Responding to India’s concerns about its projects in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK), the Chinese government suggested on Thursday that it was a matter for India and Pakistan to resolve and that China had no reason to change its policies on Kashmir.

India had on Wednesday called on China to “cease activities in areas illegally occupied by Pakistan.” This followed a commitment made by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in Beijing on Tuesday that China would continue to provide assistance in upgrading the Karakoram Highway and building the Neelam-Jhelum hydroelectric project in PoK.

Asked about India’s objections, a spokesperson at the Chinese Foreign Ministry told The Hindu that China’s position was that the Kashmir issue had to be settled “between India and Pakistan” and that China’s position had been “consistent.” The Chinese Foreign Ministry refused to answer questions on whether Beijing had been in communication with New Delhi regarding India’s concerns.

The spokesperson said: “The Kashmir issue is a matter left over from history. It should be settled properly through dialogue and consultation between India and Pakistan, and China’s position has been consistent.”

China’s presence in PoK has grown in recent years, and the country is currently involved in several infrastructure projects in the disputed region.

Highway project

China and Pakistan signed a deal in 2006 to upgrade the Karakoram Highway, which runs from the trading city of Kashgar in China’s far western Xinjiang region to Gilgit in Pakistan and on to Islamabad. Once the project is completed, the transport capacity of the strategically significant highway will have increased threefold.

China and Pakistan are also working to strengthen the highway to increase its operationality in adverse weather conditions — the highway is currently closed for around six months every year in the winter.

In August, during Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to southern China, the two countries signed a deal to work together to build a 7,000 MW hydro power project in Bunji, also in PoK. Mr. Zardari also sought Chinese assistance and invited companies to help develop hydel and thermal projects in the region.

Indian Foreign Office spokesman Vishnu Prakash said on Wednesday that Beijing was fully aware of India’s concerns about these projects, and had asked China to take a “long term view” of relations between the two countries and to stop activities in PoK.

But for now, it seems unlikely that China will change its policies on providing assistance to Pakistan’s projects in the disputed region.

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