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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

China looking to use stake in PoK as bargaining chip?

BEIJING: The Chinese foreign ministry on Tuesday did nothing to justify its decision to invest in the Neelam-Jhelum hydroelectric project in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, which has drawn India's ire.

The Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu evaded a directly reply to questions on why China was investing in the disputed area. Indications are that China does not want the issue to come in the way of a smooth dialogue when the foreign ministers of the two countries meet in Bangalore on October 27.

"The Kashmir issue has been left over from history. Pakistan and India should properly handle it. We hope there will be peace and stability in South Asia," Ma said responding to a question about India's protest over the proposed Chinese investment.

Ma was asked by another reporter how Chinese investment will help India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir problem. He repeated more or less the same words without trying to explain Beijing's decision.

The ministry spokesman's refusal to justify a decision taken during the recent meeting between Chinese president Hu Jintao and Pakistan prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani may suggest that Beijing is taking a second look at its move to invest in POK.

India had earlier reacted to the move saying: "The Chinese side is fully aware of India's position and our concerns about Chinese activities in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. We hope that the Chinese side will take a long term view of the India-China relations, and cease such activities in areas illegally occupied by Pakistan."

The issue is expected to come up when Indian foreign minister S.M.Krishna meets his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi on October 27. The Chinese foreign ministry today confirmed that Yang will attend the trilateral meeting between the foreign ministers of India, Russia and China in Bangalore. Yang and Krishna will will hold a separate meeting to exchange views on bilateral ties and regional and international issues of common concern, Ma said.

China is also putting pressure on India to stop the proposed visit of the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh ahead of the forthcoming meeting between the Indian and Chinese foreign ministers.

China was firmly opposed to the Dalai Lama's visit to what he described as "the so-called Arunachal Pradesh". Beijing claims that Arunachal Pradesh is part of its own territory and describes it as "South Tibet".

"We believe that this further exposes the Dalai Lama clique's anti-China and separatist nature," Ma said. China seems to suggest that Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh will further the cause of separatists seeking an independent Tibet.

He said India and China have agreed to further advance their strategic cooperative partnership by holding a series of commemorative activities, including a "country festival" to mark the 60th anniversary of establishing official diplomatic ties in 2010. 
 

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