China has told Pakistan it opposes any “unilateral” action that complicates the situation in Kashmir, after Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi briefed his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi of his country’s concerns regarding the situation in the Indian state.
The Kashmir issue, as was widely anticipated, figured in the second strategic dialogue of the Chinese and Pakistani foreign ministers in the southern province of Hainan on Friday. Qureshi arrived in China on Thursday for the talks against the backdrop of the India-China border standoff.
“The Pakistani side briefed the Chinese side on the situation in Jammu & Kashmir, including its concerns, position and current urgent issues,” said a joint statement issued at the end of the two-day strategic dialogue.
“The Chinese side reiterated that the Kashmir issue is a dispute left over from history between India and Pakistan, which is an objective fact, and that the dispute should be resolved peacefully and properly through the UN Charter, relevant Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements. China opposes any unilateral actions that complicate the situation,” it said.
China and Pakistan believe a “peaceful, stable, cooperative and prosperous South Asia was in common interest of all parties”, the statement said. It added: “Parties need to settle disputes and issues in the region through dialogue on the basis of equality and mutual respect.”
There was no immediate response to the joint statement from Indian officials. India has traditionally bristled at China’s efforts to raise the Kashmir issue on Pakistan’s behalf, describing it as interference in its internal affairs.
China had issued a similar statement immediately after India scrapped Kashmir’s special status in August last year. Since then, it has sought to raise the Kashmir issue at the UN Security Council on Pakistan’s behalf several times, but without much success.
The dialogue between Wang and Qureshi took place at a time when the ties of both Beijing and Islamabad with New Delhi are at an all-time low, over the border tensions in eastern Ladakh, and India’s decision last year to scrap Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
The joint statement was issued soon after President Xi Jinping was quoted as saying that China and Pakistan are “good brothers” and “good partners”, and that the economic corridor between the two countries, which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), is key to forging even closer ties between Beijing and Islamabad.
In a recorded message addressed to his Pakistani counterpart Arif Alvi, Xi said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), “a landmark project” under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is of “great importance to promoting in-depth development of the China-Pakistan all-weather strategic cooperative partnership and forging a closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future”.
India has consistently opposed CPEC because it passes through PoK. Beijing has paid little attention to New Delhi’s reservations about trade and transit corridor and pumped in money and resources to building infrastructure such as power plants and highways.
CPEC is among the new irritants and concerns for India’s ties with China, but Beijing has refused to address this issue, arguing it is only an economic project.
State-run Xinhua news agency released Xi’s statement, which said: “China and Pakistan are good brothers and partners who share special friendship.”
He added the frequent meeting of political parties from both sides is conducive to steadily advancing the construction of CPEC and high-quality cooperation under BRI.
According to the joint statement, both sides also “agreed on continuing their firm support on issues concerning each other’s core national interests”.
Beijing told Islamabad that China “firmly supports Pakistan in safeguarding its territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence, independently choosing a development path based on its national conditions, striving for a better external security environment and playing a more constructive role on international and regional affairs”.
In a statement released separately, Wang said China and Pakistan had agreed on cooperation in research and development of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Fu Xiaoqiang, an expert on South Asia at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told state media that India has a narrow approach to China-Pakistan friendship.
“India has adopted a hostile attitude toward the cooperation between China and Pakistan and believes China and Pakistan will soon unite against India. It’s a rather ‘narrow-minded’ perspective that does not conform to India’s position of a big country in South Asia,” Fu said.