China’s President Xi Jinping expressed hope during a meeting with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan Sunday that Pakistan and India can meet each other halfway and promote stabilisation and improvement of their ties.
Xi’s remarks come months after India carried out airstrikes in Pakistan’s Balakot following a Jaish-e-Mohammad suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama on February 14 in which 40 personnel were killed.
“The two sides also exchanged views on the situation in South Asia. Xi expressed hope that Pakistan and India can meet each other halfway and promote stabilisation and improvement of Pakistan-India relations,” an official statement from the Chinese side read. China said it takes Pakistan as priority in its diplomacy and reiterated its firm support to Pakistan in “safeguarding its sovereignty and national dignity”.
“Pakistan is China’s all-weather strategic cooperative partner. China and Pakistan are ‘iron friends’ and have always firmly supported each other on issues concerning each other’s core interest,” Xi said in a statement. Khan arrived in Beijing on April 25 to attend the Second Belt and Road Forum held between April 25-27.
Following the Pulwama attacks, China had sent Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou to visit Pakistan in March in a bid to ease tensions between the two neighbours. Khan’s visit and meeting with Xi also follows China’s move to put a technical hold on a resolution in the United Nations 1267 counter terrorism committee to declare JeM Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. It is unclear whether Azhar was part of the discussions between the two sides.
“No matter how international and regional situations change, China firmly supports Pakistan in safeguarding its sovereignty and national dignity, choosing its own development path suited to its national conditions, combating terrorist and extremist forces, striving for a sound external security environment, and playing a constructive role in international and regional affairs,” Xi said in a statement. He also said that major progress has been made in bilateral cooperation in the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, finance, trade, and other aspects.
Addressing the Pakistan and China Investment Forum in Beijing Sunday, Khan expressed hope that relations between the two neighbours will improve after the Indian general elections. “We want to build a civilised relationship with our eastern neighbour and there is a possibility that if we can resolve the Kashmir issue through dialogue, things can improve,” he was quoted by state-run Radio Pakistan as saying.
Pakistan is willing to consolidate its traditional friendship with China, deepen pragmatic cooperation, and enhance communication and coordination with China in multilateral affairs, said Prime Minister Khan.
Prior to meeting Xi, Khan met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during which the two sides signed a number of agreements including upgradation of a Karachi-Peshawar railway line and the launching of the second phase of the Free Trade Agreement. The agreements were stated to be part of the next phase of the CPEC.
The two sides also signed an agreement to establish a dry port at Havelian city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, located in the Karakoram highway connecting China and Pakistan. The other agreements signed included MoUs in the field of marine sciences, and on implementation of projects under the joint working group of the CPEC on socioeconomic development.