Beijing: Playing down reports that it was behind the detention of JuD chief Hafeez Saeed, China on Friday said it is sending a top official to Pakistan for talks on counter terrorism amid mounting pressure on Islamabad from India, Afghanistan and the US to rein in militant groups.
Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping will visit Pakistan for talks on counter terrorism, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a media briefing while replying to a question whether the talks would include a discussion on militant groups in Pakistan and concerns of Afghanistan and India.
While Lu did not provide any details, Cheng is expected to be in Islamabad from February 6 to 9.
Lu also gave a guarded reply to a question whether China was behind Pakistan’s sudden move to detain JuD chief and the 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind Saeed.
While his house arrest was attributed to ward off pressure from US President Donald Trump, some Pakistani media reports said pressure from China prompted Islamabad to act against Saeed.
Lu said “for a long time Pakistan has made enormous efforts and sacrifices on counter terrorism”.
“China supports the independent strategies made by Pakistan in counter terrorism and engage in international cooperation on counter terrorism,” he said hinting that Saeed’s detention was Pakistan’s own decision.
“China supports international cooperation on counter terrorism. We consistently maintain that such cooperation should be based on mutual respect,” he said.
China is set to host a major international summit in May this year on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) project, a multi billion dollar initiative to revive Silk Road. China wants maximum participation including from India and the US.
Lu said leaders of 20 countries expressed interests to attend the conference but gave no details.
More than 100 countries and international organisation gave their support for OBOR project and over 40 countries and international organisations signed agreements or letters of intent to join it, Lu said.
Officials say besides Trump, China was also keen on the participation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
But the Sino-Indian relations were bogged down by China blocking India’s move to ban JeM leader Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN like Saeed.
China also blocked India’s bid for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
Over Azhar’s issue, China also faced allegations from India of double standards in fighting terrorism.
Officials say it is to be seen how much of these issues would figure in China-Pakistan counter terror talks.
Also China is investing vast sums of money into the USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is part of the OBOR over which India has raised objections as it passed through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
China was also concerned about stepped up terror attack in its Muslim Uyghur majority Xinjiang province which is also the starting point for OBOR.
Chinese and Pakistani border guards have been holding joint patrols to curb infiltration.
Afghan government too has raised strong pitch against Pakistan’s reluctance to crackdown on the Haqqani network which is creating havoc in Afghanistan, scuttling all moves to restore peace in the war torn country.