-Indian deal to the FATF ruling was “circumstantial, at best,” others said that if true, it marked a distinct change in China’s position on Pakistan, given that it continues to block Pakistani Masood Azhar from being put on the UN terrorist list, as well as India’s membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group unless Pakistan is also allowed to become a member.
“If indeed such a deal was struck,” asks a former diplomat, “how will India ensure that Beijing sticks to its end of the bargain? Also, does this mean China could not have become FATF VP without Indian help? ”
“How does it benefit China to be a VP is the question,” says General J S Bajwa, who has a written a book on the People’s Liberation Army. “Is going to target countries that support Turkic terrorists? Unlikely. Will it make Pak more pliable so as to compel it to ensure security of CPEC and make sure it does not default? Games that nations play are as complicated as those that people play!” he says.