China on Monday defended its ambitious US $46 billion CPEC project, saying President Xi Jinping’s pet initiative was aimed at improving livelihood of people in the area and will not affect Beijing’s stand on the Kashmir issue.
Reacting guardedly to a motion tabled in the UK parliament condemning Pakistan’s “arbitrary” move to declare the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region as its fifth province, China said its position on the issue of Kashmir is consistent.
The motion introduced by Conservative MP Bob Blackman, who regularly speaks out in support of the rights of Kashmiri Hindus in the House of Commons, said that Gilgit-Baltistan has been illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947 and the country is attempting to annex the already disputed area.
Commenting on the motion, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it was a motion moved by a member and not a resolution.
Skirting any references to Pakistan’s move to merge Gilgit-Baltistan, the spokesperson’s office said there is no change in China’s stand on the Kashmir issue as result of the CPEC project.
Pakistan media reports had said the move to incorporate Gilgit-Baltistan as new province after seven decades of independence followed pressure from China over the disputed status of the two areas which formed part of the CPEC.
“China’s position on the issue of Kashmir is consistent. It is an issue between India and Pakistan left over from history and it should be properly handled by them through dialogue and consultation,” the ministry said in written response to a PTI query about the motion.
The motion further said that the attempts to “change the demography of the region in violation of State Subject Ordinance and forcibly and illegally to build the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which further aggravates and interferes with the disputed territory.”
Delinking CPEC from the Kashmir issue, the Ministry said, “it is a cooperation framework set up by China and Pakistan with eyes on long-term development of all round cooperation, with a purpose to improve local infrastructure, livelihood and promote local economic and social development.”
“The building of the CPEC will not affect China’s position on the Kashmir issue,” it added.