China on Monday said it would discuss the deterioration in ties between New Delhi and Islamabad with the visiting foreign minister of Pakistan, as part of a broader diplomatic push to ease tensions in South Asia.
In response to a question on whether the fall-out of the Pulwama terror attack on February 14 would be discussed, in view Beijing’s stated intent to mediate between India and Pakistan, during the on-going visit of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said that Islamabad had sent its top diplomat for the first foreign ministerial “strategic dialogue” that begins on Tuesday.
“As I said, tomorrow, March 19, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Want Yi, will have the first China-Pakistan foreign ministers strategic dialogue with the Pakistan foreign minister in Beijing to discuss regional and international issues of mutual concern. As you said, I believe issues causing regional tensions will be discussed.”
Mr. Geng said that China would continue to remain engaged in defusing India-Pakistan tensions, despite its “technical hold” on designating Masood Azhar as an international terrorist at the 1267 committee of the UN Security Council (UNSC) last week.
Mr. Geng reiterated that Beijing would remain in “close communication” with India and Pakistan regarding listing Azhar, head of the Pakistan based terror group JeM as an international terrorist at the UNSC. “China will continue to deal with this issue in a responsible and constructive manner and will maintain close communication with all parties, including India and Pakistan,” he observed.
Last week China has made it plain that it would consider shifting its position on designating the head of JeM as an international terrorist only after reaching a trilateral consensus involving Beijing, New Delhi and Islamabad.
“I said earlier that only a solution that is acceptable to all sides could be fundamentally providing a chance of lasting solution to the issue,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson had said on March 14.
The spokesperson had added that there would be no lag in its diplomatic activism to get all the three countries on board. “China is ready to communicate and coordinate with all sides including India to properly handle this issue”.
Earlier on March 8, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi had asserted that Beijing intended to engage in “mediation efforts” to lower tensions between India and Pakistan, following the Pulwama attack, which had triggered Indian air strikes against a Pakistan-based JeM training camp on February 26.
The foreign ministry on Monday said that China and India maintained communication “at various levels”, but declined to confirm whether any high level visit to New Delhi of a Chinese official was planned.
As India-Pakistan escalated last month, Chinese vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou had visited Pakistan.
Mr. Geng said that its focus on “stability of the region” was driving Chinese activism in the subcontinent. He pointed out that as a neighbouring country “China would like to see the easing of tensions between the two countries (India and Pakistan); will like to see the two countries to continue to engage in dialogue, for the peace and stability of the region”.
The Chinese foreign ministry also welcomed discussions between New Delhi and Islamabad on the opening of the visa- free Kartarpur corridor between India and Pakistan.
“Indian and Pakistan are neighbours and they will always live with each other. A harmonious relation serves the fundamental interests of both and the common aspirations of the international community, Mr. Geng said.
He added: “We hope that two sides can continue to show goodwill, meet each other halfway, resolve differences through dialogue and improve relations and uphold regional peace and stability.”