A Foreign Ministry official said on Thursday China would only “support” relevant moves to improve peace and stability in South Asia, and indicated the country did not see seek to play a primary role in improving relations between India and Pakistan.

A joint statement issued by China and the United States on Tuesday surprised officials and strategic experts in New Delhi by including a brief reference to improving relations between India and Pakistan.

Some analysts read the reference as the U.S. encouraging a greater Chinese role in South Asia. The Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi said in a statement on Wednesday that a “third country role cannot be envisaged” and was not necessary.

Asked if China saw for itself any specific role to play in improving ties between the two countries, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Qin Gang said China would in general support any move that led to greater stability in South Asia.

“As long as it is good for peace and stability in the region, and improvement of stability in the region, China supports relevant moves,” Mr. Qin said. “We believe India and Pakistan are important countries in South Asia. China highly values its friendly cooperation with the two countries and hopes the relationship between the two countries can be gradually improved.”

During U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao’s Tuesday meeting, the two sides “agreed to step up cooperation in South Asia, including Afghanistan,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei told reporters here.

But he indicated specific measures were not discussed. He said the two sides spent little time dwelling on South Asia given the sweeping scope of Tuesday’s talks. The two-and-a-half hour discussions covered a range of global issues, focusing mainly on China-U.S. trade ties, climate change and nuclear proliferation.

In the 4,224-word joint statement the two countries issued after the meeting, the one paragraph that referenced South Asia — and generated much attention in India — was 77 words long.