May 2017 News

Despite CPEC, Our Stand On Kashmir Unchanged, Says China

9 May 2017
The Hindu
Atul Aneja

Beijing: 'China Pakistan Economic Corridor is for promoting economic cooperation. It has no connections to or impact on sovereignty issues,' says Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang. China on Tuesday reiterated that its position on the Kashmir issue remained unchanged despite its 'promotion' of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as an economic undertaking. 'With regard to the CPEC, China has been stressing that it is an economic programme. China's promotion of the relevant programme does not mean that we have changed our position on the relevant issue. These are two different things,' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said. Mr. Geng highlighted that the Kashmir issue is 'left over from history between India and Pakistan. We hope that two sides would address this issue through dialogue and consultation.' Also Read China offers to rename OBOR to allay India's fears In his remarks last week at the United Services Institute (USI) in New Delhi, China's Ambassador Luo Zhaohui rebutted the assumption that the CPEC infringed India's sovereignty, as it passed through the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). 'The CPEC is for promoting economic cooperation and connectivity. It has no connections to or impact on sovereignty issues,' he said. In an apparent bid to accommodate India's concerns, Mr. Luo offered to even rename the CPEC. 'Even we can think about renaming the CPEC,' he said. However, the posting of the Ambassador's speech on the Chinese Embassy website subsequently dropped this line. Analysts say that the Indian side has the renaming of the CPEC as its 'minimalist' expectation. Besides, New Delhi has also wanted China to make an explicit statement supporting the resolution of the Kashmir issue through bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan, based on the Simla accord. Referring specifically to the Kashmir issue, Mr. Luo said, 'Take Kashmir issue for example, we supported the relevant UN resolutions before 1990s. Then we supported a settlement through bilateral negotiation in line with the Simla Agreement.' Chinese academics have given a mixed response to the Ambassador's address in New Delhi. Liu Zongyi of the of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies told The Hindu that Mr. Luo's speech was a 'true reflection of the Chinese government's intentions,' and was based on extensive preparations. He described it as 'vision framework', which was not timed to seek India's participation in Beijing's One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. 'The speech was directed not only for OBOR but for the whole bilateral relationship. We wish India would participate in the coming summit, but it will not cause a problem if did not come,' he observed. In response to a question, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said that 'some scholars' from India have registered to attend a high level meeting during the Belt and Road international cooperation forum. When contacted by The Hindu, Long Xingchun, Director of Center of India Studies, China West Normal University, expressed scepticism that the Chinese Ambassador's speech would be sufficient to trigger a thaw in ties, soured by an accumulation of several frictional issues, including Beijing's refusal to impose a UN ban on head of Jaish-e-Mohammad Masood Azhar. 'Concrete actions are now required for a breakthrough. China and India's concerns and priorities are drifting. India is focusing on the Azhar issue and membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. China, for instance, has the Tibet issue in mind, as well as stepping up of business ties with India high on its agenda' he noted. In response to another question on Army Chief Bipin Rawat's proposals that India should seek closer ties with Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan as a counterweight to China and Pakistan. Mr. Geng said that Beijing welcomed bilateral cooperation and enhancement of India's relations with other relevant countries. 'We hope that cooperation would be conducive in enhancing mutual trust among countries in the region as well as regional peace and stability.'