Without explicitly proposing a trilateral dialogue among India, Pakistan and China, Beijing on Wednesday offered to “strengthen” its cooperation with New Delhi and Islamabad to bolster “stability” in the region.
“Both India and Pakistan are China’s neighbours and friends. We are willing to conduct relations with all our neighbours, including Pakistan and India, to strengthen our cooperation for better development and stability in the region,” Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Geng Shuang said.
Without abandoning the prospects of a trilateral meeting altogether, the Chinese Foreign Ministry seemed to step back from explicit offer of a meeting among China, India and Pakistan, made by its Ambassador in New Delhi, Luo Zhaohui.
In reference to the recently concluded SCO summit in Qingdao, where India and Pakistan participated as full members, Mr. Zhaohui had said: “Some Indian friends suggested that India, China, and Pakistan may have some kind of trilateral summit on the sidelines of the SCO. So, if China, Russia and Mongolia can have a trilateral summit, then why not India, China, and Pakistan.”
Official sources told The Hindu that India was exploring the possibility of connectivity to Central Asia through the Pakistan-Afghan corridor, under the SCO framework. “The SCO has been working on connectivity among its member countries. Now that India and Pakistan are both members, it provides New Delhi with a fresh opportunity to reach out to Central Asia across the Pakistani corridor,” the source said.
However, another official said that New Delhi had not been considering the SCO as a forum where bilateral differences between India and Pakistan were to be addressed.
In response to Mr. Zhaohui’s proposal, the External Affairs Ministry had earlier said: “We have seen reports on comments made by the Chinese Ambassador in this matter. We have not received any such suggestion from the Chinese government. We consider the statement as the personal opinion of the Ambassador. Matters related to India-Pakistan relations are purely bilateral in nature and have no scope for involvement of any third party.”
Mr. Shuang said he hoped that “India and Pakistan can strengthen their dialogue to improve their mutual trust.”
Asked whether Mr. Zhaohui’s remarks in Delhi were China’s official position, Mr. Shuang said: “What I have just said is China’s official position.”
Analysts say that it is become apparent that China is imparting greater urgency for the resolution of India-Pakistan differences under the SCO framework.
During the Qingdao summit, Chinese Foreign Minister and State councillor Wang Yi told state broadcaster CGTN, “I think after their joining the SCO, maybe we can provide a better platform and opportunities for the building of relations between them.”