All outstanding issues, including Kashmir, should be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy: Pak PM Khan ahead of China visit

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Beijing, Jan 29: Ahead of his visit to China, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that for ”enduring peace” in South Asia, it is contingent that a ”strategic balance” in the region is maintained and all ”outstanding issues” like border questions and the Kashmir issue should be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy and according to norms of international law.

In an article published in China’s state-run Global Times, Khan briefly referred to the resolution of the Kashmir issue besides the border disputes as key to maintaining peace in South Asia.

“It is our common vision that enduring peace in South Asia is contingent on maintaining a strategic balance in the region and all outstanding issues like border questions and the Kashmir dispute should be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy and as per norms of international law,” he wrote, amidst a chill in bilateral ties between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue and cross-border terrorism.

Prime Minister Khan also gave a clean chit to China over human rights allegations against Uygur Muslims in Xinjiang ahead of his visit to China to take part in the February 4 Beijing Winter Olympics’ inaugural ceremony, that faced a diplomatic boycott by the US and allies over the Xinjiang issue, saying his country’s envoy after a visit to the province reported that charges were not true.

“There is a lot of criticism of the treatment of Uygurs by China in the West. But our Ambassador went there (and) he sent information that it is not actually true on the ground,” Khan told Chinese journalists in an interview in Islamabad on Saturday ahead of his visit to Beijing.

While giving the clean chit to China over the restive region of Xinjiang, Khan, however, blamed the ”selective silence” of the Western countries on alleged human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir.

India has repeatedly told Pakistan that Jammu and Kashmir ”was, is and shall forever” remain an integral part of the country. It also advised Pakistan to accept the reality and stop all anti-India propaganda.

India has emphasised that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence. India has said the onus is on Pakistan to create an environment free of terror and hostility.

During a previous interview with Chinese journalists in July 2021, Khan deflected criticism of Pakistan’s silence on allegations of rights abuses by China against Uygur Muslims.

Khan, according to Pakistan daily Dawn, said that Pakistan had accepted Beijing’s version regarding the treatment of Uyghurs due to ”our extreme proximity and relationship”.

Besides taking part in the inaugural ceremony, Khan will be holding the key meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials to discuss the state of the all-weather ties, the problems faced by the USD 60 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Chinese loans and investments to shore up Pakistan’s sagging economy.

The USD 60 billion CPEC, which connects Gwadar Port in Pakistan’s Balochistan with China’s Xinjiang province, is the flagship project of China’s ambitious multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

India has protested to China over the CPEC as it is being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

China currently has launched a diplomatic offensive to mobilise world leaders to attend February 4 opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics as the US, European Union and several western countries announced a boycott of the event by their diplomats to highlight their allegations of human rights violations in Xinjiang, including incarceration of over a million Uygur Muslim men and women in camps.

As per the list released by China, 32 world leaders, including Khan, Russian President Vladimir Putin besides UN Secretary-General António Guterres will attend the ceremony.

In his article, Khan said the security of the scores of Chinese personnel working in CPEC projects is Pakistan’s top priority.

Pakistan has approved an unprecedented USD 11.6 million in compensation for the families of Chinese engineers who were killed and wounded in a terrorist attack last year at the Dasu Dam hydropower project, The Express Tribune reported recently.

“Safety and security of Chinese personnel and projects in Pakistan remains our top priority. Our people and state institutions are determined to safeguard CPEC from the detractors of Pakistan-China friendship and bring to justice those responsible for harming our interests”, Khan said in his article.

Khan recently directed authorities to “remove all bottlenecks for investors” in an attempt to address the Chinese investors’ concerns of slow pace of CPEC projects.

Khan in his article also said that CPEC has been instrumental in addressing Pakistan’s chronic energy crisis and improving connectivity through infrastructure development.

“We are also making rapid progress on the development of Gwadar Port and Special Economic Zones which would benefit the entire region”, he said.

“As the flagship project of the BRI, CPEC has immense economic and strategic significance for our two countries. There is complete consensus in Pakistan on CPEC’s indispensability for Pakistan’s national development. My government is fully committed to making CPEC a High Quality Demonstration Project of BRI”, he said.

Khan in his interview with the Chinese journalists hailed and stressed the ”deep relationship” between the two countries, saying it had only strengthened over time.

“There is a feeling in Pakistan that China always stood with us in times of need and supported us during difficult times. Similarly, Pakistan also always stood with China,” he said.

Asked about Afghanistan, Khan said that foreign forces cannot just leave the country without thinking of its people, and warned the country could see the ”worst humanitarian crisis” if everyone abandoned it.

”The international community should just think of the 40 million Afghans. Whether they like the Taliban government or not should be secondary,” he said.–(PTI)