China on Monday sought to delink the contentious economic corridor it’s building through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir from Sino-India ties, saying recent meetings between the leaders of the two sides have given the relationship “fresh impetus”.
“We are neighbours, we are partners. Historically we were together and in the future, I never believe that anybody can separate India and China,” Zhang Jun, assistant minister of foreign affairs, said while describing ties between New Delhi and Beijing.
Zhang was among senior leaders who addressed the media on five years of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Xi’s ambitious multi-billion dollar connectivity project.
India hasn’t joined the BRI as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), one of its flagship projects, passes through PoK. The project became another irritant between the two countries since it was unveiled in 2013.
“China has repeatedly stated the CPEC is an economic initiative. Implementing CPEC does not jeopardise China’s position on Kashmir,” he said.
Zhang referred to three meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping since April in the context of improved bilateral relations.
On April 28, Modi and Xi met for an informal summit in the central Chinese city of Wuhan to formulate what is now known as the “Wuhan consensus”, an understanding to focus more on convergences than differences.
“Under the leadership (of Modi and Xi), China and India have exhibited a very good momentum of growth, a new phase of development (in ties),” he said.
“We can all recall, since April…since Wuhan, (the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in) Qingdao and (the BRICS Summit in) Johannesburg, there have been three important meetings. They have reached important understandings,” he said, when asked about India’s sovereignty concerns over CPEC.
“There is a fresh impetus in bilateral ties,” Zhang added.
Zhang contended India and China were natural partners in the ancient silk route “as well as the BRI”.
CPEC, however, is fast becoming a reality.
Despite the current “fresh impetus” in China-India ties, Ning Jizhe, vice-chairman of the National Development Reform Commission (NDRC), said at the same interaction that CPEC is progressing smoothly, with several projects already functional.
CPEC has the support of the people of Pakistan, Ning said, quoting the country’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Separately, the foreign ministry said on Monday the participation of the militaries of India and Pakistan at a multilateral exercise on the SCO platform in Russia is crucial to peace in the region.
“We welcome India and Pakistan’s joint participation in this counter-terrorism exercise under the SCO framework. These two countries are important ones in South Asia. Their relations’ stability is significant to the peace and development of the region and the whole world,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing.
“We sincerely hope they could enhance their dialogue and cooperation, both bilaterally and within multilateral mechanisms like the SCO, work together to improve their ties and jointly maintain regional peace and stability,” she added.