China distanced itself on Thursday from Pakistani media reports which claimed that Premier Li Keqiang had conveyed China’s backing to Pakistan on the Kashmir issue during his meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. “Premier Li Keqiang of the State Council met with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on September 21 in New York. They exchanged views on bilateral relations as well as international and regional issues of common interest,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang said when asked about reports that Li extended support to Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir.
“The issue of Kashmir is an issue left over from history. Our stance on that is consistent. We hope that parties concerned will pursue a peaceful settlement through dialogue,” Lu said when asked about the Pakistani media reports. Pakistan’s Dawn News reported that China endorses Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir and Li had assured that China would continue to support Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir.
Li, while meeting Prime Minister Sharif on the sidelines of UN General Assembly, was quoted by the daily as saying, “We support Pakistan and we will speak for Pakistan at every forum.” Similar reports were carried by other Pakistani media like Geo TV claiming China’s backing as Sharif made unsuccessful attempts to shore up support for Pakistan’s rhetoric on Kashmir.
China also voiced concerns over the rising tensions in Kashmir after Uri attack and sought “effective” measures from New Delhi and Islamabad to ensure the safety of foreigners, including the Chinese, working on the US $46 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Asked whether China is concerned about safety of hundreds of its personnel working on CPEC amid reports that Pakistan has cancelled flights to areas in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) due to “air space restrictions” in the wake of Uri terrorist attack, Lu said, “the Chinese side is concerned about the tension in Kashmir”.
“We hope that parties concerned will exercise restraint, peacefully resolve difference through dialogue, avoid escalating tension and work jointly for peace and stability of the region,” he said. About the concerns of safety of Chinese workers, Lu said, “We also hope that effective means will be taken by parties concerned to ensure the safety and normal life of local people and citizens from other countries including China”.
Lu’s comments came in the backdrop of a sense of disquiet here over Pakistan escalating tensions in Kashmir as Beijing faces a complex situation over CPEC — one of its biggest overseas projects. India has lodged repeated protests over the project which passes through PoK.