China on Monday praised Pakistan and its spy agency the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for their fight against terrorism, all but absolving them of involvement in the recent attack on the Indian consulate in Herat in Afghanistan.
The powerful ISI has long been accused by the Indian government of funding and planning terror attacks in India.
But for the new Chinese special envoy to Afghanistan, Sun Yuxi – who has served in New Delhi, Islamabad and Kabul as ambassador – that's probably not true.
"I think as an agency for the government and the military for Pakistan, ISI has been effective in fighting against terrorism. As for specific case, I have not been following regional developments for some time but I do believe that Pakistan government or any responsible agency of Pakistan will only fight against terrorism instead of being involved with any terrorist," Sun told a special briefing, a day before flying to Kabul on Tuesday for his first series of meetings as the special envoy.
Sun was answering a question on whether the ISI was behind the May 23 attack on the Indian consulate in Heart when four heavily armed militants had attacked the Indian establishment.
During his visit to New Delhi for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's swearing ceremony, Afghan President Hamid Karzai had said that Pakistan-based group, LeT was behind the Herat.
China, which considers Pakistan as its "all-weather friend", has traditionally backed Islamabad strongly against accusations that terror groups from within the country operate with impunity.
"I want to emphasise that terrorism is an international scourge and all governments should shoulder responsibility and fight terrorism. The Pakistani government has done a lot of positive contribution in the fight against terrorism. I believe that in the future, the Pakistan government will also play an important and positive role in the peaceful reconstruction of Afghanistan and fight terrorism together with the international community," Sun said.
Talking about the terror threats in China, Sun said the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) was the "most direct realistic terrorist threat facing China".
Members of the shadowy ETIM are said to be active in the restive Xinjiang, bordering Afghanistan in China's northwest, though rights groups say Beijing exaggerates the threat to push through its hardline policies in the remote region.
"The ETIM has received terrorist training from Al Qaeda and has been identified by the UN as a terrorist organisation. So the fight against ETIM is also an integral part of fight against terrorism. In the past, in the fight against ETIM china has cooperated with Afghanistan. In the future we hope to work to all sides including Afghanistan to strike a more heavy blow on ETIM to eradicate this terror," Sun said.
On Afghanistan's future after the withdrawal of US forces, Sun said he was optimistic.
"I am optimistic about the future trajectory of Afghanistan. Fact that US and NATO forces are winding down troops this year speaks partly to relative stability of Afghanistan. As for immediate task and most important task is to achieve reconciliation for all parties and sectors. Only nationwide reconciliation is an effective measure for long term stability. And only when this is achieved will Afghanistan not go to war anymore," Sun said.