China asserts it will protect ally Pakistan’s core interests

Two days ahead of his informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India, President Xi Jinping said China was closely following the situation in Kashmir and will support Pakistan on issues related to its “core interests”.

Xi’s remarks, made during a meeting with visiting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday, reflected China’s consistent support to its all-weather ally Pakistan – an issue that emerged as an irritant in the run-up to the second India-China informal summit on October 11-12.

After Khan called for efforts to avoid the deterioration of the situation in Kashmir, Xi said the “right and wrong of the situation was clear”, according to state-run Xinhua news agency. Xi added that the two parties should resolve the dispute through peaceful dialogue.

The Kashmir issue also found mention in a joint statement issued after the Xi-Khan meeting, which said the Chinese leader “reiterated solidarity with Pakistan in safeguarding its territorial sovereignty, independence and security”.

The statement further said China “opposes any unilateral actions that complicate the situation” and that the Chinese side is “paying close attention to the current situation in Jammu & Kashmir”.

In a swift response, India’s external affairs ministry said Kashmir is an integral part of the country and it was not for other nations to comment on India’s internal affairs.

Khan was on a two-day visit that was primarily aimed at seeking China’s support on the Kashmir issue.

China also sought to play down other irritants that have hit bilateral relations with India, with a top Chinese diplomat saying Beijing isn’t worried about India holding a large-scale military exercise in the “disputed eastern sector” as it hasn’t taken place.

After formally announcing Xi’s visit to India, vice foreign minister Luo Zhaohui told a special briefing: “We have no worry at all because that is not true.” He was responding to a question by the Chinese media on whether Beijing was concerned that the military exercise in the “disputed eastern sector” could impact the summit.

To a question from HT on whether he was referring to the military exercise in Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as south Tibet, Luo said: “As far as we know, the so-called military exercise is not a fact, it is not true.”

“Second, the region you mentioned is a sensitive region and we don’t want to hear that reference,” Luo said, seemingly setting aside, even dousing, a controversy ahead of the visit.

The exercise in question is the Indian Army’s “Him Vijay” drill, taking place 100km from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Arunachal Pradesh. News reports from India said it is the biggest exercise to test the combat capabilities of new integrated battle groups.

In New Delhi, people familiar with developments also played down the matter, saying the Indian Army hadn’t formally announced any drill in Arunachal Pradesh.

Though Luo denied knowledge of the exercise, Chinese academics said Beijing isn’t pleased with the drill as it is in an area it considers disputed.

On the summit, Luo, till recently the envoy to India, said: “This will be a continuation of the Wuhan meeting. Since it is an informal meeting, the two leaders will have a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere to have a free exchange of views without fixed topics. They will talk about major issues, they will have free atmosphere with each other which is a very good format for discussion.”

Following Wuhan, he said, the border areas had “maintained peace and tranquillity and the practice has proven that mutually beneficial cooperation is very important to the two sides”.

Luo said that during their meetings on October 11 and 12, Xi and Modi will reach consensus on three areas: A shared vision for the reform of the international system, a shared responsibility and role in regional affairs, and providing guidance to the growth of bilateral ties and exchanges and cooperation.

The summit will be more about strategic communication so that “the dragon and the elephant can work together”, he said.

On the China-India plus mechanism, a takeaway from the Wuhan summit, Luo said: “Now Afghanistan is the point of breakthrough that we have chosen (in Wuhan) and the two sides have speedily implemented the consensus of the two sides of carrying out the training for diplomats.”

Luo said India and China are now planning to cooperate in training law enforcement officers and in the protection of archaeological sites in Afghanistan.

China is in favour of expanding the mechanism, Luo said. “We hope that China-India plus cooperation is not only restricted to Afghanistan…This time President Xi will visit Nepal. We hope that China-India plus cooperation will be expanded to Nepal. We also hope that the cooperation will be expanded to Bhutan,” he added.

Source : Hindustan Times


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