‘China Helped Defuse Indo-Pak Tensions Post-Pulwama Attack’

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BEIJING - China had supported the efforts of India and Pakistan to defuse tensions and manage their differences through dialogue following the deadly Pulwama attack, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, highlighting behind-the-scenes role played by Beijing.

After the attack carried out by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad in February that killed 40 CRPF personnel, India carried out air strikes against the biggest training camp of the militant group in Balakot in Pakistan.

The air strike was followed by an aerial combat between air forces of the two countries on February 27 when Pakistan jets entered India. While chasing Pakistani jet an Indian Air Force jet crashed in Pakistan administered Kashmir following which its injured pilot was captured. Pakistan quickly announced to release the Indian pilot, who was subsequently handed over to India.

At the height of the Indo-Pak tensions, China sent its Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou to Pakistan to counsel restraint from Islamabad.

In an interview to the ruling Chinese Communist Party's official newspaper, the People's Daily, about China's diplomatic achievements in 2019, Wang mentioned post-Pulwama tensions and Beijing's attempts to bring peace between India and Pakistan.

"During the India-Pakistan conflict, China supported the efforts of the two sides to defuse tensions and manage differences through dialogue," Wang said, without directly referring to the Pulwama attack and the aftermath.

The transcript of his interview was circulated to media on Tuesday by the Chinese Foreign Ministry here.

Also, Wang mentioned the 2nd informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in October at the top of highlights of the Chinese diplomacy in the neighbourhood, saying the meeting helped the two sides to charter the course for the steady growth of their ties.

"There are many highlights in China's neighbourhood diplomacy this year," he said.

"First, we have improved and developed relations with our neighbours in an all-round way. President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a successful second summit in Chennai and charted the course for the steady growth of China-India relations," he said.

Earlier at a symposium on China's diplomacy in 2019 held here on December 13, Wang said the Chennai summit had set the tone for a steady and sound development of ties between India and China.

Over the past year, China has comprehensively strengthened relations with neighbouring countries and made positive contributions, promoting regional stability and development, Wang said, while highlighting China's diplomatic outreach in the neighbourhood.

President Xi and Prime Minister Modi held around five-and-half hours of one-on-one talks spread over two days as part of the second informal summit in Chennai.

"The two leaders had a long-term and in-depth strategic communication. They decided to deepen pragmatic cooperation in various fields, promote exchanges and mutual learning between civilisations, and maintain a stable Sino-Indian relationship," he said.

The two leaders held the first informal summit at Wuhan last year followed up with the one at Chennai this year. They have agreed to hold their third meeting in China next year.

At the Chennai summit the two leaders agreed to establish a High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue mechanism with the objective of achieving enhanced trade and commercial relations, especially to address India's trade deficit with China which last year mounted to over USD 57 billion in USD 95.5 billion total trade between the two countries.

They also decided to celebrate 2020 as 'Year of India-China Cultural and People-to-People Exchanges' and hold 70 activities to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of India-China relations.

The Chennai summit "set the tone for the steady and sound development of China-India relations and opened up new prospects for the mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries," Wang said in his address.

In his interview to the People's Daily, Wang said China has improved its diplomatic outreach in the neighbourhood.

"On Afghanistan, as part of its shuttle diplomacy, China has facilitated the intra-Afghan dialogue and the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan and the China-Russia-US consultation, and hosted the first China-Russia-US-Pakistan four-party meeting," he said.

"China has served as a mediator between Myanmar and Bangladesh to encourage a negotiated solution to their outstanding issues," he said, referring to the differences between the two countries over the Rohingya refugees.

Wang also spoke about improvement of relations between China and Japan, which in the recent past were affected by tensions over the disputed islands in the East China Sea.

"China and Japan reached a 10-point consensus on improving and growing bilateral ties, giving the relationship a strong momentum to return to the right track," he said.

China-ASEAN (Association of SouthEast Asian Nations) also progressed over the disputed South China Sea. China claims almost all of the South China Sea. Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims.

"China-ASEAN relations have entered a new stage of all-round development, as evidenced by the important progress made in the consultation on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and greater stability in the region," Wang said.

India, Pak Enmity Affecting SAARC Prosperity: Bangladesh FM

Enmity between India and Pakistan is one of the main reasons why SAARC is not prospering, Bangladesh Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen has said, while expressing optimism about other regional initiatives such as the BIMSTEC and the BBIN.

His remarks comes following India and Pakistan blaming each other over the lack of cooperation and coordination among the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member states earlier this month.

Momen, while interacting with a group of foreign journalists at the closing ceremony of 'Visit Nepal-Bangladesh Programme-2019' hosted by the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry here, said the prosperity of the SAARC was being obstructed by the enmity between India and Pakistan.

"You know why SAARC is not prospering, one main reason is the enmity between India and Pakistan, but BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal) and BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) should do better. We have to work harder and in that process things should work better," he said.

Momen also emphasised that Bangladesh's ties with its neighbours such as Nepal and Bhutan were also on an upswing. He said, nowadays, whenever Bangladesh talks to India, Nepal and Bhutan issues are also discussed.

His remarks on SAARC comes weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India's efforts for greater collaboration among the SAARC countries have repeatedly been challenged with threats and acts of terrorism.

In a letter to the SAARC secretariat to mark the founding day of the eight-member bloc, the prime minister said all countries in the region should take effective steps to defeat the scourge of terrorism and the forces which support it, an oblique reference to Pakistan.

Such efforts, he said, would generate greater trust and confidence to build a stronger SAARC.

In the last three years, India has been distancing itself from the SAARC, citing security challenge facing the region from terror networks based in Pakistan, which is also a member of the grouping.

On his part, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his message on the 35th SAARC Charter Day on December 8, expressed the hope that the hiatus created in SAARC's continuous progression would be removed.

A few days later, Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Mohammad Faisal said all South Asian countries except one want to hold the SAARC summit, which was called off in 2016, at the earliest, an apparent reference to India.

The last SAARC Summit in 2014 was held in Kathmandu, which was attended by Modi.

The 2016 SAARC summit was to be held in Islamabad. But after the terrorist attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on September 18 that year, India expressed its inability to participate in the summit due to "prevailing circumstances".

The summit was called off after Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also declined to participate in the Islamabad meet.

SAARC summits are usually held biennially and hosted by member states in alphabetical order. The member state hosting the summit assumes the Chair of the Association.

On December 8, 1985 at the first SAARC Summit in Dhaka, the leaders of the seven South Asian states - the Maldives, India, Bhutan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka - signed a charter to establish the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Afghanistan became the eight SAARC member in 2007.


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