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Pakistan thanks China for 'support on Kashmir issue'

October 9, 2019

The dispute over India's move to scrap Kashmir's special status and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor were the main topics of discussion between two leaders. China's president is expected to travel to New Delhi soon.

Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on October 9, 2019
Image: picture-alliance/AA/Pakistan Prime Ministry Office

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Wednesday.

According to a statement released by Khan's office in Islamabad, the Pakistani leader thanked Xi and the Chinese government for their "support on the Kashmir issue," and for China's financial support to Pakistan in difficult times.

"We will never forget China's financial cooperation in this regard," Khan was quoted as saying by Radio Pakistan, adding that China helped Pakistan come out of a difficult economic situation.

The Pakistani leader also appreciated the Chinese support under the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Read more: Pakistan's Imran Khan in China to talk Kashmir, economic ties

According to Xinhua news agency, Chinese President Xi told Khan that he was watching the situation in Kashmir and would "support Pakistan in issues related to its core interests."

Xi, however, added that the parties [India and Pakistan] should resolve the dispute through peaceful dialogue.

Kashmir conflict

Kashmir has been in a state of lockdown since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi abrogated its special status on August 5.

India's moves have strained ties with Pakistan, which also claims sovereignty over the region.

Karte Grenzgebiete Kaschmir EN

Pakistan and India both rule part of the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir but claim it in full. The restive region is a flashpoint between the nuclear-armed archrivals. China, too, has some territorial claims in the area.

China is a close ally of Pakistan, with Islamabad heavily dependent on Beijing's strategic and economic support.

Beijing is opposed to New Delhi's Kashmir move, especially its decision to carve the Ladakh region out of Jammu and Kashmir state and administer it federally. A Chinese government spokesperson called the move "unacceptable" and said that China would help Pakistan defend "its legitimate rights and interests" in the Kashmir region.

China claims about 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 square miles) in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, referred to informally by some Chinese as "Southern Tibet." India, on the other hand, claims sovereignty over 38,000 square kilometers (15,000 square miles) of the Aksai Chin plateau.

Read more: How far will China go to support Pakistan's position on Kashmir?

Narayani Basu, a New Delhi-based author and foreign policy expert, believes that the Kashmir crisis won't have a huge impact on Sino-India relations. "China, at the moment, is dealing with a number of domestic and global issues, so it cannot solely focus on Kashmir," Basu told DW, referring to Beijing's woes in Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as its ongoing trade conflict with the United States.

"There will be diplomatic posturing from both sides, but any major fallout is unlikely," Basu added.

This situation only makes things more difficult for Pakistan, which has so far not received the kind of Chinese backing over Kashmir that it has been looking for, experts say.

Pakistani authorities say they are satisfied with Beijing's support on the Kashmir issue.

Read more: India welcomes tourists back to Kashmir amid protests

Kashmir health care in chaos

Xi's upcoming India visit

Indian Prime Minister Modi will host Chinese President Xi for an informal on October 11-12, according to the Indian Foreign Ministry.

"The forthcoming Chennai Informal Summit will provide an opportunity for the two leaders to continue their discussions on overarching issues of bilateral, regional and global importance and to exchange views on deepening India-China Closer Development Partnership," the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The second informal meeting as such is significant given these ominous signals at bilateral, regional and global levels," Srikanth Kondapalli, professor of Chinese studies at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, told Reuters news agency.

"Stabilizing relations is important as both are seized with a number of issues — domestic as well as regional," he said.

Ahead of Xi's trip, Indian media is claiming that the Chinese leader will not raise the issue of Kashmir during his meeting with PM Modi, and the discussion will focus on enhancing bilateral trade and boosting economic cooperation.

Analyst Basu believes that the China-India ties are unlikely to be derailed in the aftermath of Modi's Kashmir move. "Both Indian PM Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping have shown the maturity to compartmentalize their relationship in a way that disputes do not overshadow areas of cooperation. Hence, while there will be diplomatic posturing, nobody should expect more than that," he underlined.

But some analysts say that China could use the Kashmir issue to pressure India on economic and trade issues.

Pakistani ambassador on Kashmir

Shoring up economic ties

Prime Minister Khan's office also said Wednesday that Pakistan and China agreed to increase bilateral trade under the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Khan also discussed the $60 billion (€55 billion) China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with Xi.

CPEC is part of China's intercontinental Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which envisions rebuilding the old Silk Road to connect China and Asia, Europe and beyond with massive infrastructure spending largely financed by China. Beijing also hopes BRI will help expand its clout over Pakistan and across Central and South Asia, as well as counter US influence in the region.

Some media reports say the CPEC projects have slowed since Prime Minister Khan came to power in Pakistan in August 2018.

One of the reasons behind Khan's third China visit in a year was also to allay Chinese concerns over a perceived lack of progress on the initiative, experts say.

But Khusro Bakhtiar, Pakistan's minister for development and planning, denied reports on Sunday that there has been any slowdown in CPEC projects. "[There's] a narrative being built up that they have become slow; I reject it, it's totally wrong," he said.

Khan's visit comes just days before the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global money-laundering watchdog, is due to decide whether Pakistan's efforts to clamp down on terror financing are sufficient for it to avoid being put on a "blacklist."

Khan is counting on China's support in the FATF Paris consultation that begins on October 13.

Read more: Global terror watchlist: Will Pakistan change its Afghanistan policy?

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