October 9, 2019 / 8:42 AM / 12 days ago

China's Xi voices support for Pakistan over Kashmir: Xinhua

BEIJING/ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Wednesday he was watching the situation in Kashmir and would support Pakistan in issues related to its core interests, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

FILE PHOTO: Chinese President Xi Jinping waves from a vehicle as he reviews the troops at a military parade marking the 70th founding anniversary of People's Republic of China, China October 1, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Tensions over the disputed region of Kashmir have risen sharply since August, when India revoked the autonomy of its portion of the territory. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, who both claim it in full.

Xi told Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan during a meeting in Beijing that the rights and wrongs of the situation were clear, the report said.

“China supports Pakistan to safeguard its own legitimate rights and hopes that the relevant parties can solve their disputes through peaceful dialogue,” Xi said, according to Xinhua.

The Indian government’s official spokesperson, Raveesh Kumar, said that his government had seen reports of the meeting, in response to a question from media about the issue.

“India’s position has been consistent and clear that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. China is well aware of our position. It is not for other countries to comment on the internal affairs of India,” he said.

Xi is scheduled to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Chennai later this week.

BELT AND ROAD

The Chinese and Pakistani leaders also highlighted discussion around how to speed up progress on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the $60 billion infrastructure program China launched as part of its flagship “Belt and Road” project.

Some officials and observers have said momentum on CPEC is slowing, in part due to concerns over the size of Pakistan’s debt and struggling economy, which led Islamabad to turn to the International Monetary Fund for a $6 billion bailout package in July.

“The two sides expressed determination to speedily execute CPEC so that its growth potential can be fully realized making it a high-quality demonstration project for BRI,” the governments said in a joint statement.

Khan said that his government was setting up a “CPEC Authority” to expedite projects, and making arrangements to help Gwadar Port, a deep sea port in Pakistan’s southern Balochistan province, become a regional trade hub.

Khan did not provide details on the plans, but earlier in the day Pakistan’s media reported that the maritime minister had announced China Overseas Ports Holding Company, which operates the port, would get a 23-year tax exemption for installation of machinery and other equipment at the port.

Reporting by Lusha Zhang and Se Young Lee and Charlotte Greenfield in Islambad; additional reporting by Sanjeev Miglani in NEW DELHI; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Alex Richardson

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