China on Friday called upon India and Pakistan to look ahead and turn the current dip in their ties into an opportunity to “fundamentally” improve their relationship through dialogue.
Addressing an annual press conference on the sidelines of the session of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s parliament, State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi, for the first time affirmed that China was engaged in “mediation efforts” to ease tensions between India and Pakistan, following the February 14 terror attack in Pulwama, Kashmir, which killed more than 40 CRPF personnel.
Mr. Wang’s remarks follow the visit to Pakistan by Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kong Xuanyou amid speculation that the senior Chinese diplomat also intends to visit India.
In a conversation with The Hindu, Liu Zongyi, senior fellow of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said: “This is the second time that a Chinese vice foreign minister is being sent to Pakistan and India-the first was during the 1999 Kargil war.” China, he asserted, would like to keep peace and stability in its periphery regions, including South Asia.
In response to a question, Mr. Wang reiterated China’s advocacy for a dialogue between India and Pakistan which, he said, should be guided by a long-term vision of the two countries for a turnaround in their ties.
He said, “China also hopes that Pakistan and India will transform the crisis into an opportunity and meet each other half-way. We advise both parties to quickly turn this page and seek a fundamental improvement in their relations. When confrontation gives way to dialogue and disagreements settled by goodwill, they can create better future through cooperation.”
Mr. Wang reiterated that Beijing’s recent high-profile activism in the India-Pakistan equation was based on the principle of maintaining the status quo, fact-finding process and dialogue.
“China has stressed from the beginning the need to exercise calm and restraint, prevent an escalation, find out what has happened, and resolve the matter through dialogue. In the meantime, the countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity should be dutifully respected,” he said.
Mr. Wang asserted that “China has followed these principles in its mediation efforts, and played a constructive role in defusing tensions.” He also lauded indications from Pakistan and India “in the last couple of days” to “de-escalate the situation and start talks”.
Analysts however, point out that China appears to have sidestepped New Delhi’s call that it was ready for talks, provided Pakistan took visible and verifiable steps to crack down on terror groups on its soil such as the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba that target India.
China hoped that as part of a millennia-old civilization in South Asia, Pakistan and India “will get along with each other and progress together,” Mr. Wang said.
Xi-Modi Wuhan summit
“2018 was a year of great significance in China-India relations,” he said and termed the Wuhan summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in last April a “historic” event. “It not just deepened the friendship and trust between our leaders, but also set the direction of our future relations”.
He added that “collectively,” India and China “must make our due contribution to Asia’s revitalisation and prosperity.”
Mr. Wang hoped that “friendship and cooperation” between India and China, “will surge ahead like the Yangtze and the Ganges, giving strong and sustained impetus to our relationship”.