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No shift in Kashmir policy, says China but doubts remain after state media article

india Updated: May 11, 2017 15:19 IST

Beijing The Chinese government on Wednesday said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) does not affect Beijing’s stance on the Kashmir issue and it was up to New Delhi and Islamabad to settle it through dialogue and negotiation.

Beijing, however, was willing to make “constructive efforts” to improve relations between the two countries, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“China’s position on the issue of Kashmir is clear and consistent. It is an issue left over from history between India and Pakistan, and shall be properly addressed by India and Pakistan through consultation and negotiation,” it said.

The statement comes in the wake of a state media article that indicated that China was getting ready to mediate on the Kashmir issue to protect its increasing financial investment in the CPEC, a cluster of energy and infrastructure projects and road networks connecting China’s Kashgar in northwest Xinjiang to Pakistan’s Gwadar port city.

“Given the massive investment that China has made in countries along the One Belt, One Road, China now has a vested interest in helping resolve regional conflicts including the dispute over Kashmir between India and Pakistan,” the article in Global Times said.

But the Chinese foreign ministry sought to sidestep the article in the tabloid affiliated to the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China.

“The building of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor does not affect China’s position on this issue,” the statement said.

“We sincerely hope that India and Pakistan will properly handle differences by increasing communication and dialogue, and jointly uphold regional peace and stability. China is willing to make constructive efforts for the improvement of India-Pakistan relations,” it said.

It was a reiteration of what foreign minister Wang Yi had said at a press conference on the upcoming Belt and Road Initiative forum, to be h eld in Beijing later this month.

“It (CPEC) is for the purpose of serving economic cooperation and development. It has no direct link with political and boundary dispute. Certain sections of the CPEC have raised concern on the Indian side,” Wang had said.

“As for the dispute of Kashmir, China’s position remained unchanged. Also, CPEC has no relationship with the dispute in certain regions. I want to reaffirm to the Indian friend if India wants to take part in the One Belt, One Road, there are many channels and ways,” Wang said.

But the Global Times article, given it came out in a state-controlled newspaper, does possibly give an indication about a long-term strategy of the CPC.

“For instance, while China has the capability to resolve conflicts through mediation given its increased economic influence, the nation needs to be very prudent in dealing with other big powers, India included, in the region,” it said.

“In fact, mediating between India and Pakistan over Kashmir issue would perhaps be one of the toughest challenges facing China in dealing with regional affairs to safeguard its overseas interests.”

First Published: May 11, 2017 15:19 IST