Beijing: China on Monday rejected as “nonsense" reports about President Xi Jinping not meeting Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Astana following the murder of two Chinese nationals in Balochistan and said the two leaders met several times during the summit.

“I can tell you that during the seventeenth SCO heads of state meeting, President Xi met with Pakistan Prime Minister Sharif several times," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, but he did not say whether they had a bilateral meeting. “Some reports are just nonsense and unwanted. China and Pakistan enjoy an all-weather strategic partnership," he said. A state-run Pakistan news agency reported on 10 June that Sharif returned from Astana last week after attending the SCO meet on the sidelines of which he met the presidents of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Russia. Conspicuously absent was a meeting with Xi, the agency had reported. Chinese-state run media too highlighted Xi’s meetings with Kazakhstan counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Chinese foreign ministry website has photographs of Xi’s bilateral meetings with other SCO leaders, including Modi, but not with Sharif. “The summit has realised the first-ever membership enlargement of the SCO. As you know India and Pakistan have got full membership," Lu said, adding that all the member countries “have agreed to build on the Shanghai spirit to step up the cooperation between the old and new members". He also said the summit spoke highly of the Belt Road Forum (BRF) held at Beijing in May this year, which was boycotted by India over sovereignty concerns relating to the $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Lu said the SCO has become an important platform and reliable support for the members to enhance mutual trust, deepen good neighbourly ties and friendship and expand political cooperation and uphold regional security and stability for the members. “This summit has helped to strengthen the cohesion of SCO members, charted the course for future development and also made new proposals for SCO cooperation," he said. PTI