Xi backs Pakistan over Kashmir dispute ahead of Modi meeting

Xi vows to support Islamabad’s ‘core interests and key concerns’. (AFP pic)

BEIJING: Just days ahead of President Xi Jinping’s visit to India, the Chinese leader demonstrated his country’s resolute support for Pakistan over its dispute with India in the Himalayan Kashmir region, vowing to support Islamabad’s “core interests and key concerns.”

“The rights and wrongs of the situation in Kashmir are clear,” China Central Television reported Wednesday, citing Xi who was hosting Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan in Beijing.

“China supports Pakistan in safeguarding its legitimate rights and interests and hopes that the parties concerned can resolve the dispute through peaceful dialogue.”

Xi called the relationship with Pakistan a “unique all-weather strategic partnership” that can withstand changing international and regional situations.

“China has always given priority to Pakistan in its diplomacy and will continue to firmly support Pakistan on issues involving its core interests and key concerns,” Xi said.

In a statement released by his office following the meeting, Khan said the speedy completion of projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was the “number one priority of his government” and reiterated Islamabad’s support for Beijing’s core interests.

He called on New Delhi to immediately lift the curfew in Indian-administered Kashmir in order to alleviate suffering and avert risks to regional peace and security.

The remarks came as China’s Foreign Ministry announced Xi’s visit to India for an “informal meeting” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two leaders will meet in the southern city of Chennai on Friday and Saturday before Xi leaves for a state visit to neighboring Nepal.

The dispute in Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed in its entirety by both, has been a point of decades of simmering conflict between New Delhi and Islamabad.

In August India withdrew seven decades of constitutional autonomy and statehood from its portion of Kashmir. The move was followed by a sweeping and ongoing security crackdown and communication blackout.

Several local leaders have also been detained. Pakistan’s Khan has called for the international community to intervene in what he has described as terrible human rights violations in the region.

India has maintained that Kashmir is an internal matter and all steps taken there are to prevent violence. Any support of Pakistan’s claims by Beijing is likely to be seen unfavorably by India.