China backs Pakistan in opposing G20 Kashmir meetings

Those statements came as China hailed the completion of its first major hydropower project under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on the Jhelum river on the border of Punjab and the western part of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

July 05, 2022 11:57 pm | Updated July 06, 2022 12:00 am IST - Beijing

China’s state media and officials have lent support to Pakistan’s opposition to India hosting any G20-related meetings in Jammu and Kashmir next year.

Those statements came even as the Chinese government has hailed the completion of its first major hydropower project under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on the Jhelum river on the border of Punjab and the western part of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), what Pakistan calls “AJK”. The dam was built by China Three Gorges Corporation.

“India’s objective in doing so is clearly to force the international community to recognise India’s control and even ‘sovereignty’ over Jammu Kashmir.... Involving Jammu Kashmir in such an important international conference could also be claimed as a diplomatic victory for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of India and is supposed to bring a boost to its domestic support,” said a commentary on Tuesday in the Communist Party-run Global Times, by Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Holding G20-related meetings there – the main summit in 2023 is expected to be held in New Delhi – as well as the reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019 were “operations aimed at highlighting the nationalist identity of the BJP, as a representative of Hindu interests”, he said.

The comments underlined the Chinese views on the Kashmir issue that have only got sharper in recent times, particularly since 2019. Beijing said in that year that it opposed the reorganisation and subsequently raised the issue at the UN. The remarks also bring to the fore an increasingly close China-Pakistan tandem - coinciding with CPEC projects in PoK - on Kashmir, an issue that Beijing had largely been reluctant to wade into over the past two decades.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on June 30 said “parties concerned need to avoid unilateral moves that may complicate” the dispute. “The G20 is the premier forum for international economic and financial cooperation. We call on all major economies to focus on steady recovery of the world economy, avoid politicising relevant cooperation and make positive contribution to improving global economic governance,” spokesperson Zhao Lijian said.

Mr. Zhao on June 30 also “extend[ed] congratulations on the start of full commercial operation of the Karot Hydropower Plant” to the Pakistani government describing it as “a priority project for energy cooperation and the first large-scale hydropower investment project under the CPEC”. The project was also the first to be funded by President Xi Jinping’s Silk Road Fund.

Asked about China’s opposition to G20 meetings in Kashmir on the one hand and its continuing projects there on the other, Mr. Zhao said, “What you mentioned are two matters completely different in nature. China has undertaken some projects in Pakistan to help it grow its economy and improve people’s livelihood. These projects are in Pakistan-occupied areas of Kashmir.... This does not affect China’s position on the Kashmir issue.”

He however declined to affirm if China would participate in G20 meetings there. “We will look at whether China will attend the meeting,” he said.

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