New Delhi: China on Friday defended its decision to raise the Kashmir issue at the UN Security Council earlier this week describing it as a “goodwill" gesture aimed at de-escalating tensions between India and Pakistan.
At a foreign office briefing in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said Beijing’s move came after "most of the members" of the UN Security Council (UNSC) had voiced concerns over the situation in the Kashmir Valley. The allusion was to the developments in the region following India’s parliament revoking article 370 of the Indian constitution that gave special status to Kashmir and integrating it more closely with the region. Both Pakistan and China had lodged protests at India’s moves.
Geng’s comments come came a day after India slammed Beijing's latest attempt to raise the Kashmir issue at the UNSC at Pakistan’s behest. At the end of the closed door meet on Wednesday, China was seen standing on its own in Pakistan’s corner with the rest of the UNSC members of the view that Kashmir was the bilateral issue to be sorted out between India and Pakistan.
“China should seriously reflect on this global consensus, draw the proper lessons and refrain from taking such actions in future," Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar had said on Thursday.
On Friday, answering questions on why China was backing Pakistan to raise the Kashmir issue in the UNSC, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, "China's position is consistent and clear. This issue is a dispute left from history and should be properly resolved following the UN charter, UNSC resolutions, and bilateral treaties and in a peaceful way."
"As requested by Pakistan, the Security Council reviewed the Kashmir issue on 15 January. The Security Council members are concerned about the current situation and they called the relevant parties to observe the charter and resolve disputes peacefully, through political dialogue and exercise restraint and work on de-escalation," he said.
To a question on why China is raising the Kashmir issue at the UNSC, when the top leaders of India and China made efforts to improve relations through informal summits, creating a negative perception among Indians, Geng said, "Because we want to work for de-escalation and work for regional peace and stability. This is out of good will. However, if the Indian side interprets it in other way, that will be a wrong interpretation."
China’s backing of Pakistan on the Kashmir dispute has been a sore point in India-China relations. Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar had told reporters in New Delhi that India had raised the matter with Beijing at different levels and on different occasions.
When asked to respond to a comment by the Russian Ambassador to India Nikolai Kudashev that Russia was never in favour of discussing the Kashmir issue at the UNSC at a press conference in New Delhi on Friday, Geng said that during Wednesday’s review meeting, most UNSC members expressed concern on the current situation in Kashmir and called for restraint and de-escalation of tensions through dialogue. "Russia is a member of the UNSC and its position has been fully expressed during the review," he said.
Commenting on Kumar’s remarks, Geng said, "India's attitude and views, we understand them. But what I said was China's views and stance. I believe that India is aware of that and we have been in contact on that."
When asked why China, which in the past has advocated that the Kashmir issue should be peacefully resolved between India and Pakistan, has now changed its stance and is seeking a solution to the Kashmir issue in keeping with UNSC resolutions and according to the UN charter, Geng said Beijing's position on Kashmir was very clear.
"We haven't changed our position. The issue between India and Pakistan has always been on the UNSC agenda. The UNSC should pay attention to the issue in Kashmir based on the latest developments. And in this region, there are still International Observer Groups and it has always been on UNSC agenda," he said.
On India's decision to invite Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in the meeting of the Heads of the governments of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) countries, Geng said, "SCO is a regional cooperation organisation. India and Pakistan are members of it. Both the countries, we hope, can work together closely under this framework for the healthy development of this organisation."
"India and Pakistan are important countries in South Asia and I hope they can resolve their issues through dialogue and improve their relations," he said. To a question on allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir during the past five months, Geng reiterated China's stand, saying that Beijing stood for enhancing dialogue and mutual trust between India and Pakistan and exercise restraint and work for de-escalation of tensions. "As a responsible country, we have been in contact with both India and Pakistan, and are playing a constructive role on this," he said.