The Indo-Pak tensions following the Pulwama terror attack became the focal point of the first strategic dialogue between the foreign ministers of Pakistan and China as Beijing urged the global community to take a “fair perspective” of Islamabad’s commitment to fight terrorism.
Pakistan is facing intense international pressure to rein in the terror groups operating from its soil in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack by a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) suicide bomber on February 14 that killed 40 CRPF soldiers. JeM is one of the terror groups operating from Pakistan.
The meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi came days after Beijing foiled for the fourth time the efforts to designate JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN Security Council.
Heaping praise on Pakistan’s counter terrorism efforts, Wang said, “China commends Pakistan’s recent strong counter terrorism measures taken at home. We fully support Pakistan in carrying out its counter terrorism campaign.” “We also discussed the situation emerging out of the Pulwama incident,” Qureshi said during a joint press conference where both sides took two selective questions.
References to the involvement of JeM in the Pulwama attack as well as China blocking the US, UK and France proposal to list Azhar as global terrorist by the UNSC were conspicuously absent in their press interaction. “As Wang was suggesting both sides have to show restraint. I think the world has noted that Pakistan did exercise restraint and responsibility,” Qureshi said.
He also said Pakistan is always ready for an engagement to “resolve all our outstanding issues.” “We did discuss the impact this (Pulwama) incident had on Pakistan-India relations and the impact this could have risen to different level of escalation and impact it could have had on the peace and stability of the region,” he said. “I briefed Wang about steps Pakistan had taken to safeguard our territorial integrity and the steps we had taken to de-escalate (tensions with India). Pakistan appreciates the role China had played once again in standing by Pakistan in these difficult times,” he said.
Qureshi also raked up the Kashmir issue at the press conference saying that he also briefed Wang “on the rapidly deteriorating situation” in Kashmir. He said the reaction at times creates tension in the region and it must be avoided. In his comments, Wang said China and Pakistan have agreed to step up counter terrorism cooperation. “We call on the international community to adopt a fair perspective of the commitments made by Pakistan to combat terrorism over the years. We think a peaceful and stable South Asia is in the common interest of the regional countries and meets the expectations of the world and China,” he said. “China commends efforts made by Pakistan to ease the situation. We call on both Pakistan and India to exercise restraint and peacefully resolve their differences through dialogue. The purpose UN charter and norms of the international law must be observed in earnest,” he said.
Tensions between India and Pakistan flared up after the Pulwama attack. Amid mounting outrage, the Indian Air Force carried out a counter-terror operation, hitting what it said was a JeM training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26. The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, who was handed over to India later.
China early this month rushed its Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou to Pakistan to discuss the Indo-Pak tensions, as it called for the creation of an “enabling atmosphere” for its close ally Pakistan to cooperate with “other parties”.