China on Sunday said it supported Pakistan’s “quest for peace through dialogue” to settle the outstanding disputes with India as it backed Islamabad’s “engagement” with the Nuclear Suppliers group (NSG).
A joint statement, issued here after Prime Minister Imran Khan’s talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, said that China backed Pakistan’s efforts to improve ties with India to settle “outstanding disputes”, without directly mentioning the Kashmir issue.
“China appreciates Pakistan’s quest for peace through dialogue, cooperation and negotiation, on the basis of mutual respect and equality, and supports Pakistan’s efforts for improvement of Pakistan-India relations and for settlement of outstanding disputes between the two countries,” the joint statement said.
The ties between India and Pakistan had strained after the terror attacks by Pakistan-based groups in 2016 and India’s surgical strikes inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
In recent years, China has refrained from taking a public stance on the India-Pakistan ties, expressing hope for resolution of the disputes through dialogue.
On the Kashmir issue, China’s oft repeated stand was that it should be resolved peacefully through dialogue.
India too supports dialogue as the way to resolve the issue with Pakistan but maintains that the talks and terrorism cannot go together.
For its part, Pakistan supported active participation of China at the platform of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Also significantly, China tacitly expressed its backing for Pakistan’s efforts to secure the NSG membership.
India has also been seeking entry into the 48-member elite nuclear club, which controls nuclear trade, but China has repeatedly stonewalled its bid.
While India, which is backed by the US and a number of western countries has garnered the support of a majority of the group’s members, China has stuck to its stand that new members should sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), making India’s entry difficult as the group is guided by the consensus principle. India is not a signatory to the NPT.
China’s repeated stonewalling on India’s membership bid in the NSG has become a major stumbling block in bilateral relations.
“The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to multilateral, non-discriminatory arms control and non-proliferation endeavours,” the joint statement said.
“They noted with concern the continued pursuit of double standards in the application of non-proliferation norms and procedures and called for policies upholding rule of law and long-standing rules,” it added.
China appreciates and supports steps taken by Pakistan for strengthening the global non-proliferation regime, the statement said.
China also heaped praise on Pakistan for its efforts to counter terrorism and said it recognised Islamabad’s efforts in actively strengthening financial regulations to combat terrorism financing, and called on all relevant parties to view Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts in an objective and fair manner.
But at the same time China is pressing Pakistan to crackdown on Uygur Islamic militants crossing in and out of the volatile Muslim-majority Xinjiang province bordering Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
“The Pakistani side reaffirmed its support to the Chinese side in safeguarding its sovereignty and security, and combating separatism, terrorism and extremism including East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM),” the statement said.
China blames the separatist ETIM, an al-Qaeda linked group, for the violent attacks in Xinjiang and elsewhere in the country.
Both China and Pakistan agreed to further enhance cooperation against “three evils’ of extremism, terrorism and separatism”, the statement said.
Both sides, however, underscored the need for all states to avoid “politicisation” of the UN sanctions regime and the work of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The FATF has placed Pakistan in its grey list for not doing enough to counter terror financing.
All-weather friends, China and Pakistan also agreed to enhance their defence cooperation.
Both sides have agreed to make full use of the China-Pakistan Defence and Security Consultation mechanism, deepen cooperation in areas such as military exercises, training cooperation, personnel exchanges, and equipment and technology cooperation, it said.
On the controversial USD 60 billion CPEC over which India has raised objection as it passes through PoK, the statement said China and Pakistan have “complete consensus” ruling out differences.
“The two sides reaffirmed their complete consensus on the future trajectory of the CPEC, timely completion of its ongoing projects and joint efforts for realisation of its full potential with a focus on socio-economic development” the statement said.
On the debt concerns over the CPEC projects, it said “both sides dismissed the growing negative propaganda against CPEC and expressed determination to safeguard the projects from all threats.”
The CPEC is the flagship project of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and includes a maze of roads and port projects.
Once completed, it aims to connect China’s largest province Xinjiang with Pakistan’s Gwadar port in Balochistan, allowing Beijing access to the Arabian Sea.