China on Sunday pledged closer cooperation with Pakistan under the USD 60 billion CPEC investment programme and called for resolving the Kashmir issue properly and peacefully while opposing any “unilateral actions” that could complicate the situation as Prime Minister Imran Khan held talks with the top Chinese leadership, including President Xi Jinping.
Khan called on President Xi on the last day of his four-day visit to China to discuss a host of issues including the slow pace of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and increasing concerns of Beijing over recurring attacks on Chinese personnel working in its various projects in Pakistan.
In his meeting with Khan, Xi said China firmly supports Pakistan in safeguarding national independence, sovereignty, dignity and fighting terrorism, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
He said China is willing to join hands with Pakistan to push forward the in-depth development of the CPEC and ensure the implementation of key projects.
“Both sides reiterated that a peaceful and prosperous South Asia is in the common interest of all parties,” said a joint statement issued at the end of Khan’s visit to China to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
“They emphasised the importance of pursuit of dialogue and resolution of all outstanding disputes to promote regional cooperation and advance the goals of lasting peace, stability and shared prosperity in the region,” it said.
“The Pakistan side briefed the Chinese side on the latest developments on the situation in Jammu & Kashmir, including its concerns, position and pressing issues at the moment. The Chinese side reiterated that the Kashmir issue was a dispute left from history, and should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter, relevant Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements. China opposes any unilateral actions that complicate the situation,” it said.
In the past, India strongly rejected references made to Jammu and Kashmir in a previous joint statement by Pakistan and China and asserted that the union territory as well as Ladakh have been and will remain its integral and inalienable part.
In July 2021, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had objected to reference made to the so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in a statement by the two countries, saying it is in Indian territory that has been illegally occupied by Pakistan.
“As in the past, India categorically rejects any reference to Jammu and Kashmir. The union territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the union territory of Ladakh has been and will remain an integral and inalienable part of India,” Mr Bagchi had said.
The spokesperson had said that India has consistently conveyed to both China and Pakistan that the so-called CPEC is in India’s territory.
“We resolutely oppose any attempts by other countries to change the status quo in areas illegally occupied by Pakistan as also to Pakistan bringing up any material change in Indian territories under its illegal occupation. We call upon parties concerned to cease such actions,” he said.
The China-Pakistan joint statement also said that China recognised Pakistan’s sacrifices and efforts in the fight against terrorism adding that both sides reaffirmed their commitment to fighting terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
It said, “both sides agreed to continue the momentum in defence cooperation at various levels between the armed forces of Pakistan and China”.
China has emerged as Pakistan’s biggest supplier of weapons including battle tanks, fighter aircraft and latest naval frigates.
“They underscored that stronger defence and security cooperation between Pakistan and China was an important factor of peace and stability in the region,” it said.
In his meeting with Khan, Xi while calling for “firmer confidence” between China and Pakistan relations said that “strategic significance” of all-weather ties are “getting more prominent” as two countries signed several agreements to firm up all-weather ties.
The joint statement said “both sides expressed their strong determination to safeguard CPEC from all threats and negative propaganda”.
Pakistan reaffirmed its commitment to making all-out efforts for the security of all Chinese personnel, projects and institutions in Pakistan and the Chinese side expressed its appreciation for the measures taken by Pakistan.
China has repeatedly called on Pakistan to step up security for thousands of its personnel working in the CPEC in view of several attacks on them.
Khan praised the Chinese leadership for hosting the Winter Olympics which was diplomatically boycotted by the US and its allies over human rights violations against Uygur Muslims in Xinjiang.
Coinciding with his visit, the two sides signed a host of MoUs, covering bilateral cooperation in areas of economic and technical, industry, investment, infrastructure, space, vaccine, digitalisation, standardisation, disaster management, culture, sports and vocational education, the joint statement said.
Prominent of these agreements whose details are not revealed was the new Framework Agreement on Industrial Cooperation to begin the construction of the 2nd phase of the CPEC in which China has so far invested about USD 25 billion, according to its envoy to Islamabad, Nong Rong.
In his meeting with Khan, Xi called on the two sides to “create better future for bilateral relations with firmer confidence”, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. He did not elaborate.
The joint statement said “the two sides are ready to discuss with Afghanistan the extension of the CPEC to Afghanistan”.
Xi expressed China’s willingness to work with Pakistan to expand cooperation in the fields such as science and technology, agriculture and people’s wellbeing, build a green, healthy and digital corridor, and support Pakistan’s industrialization to enhance its sustainable development capability.
Xi said that China is willing to strengthen coordination and cooperation with Pakistan on multilateral platforms including the United Nations, to safeguard world and regional peace and stability.
On Saturday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in his meeting with Khan said Pakistan is China’s priority in neighbourhood diplomacy and encourages its business enterprises to invest.
Pakistan is willing to take active steps to promote the construction of the second phase of CPEC, and strengthen cooperation with China in the fields of industry, agriculture and information technology, said Khan.