By K J M Varma
(Eds: Updating with more inputs )
Beijing, Oct 9 (PTI) China is paying "close attention" to the situation in Kashmir and the "facts are clear," President Xi Jinping has told Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday and hoped that the "relevant parties" can solve the issue through peaceful dialogue, state media reported.
Xi, who is scheduled to visit India on Friday to hold 2nd informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, assured Khan during a meeting here that the friendship between China and Pakistan is "unbreakable and rock-solid" despite changes in the international and regional situation.
Khan's visit to China comes at a time when tensions have spiked between Pakistan and India after New Delhi ended the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5.
Xi, who met Khan at the leafy Diaoyutai State Guesthouse here, said China is ready to work with Pakistan to forge a closer China-Pakistan community of shared future in the new era.
Khan briefed Xi on Pakistan's views on Kashmir, hoping to avoid deterioration of the situation, saying that Pakistan values and appreciates China's "objective and unbiased" position.
"Xi told Khan that China is paying close attention to the Kashmir situation and the facts are clear," the official Xinhua news agency quoted the Chinese president as telling Khan.
Earlier, the state-run China Global Television Network (CGTN) quoted Xi as saying that China "has been observing the situation in Kashmir."
"China supports Pakistan to safeguard its own legitimate rights and hopes that the relevant parties can solve their disputes through peaceful dialogue," Xinhua quoted the Chinese president as saying.
China has always viewed relations with Pakistan as a diplomatic priority and will continue to firmly support Pakistan on issues concerning its core interests and of major concern to it, Xi said.
He called on the two sides to maintain close high-level exchanges, step up strategic communication and coordinate positions on major issues in a timely fashion.
The Chinese president also pledged to continue to firmly advance counter-terrorism efforts so as to safeguard security and stability, the Xinhua report said.
Khan said Pakistan highly values and appreciates China's objective stance on the Kashmir issue.
Noting that China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic cooperative partners, Xi said, "No matter how the international and regional situation changes, the friendship between China and Pakistan has always been unbreakable and rock-solid, and China-Pakistan cooperation has always maintained strong vitality."
Khan's visit to China, third since he took over as Prime Minister in August last year, acquires significance as it comes ahead of President Xi's high-profile visit to India for the 2nd informal summit with Modi at Mamallapuram near Chennai on October 11 and 12.
Beijing, the all-weather ally of Islamabad, has backed Pakistan over the Kashmir issue, with its Foreign Minister Wang Yi in his address to the UN General Assembly saying, "no actions that would unilaterally change the status quo should be taken".
However, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Tuesday said the Kashmir issue should be resolved bilaterally, significantly omitting its recent references to the UN and UN Security Council resolutions.
Geng's comments marked a significant shift on what China has been saying on Kashmir in recent weeks in the aftermath of India's move to revoke Article 370 of the Constitution.
India has categorically told the international community that its move on Kashmir was an internal matter. India maintains Kashmir is a bilateral issue and no third party has any role in it.
During his meeting with Khan, Xi said China sincerely hopes to help Pakistan develop faster and better.
China and Pakistan have a fine tradition of mutual support and assistance, Xi said, according to state-run Xinhua new agency.
Noting that Pakistan used to provide "selfless help" to China when China was in difficulties, Xi said now that China has developed, it sincerely hopes to help Pakistan develop faster and better.
In Islamabad, the PM Office in a press release said Khan thanked Xi and the Chinese government for its "principled stance" on the Kashmir issue.
The premier said that China had supported Pakistan in all difficult times.
According to the press release, Prime Minister Khan briefed Xi about the current situation in the country, sharing that Pakistan had come out of a difficult economic situation.
"We will never forget China's financial cooperation," he was quoted as saying.
Khan said that China had helped Pakistan without "any conditionality".
Prime Minister Khan said that China provided Pakistan with the opportunity to come out of a very difficult economic situation and appreciated the Chinese support under the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework.
It said President Xi lauded Khan for speaking about Pakistan-China relations during the UNGA, and said that both countries enjoy close friendly relations and cooperated with each other in different fields.
Khan, who is on a two-day visit to China, met his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang on Tuesday. Khan was accompanied by Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa during his meeting with Li.
Premier Li "underlined the salience of the abiding Pakistan-China relationship and reiterated China’s support for Pakistan’s issues of core national interest," said a statement issued by the Pakistan PM Office. PTI PMS KJM ZH AKJ AKJ