China on Thursday dismissed reports that its policy towards Pakistan had changed because state media had telecast a documentary that purportedly blamed the Lashkar-e-Taiba for the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.
Dubbed in Chinese, the documentary made by the US and Britain, “Seconds from Disaster: Mumbai Massacre”, showed television footage of the attacks and the narration referred to the involvement of Pakistan-based terror groups in the coordinated assaults.
The telecast of the documentary prompted reports from Hong Kong and Beijing that China had apparently publicly acknowledged the role of Pakistan – its all-weather ally – in the attacks for the first time.
On Friday, the foreign ministry said there was no change in its policies and dismissed the reports. In a written reply to Hindustan Times, spokesperson Hong Lei said the ministry had checked and found the film was a “Chinese-dubbed American documentary”.
“What it said does not represent the position of the Chinese government. China’s position on the issue of counter-terrorism remains unchanged,” Hong said. He did not mention Pakistan in his statement but made it clear there was no connection between its policies and assertions made in the documentary.
The introduction of the documentary states: “On November 26, 2008, terrorists attack two luxury hotels (one of them the famous Taj Mahal Hotel), a Jewish educational centre, a café and a train station in Mumbai, killing 166 people. They also placed pipe bombs in two taxis, which killed the drivers whilst driving to a hotel.”
Five other episodes of the documentary series about other incidents were telecast on Chinese state television, including two on the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan and the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and oil spill.
Officially, China says it is against all forms of terrorism and will cooperate in global counter-terror efforts.
China is also Pakistan’s closest economic, strategic and military ally. The $46-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a high-profile part of President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road Initiative” connecting China’s Xinjiang to Pakistan’s Gwadar port.
China had earlier blocked India’s attempt to sanction LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, at the UN Security Council. In March, Beijing put a technical hold on New Delhi’s bid to get a UN ban on Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar, accused of masterminding the attack on Pathankot airbase.
In light of China’s consistent – and strengthening – ties with Pakistan, the telecast of a documentary on the Mumbai attacks hardly signifies a policy shift.