China on Sunday, 4 November, said it supported Pakistan's "quest for peace through dialogue" to settle the outstanding disputes with India as it backed Islamabad's "engagement" with the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
A joint statement, issued in Beijing after Prime Minister Imran Khan's talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, said that China backed Pakistan's efforts to improve ties with India to settle "outstanding disputes", without directly mentioning the Kashmir issue.
“China appreciates Pakistan’s quest for peace through dialogue, cooperation and negotiation, on the basis of mutual respect and equality, and supports Pakistan’s efforts for improvement of Pakistan-India relations and for settlement of outstanding disputes between the two countries.”Joint statement
The ties between India and Pakistan had strained after the terror attacks by Pakistan-based groups in 2016 and India's surgical strikes inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
In recent years, China has refrained from taking a public stance on the India-Pakistan ties, expressing hope for resolution of the disputes through dialogue.
On the Kashmir issue, China's oft-repeated stand was that it should be resolved peacefully through dialogue.
India too supports dialogue as the way to resolve the issues with Pakistan but maintains that the talks and terrorism cannot go together.
For its part, Pakistan supported active participation of China at the platform of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Significantly, China tacitly expressed its backing for Pakistan’s efforts to secure the NSG membership.
India has also been seeking entry into the 48-member elite nuclear club, which controls nuclear trade, but China has repeatedly stonewalled its bid.
While India, which is backed by the US and a number of western countries, has garnered the support of a majority of the group's members, China has stuck to its stand that new members should sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), making India's entry difficult as the group is guided by the consensus principle. India is not a signatory to the NPT.
China also heaped praise on Pakistan for its efforts to counter terrorism and said it recognised Islamabad's efforts in actively strengthening financial regulations to combat terrorism financing, and called on all relevant parties to view Pakistan's counter-terrorism efforts in an objective and fair manner.
But at the same time China is pressing Pakistan to crack down on Uygur Islamic militants crossing in and out of the volatile Muslim-majority Xinjiang province bordering Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
"The Pakistani side reaffirmed its support to the Chinese side in safeguarding its sovereignty and security, and combating separatism, terrorism and extremism including East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM)," the statement said.
Both China and Pakistan agreed to further enhance cooperation against "three evils' of extremism, terrorism and separatism", the statement said.
(This article has been published in an arrangement with PTI and has been edited for length.)