The Chinese Foreign Minister, Mr. Wang Yi, turned peacemaker, when he said in Beijing that India and Pakistan should quickly turn the page following the Pulwama terror attack and convert the present tensions into opportunity for long-term improvement in relations.
The post-Wuhan summit between the President, Mr. Xi Jinping and Mr. Narendra Modi, Mr. Wang said China wanted to develop closer ties with India and forge ahead like the 'Yangtze and Ganges' rivers despite Beijing’s all-weather ties with Pakistan.
Tensions between the two flared up after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed killed 40 CRPF personnel in Pulwama district by ramming his vehicle into their convoy on February 14.
This forced India to launch a counter-terror operation in Balakot on February 26 and the next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed an Indian MiG-21 and captured its pilot Abhinandan, who was handed over to India two days later.
Mr. Wang said, 'China hopes Pakistan and India will transform the crisis into opportunity and meet each other halfway,' while replying to questions on the present tensions following the Pulwama attack and how China planned to carry forward the spirit of last year’s Wuhan summit.
He said, 'We advise both the parties to quickly turn the page and seek fundamental, long-term improvement in their relations. When confrontation gives way to dialogue and disagreements are settled, we can create a better future through cooperation.'
Recent events have focused attention on these relations, he said, stating that China played a constructive role to resolve the tensions between the two. 'China has stressed from the beginning the need to exercise restraint and prevent an escalation, find out what has happened and resolve the matter through dialogue,' Mr. Wang said.
'In the meantime, the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity should be fully respected. China followed these principles in its mediation and played a constructive role in defusing the tension,' he said.
Recently China had sent its Vice Foreign Minister, Mr. Kong Kong Xuanyou, to Pakistan where he held talks with the Prime Minister, Mr. Imran Khan, theb Army Chief, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Foreign Minister, Mr. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, besides the Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua.
This visit coincides with the US, the UK and French application in the 1267 counter terrorism committee of the UNSC to declare the Jaish chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. If listed by the committee, Azhar would face a global travel ban and asset freeze. The UN has already banned the outfit.
Interestingly while China had once blocked India’s attempts to declare Azhar as a global terrorist, expectations are high that this time Beijing may take a different stand after JeM had admitted its role in the Pulwama attack.
Mr. Wang said, 'In the last couple of days both Pakistan and India indicated a desire to de-escalate the situation and start talks. We welcome this. Pakistan and India are neighbours and always have to live with each other.'
'Both countries face important opportunities to realise stability, development and prosperity. China hopes the two countries will get along and progress together,' he said.
Asked post-Wuhan, how China planned to develop its relations with India in the light of challenges and Beijing’s close ties with Pakistan, Mr. Wang said 2018 was a 'year of great significance for China and India relations.'
'The historic meeting between Mr. Xi and Mr. Modi at Wuhan has created a new model of high-level interactions between our two countries and set the direction for our future relations,' he said.
The priority now is to see that the strategic understanding reached there should go down to the people and become their common view through conscious efforts, he said.
'China will work with India to comprehensively strengthen sectoral cooperation and people-to-people ties which are of vital importance in the current context so that our friendship and cooperation will forge ahead like the Yangtze and Ganges giving strong and sustained impetus to our relationship,' he said.
Mr. Wang said the two ancient civilisations with a combined population of 2.7 billion besides being the largest developing countries and neighbours have a constructive role to play.
'The two countries should be each other’s partners in pursing our respective dreams and each other’s important opportunity for growing our respective economies. Collectively we must make our due contribution to Asia’s revitalisation and prosperity.'