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China backs Pakistan after Indo-US terror pounding

Soon after India and the US jointly put Pakistan on the mat on the issue of terrorism following the 2+2 talks, China on Saturday swiftly assured Islamabad that it was Beijing’s “iron brother” and that Pakistan would always remain a “priority” for China. Beijing also assured Islamabad of the “all-weather strategic” ties between the two nations.

The assurance was given during a meeting between visiting Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad. The move is significant given the recently-concluded 2+2 dialogue at the foreign and defence ministerial level between India and the US during which the two countries called upon Pakistan to ensure that the territory under its control is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries.

The Chinese foreign minister, after meeting Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, said on Saturday that the world should acknowledge Pakistan’s efforts towards regional peace and stability, a remark seen as a direct contradiction of the joint Indo-US stand on Pakistan-based terrorism.

Mr Wang, who also holds the position of state councillor, led the first high-level visit to Islamabad since the new government of Prime Minister Imran Khan assumed office after the July 25 elections.

Pakistan was the ally of the US during the Cold War but relations between the two nations steadily soured since then and have hit its nadir during the Donald Trump presidency due to Islamabad’s refusal to act against terrorism directed at its neighbours Afghanistan and India. Following this, Islamabad has become even more reliant on Beijing for support at international fora and also to bolster the fragile Pakistani economy.

In a statement after Saturday’s meeting, the Pakistani foreign ministry said, “While reaffirming the ‘all-weather strategic cooperative partnership’ between the two countries, Mr Wang underlined that Pakistan will always be a priority for China in its foreign policy. The state councillor reiterated that Pakistan was China’s ‘Iron brother’ and the bilateral partnership served as an anchor for regional peace and stability. China will work with Pakistan to prioritise CPEC projects so as to benefit all regions of Pakistan.”

It added, “Following one-on-one meeting, the two foreign ministers held an in-depth exchange on the entire gamut of bilateral relationship including economic cooperation, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), defence cooperation and cultural and educational cooperation.”

The Pakistan foreign ministry said, “The (Pakistan) foreign minister reciprocated the sentiments of the state councillor and reaffirmed the strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries. He underlined that regardless of political changes, the bilateral relationship will remain as strong as ever.”

It may be recalled that just on September 6, following the culmination of their 2+2 dialogue, India and the US had called on Pakistan to ensure that the territory under its control is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries. The two countries had also called on Islamabad to “bring to justice expeditiously the perpetrators of the Mumbai, Pathankot, Uri, and other cross-border terrorist attacks”.

New Delhi had also said that it “supports President Trump’s South Asia Policy” and that “his call for Pakistan to stop its policy of supporting cross-border terrorism finds resonance” with it.

The Indo-US joint statement had said, “The Ministers welcomed the launch of a bilateral dialogue on designation of terrorists in 2017, which is strengthening cooperation and action against terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, ISIS, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizbul Mujahideen, the Haqqani Network, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, D-company and their affiliates.”

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