The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which passes through Pakistan occupied Kashmir, is not designed to target India or take Pakistan’s side on the Kashmir dispute, Beijing has said.
But the project is certainly a platform to further strengthen China-Pak cooperation, the Chinese government said.
It described Kashmir dispute as a “historical problem” that should be resolved through dialogue, indicating that Beijing was unlikely to take a side in the issue.
“The sovereignty of the Kashmir region has been a historical problem between India and Pakistan and should be appropriately settled through bilateral talks and negotiations,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Hindustan Times in a written statement.
Referring to the CPEC, linked inseparably according to India to the Kashmir issue, the MFA said: “China’s programmes in the region aim at boosting the local economy and improving the people’s well-being.”
“It neither concerns any third party nor is it attacking the position of any side on the issue,” the ministry said in response to HT’s questions on CPEC and Kashmir.
But whether India is opposed to the project or not, it said, “the CPEC has gradually stepped from primary planning to the full operational phase”.
India has repeatedly raised its concerns over the CPEC – the flagship project in President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – passing through the PoK.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the issue again with Xi during their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou in eastern China. Modi is learnt to have told Xi that terrorism is being exported to India from the same region through which the CPEC passes.
The MFA statement did not directly respond to questions on India’s concerns, but said it benefits Pakistan and the region.
“The CPEC not only carries significance for the common development of China and Pakistan, it also benefits the region and will positively contribute to the peaceful and steady development of the region. The project has been open and transparent and many countries have expressed their willingness to join in the project,” it said.
The MFA said security of the CPEC and of Chinese citizens against attacks from militant groups active in the region remains an “important requirement”.
“Security has been an important requirement for the CPEC construction. Pakistan has declared it would take necessary and efficient measures to ensure the safety of the project and the security of Chinese citizens and build a safe environment for the CPEC construction,” the statement said.
It added: “China has been paying high attention to the issue, trusting Pakistan's ability on ensuring the safety of the project and the personnel.”
Premier Li Keqiang first floated the proposal to build the CPEC during his 2013 May trip to Pakistan, after visiting India. In April 2015, the two countries signed 30 deals connected to the CPEC when Xi visited Pakistan.
The project is proceeding smoothly.
“Over the past year, a great many of important programmes have been implemented, the construction of the corridor has been in full operation through joint efforts,” the MFA said.
The ministry added that the four focus areas of the CPEC are: building energy hubs, transportation infrastructure, the Gwadar port and industrial infrastructure.
The two countries have also reached agreements on the long-term plans of the CPEC, it said.
The CPEC has been “…an important agreement between China and Pakistan as a framework and platform for the two countries to implement comprehensive and pragmatic cooperation,” it added.