BEIJING – As Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived here Tuesday for talks with Xi Jinping ahead of the Chinese President’s important visit to India, China said the Kashmir issue should be resolved between New Delhi and Islamabad.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang during his media briefing here on Tuesday did not make any official announcement about Xi’s visit to India.
However, Chinese officials informally said an announcement would be made simultaneously in Beijing and New Delhi on Wednesday.
The Foreign Ministry has also called for a special media briefing on Wednesday on “Chinese leader’s outbound visit”.
“India and China have a tradition of high-level exchanges. Both sides have communication exchange over high-level Visit. Any new information will be released soon,” Geng said in response to questions on Xi’s visit to India.
Both India and China are major developing countries of the world and major emerging markets, he said.
“Since the Wuhan informal summit (last year), our bilateral relations have gathered good momentum,” he said.
“We have been advancing our cooperation and properly managing our differences. We have a tradition of high level exchange and our two sides are maintaining communication on high level exchange in the next phase. We should make good atmosphere and environment for this,” he said.
When asked about Khan’s visit to Beijing ahead of Xi’s trip to India and whether the Kashmir issue will figure in his talks with the Chinese leaders, Geng said that China’s stand is that the Kashmir issue should be resolved between India and Pakistan.
“And So you are paying attention to the Kashmir issue, right? China’s position on Kashmir issue is clear and consistent , he said.
“We call on India and Pakistan to engage in dialogue and consultation on all issues including Kashmir issue and consolidate mutual trust. This is in line with interest of both countries and common aspiration of the world,” he said.
His comments marked a significant shift on what China has been saying on Kashmir in recent weeks in the aftermath of India’s move to revoke Article 370 of the Constitution removing the special status to Kashmir.
In its first reaction on August 6, the Chinese foreign ministry issued two separate statements.
In one statement, China also expressed its opposition to India’s move to create a separate Union Territory of Ladakh highlighting Beijing’s territorial claims in the area.
The second statement said, “we call on both India and Pakistan to peacefully resolve the relevant disputes through dialogue and consultation and safeguard peace and stability in the region”.
But, China added UN and UNSC resolutions on Kashmir when Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi visited Beijing few days later and met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
“It (Kashmir issue) should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreement,” Wang had said.
A closed-door meeting of the UNSC on Kashmir where China maintained the same stand ended without any outcome or statement.
Later, Wang in his UN General Assembly speech mentioned the same which drew protests from India.
Geng’s comments on Tuesday marks China’s return to its original stand that Kashmir issue should be resolved bilaterally.
Observers say it is significant shift ahead of Xi’s visit to India for his 2nd informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On Khan’s visit, Geng said China attaches “great importance” his trip.
Khan arrived here on a two-day official visit to China during which he would meet the country’s top leadership including President Xi and discuss issues of regional and bilateral significance.
Significantly, Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa arrived here ahead of Khan on Monday night, according to the Pakistan army’s media wing – the Inter-Services Public Relations ISPR).
Gen Bajwa would also attend Khan’s key meetings with Xi and Premier Li Keqiang, highlighting his powerful position in Pakistan’s power structure.
“COAS arrived China on official visit. COAS will meet Chinese mil leadership including PLA Army Commander, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission & Commander Southern Theater Command. COAS will also join PM for meeting with Chinese PM and President,” the ISPR tweeted.
Their visits came ahead of Xi’s planned visit to India.
“China and Pakistan are all weather strategic cooperation partners. We have good tradition of close exchange and communication. We have strategic mutual trust and advancing practical cooperation. Our cooperation in CPEC is bringing more outcomes to our peoples,” he said.
Geng, however, did not respond to question about Gen Bajwa’s visit.
IMRAN IN BEIJING
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has arrived here on Tuesday on a two-day visit to China during which he will hold talks with the top Chinese leadership, including President Xi Jinping, and discuss issues of regional and bilateral significance.
Prime Minister Khan was received by Chinese Minister for Culture Luo Shugang, Ambassador of China to Pakistan Yao Jing and the Pakistan officials, Pakistan’s state-run APP news agency reported.
Khan will reportedly meet the country’s top leadership, including President Xi, and discuss issues of regional and bilateral significance.
Khan’s visit to China, third since he took over as Prime Minister in August last year, acquires significance as it comes days ahead of President Xi’s planned high-profile visit to India to take part in the 2nd informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Mamallapuram near Chennai this week.
However, there has been no official announcement here yet on Xi’s visit to India.
Khan will have separate meetings with President Xi and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to discuss issues of regional and bilateral significance, an earlier APP report said.
Khan’s visit takes place at a time when tensions have spiked between Pakistan and India after New Delhi ended the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5.
Beijing, the all-weather ally of Islamabad, has backed Pakistan over the Kashmir issue, with its Foreign Minister Wang Yi saying, “no actions that would unilaterally change the status quo should be taken”.
Khan will also discuss expansion of projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework besides cooperation in agriculture, industrial and socioeconomic sectors, the report said.
Khan is also expected to attend the China-Pakistan Business Forum in Beijing on Tuesday.
Earlier, the media reports said Khan would hold talks with the top Chinese leadership to revive the stalled USD 60 billion CPEC projects.
The CPEC was launched in 2015 and several projects under the first phase are close to completion. But the progress on next phase projects has slowed since Prime Minister Khan came to power last year.
Khan while chairing a meeting on the economic corridor on Wednesday said removal of all bottlenecks in the CPEC projects and their timely completion was the top priority of the government, the Dawn newspaper reported.
He said he would visit China and meet its leadership to strengthen friendship between the two countries.
The Pakistan daily reported that most of the CPEC-related projects have been stalled due to certain reasons, including prevailing financial crunch confronting the government and non-cooperation of the bureaucracy due to fear of the National Accountability Bureau’, the anti-corruption watchdog.
The CPEC is the flagship project of President Xi’s pet multi-billion Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The CPEC has also become a major irritant in India-China relations with New Delhi voicing its opposition to the infrastructure project as it traverses through Pakistan-administered-Kashmir (PaK).