India bins China’s offer for Pakistan peace talks

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–Indian foreign ministry says matters concerning Pakistan and India are ‘purely bilateral in nature’

–Says China has not made a formal offer, trilateral dialogue proposal envoy’s ‘personal opinion’

ISLAMABAD: A day after China proposed a trilateral dialogue, comprising Pakistan, India and China, to de-escalate regional tensions, India snubbed the offer, saying that the “matters concerning Indo-Pak are purely bilateral in nature”.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs was responding to an idea pitched by Chinese Ambassador to New Delhi Lou Zhaohui for arbitration between Pakistan and India for normalising relations on the lines of Russia-China-Mongolia summit.

Rejecting the proposal as a “personal opinion of the envoy”, the ministry said China has not approached India officially in this regard.

“The Chinese government has not approached us with a formal offer in this regard. We have seen reports on comments made by the Chinese ambassador in this matter; however, we have not received any such suggestion from the Chinese government [as of yet],” said Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

“We consider the statement as the personal opinion of the ambassador. Matters related to India-Pakistan relations are purely bilateral in nature and have no scope for involvement of any third country,” he added.

According to media reports, Congress—opposition party— Spokesperson Manish Tewari said his party “strongly condemns” the Chinese envoy’s statement.

“We hope the government of India will also condemn his statement. Our stand has been that the issues between India and Pakistan should be solved bilaterally,” he said.

Speaking at a seminar in Delhi, Ambassador Luo Zhaohui said China “cannot stand another Doklam” and pitched a trilateral summit on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

“We cannot stand another Doklam; we need to control, manage, narrow differences through expanding cooperation. The boundary question was left over by history. We need to find a mutually acceptable solution through special representatives,” said the Chinese envoy.

“Some Indian friends suggested that India, China and Pakistan may have some kind of trilateral summit on the sidelines of the SCO. So, if China, Russia and Mongolia can have a trilateral summit, then why not India, China and Pakistan?” he said, adding that 5Cs would help promote India-China ties, including communication, cooperation, contacts, coordination and control.

Though Ambassador Luo did not elaborate on whether the proposed trilateral mechanism would include Kashmir dispute, the reference to Doklam reflected he meant Kashmir as well.

Official sources in Islamabad said that President Xi had also urged the Indian PM to start talks with Pakistan during the landmark meeting in Wuhan, China.

“President Xi Jinping offset Modi’s agenda by conveying him a message from Islamabad to restart dialogue – a surprise which balanced out Modi’s own agenda for talks,” said sources privy to the development.

“When Narendra Modi landed at Wuhan International Airport on April 27, he had no clue whether the Chinese president would blow him away with a secret message from Islamabad. But when Xi conveyed the message, it took Modi by a surprise who had prepared himself on Indo-China issues only,” a diplomatic source told Pakistan Today.

The sources further said that the offer made by Xi Jinping was a part of his new initiative to bring Pakistan and India to the table.

The message for peace comes when Pakistan is ready to go to the polls. The timing of the dialogue process also suits Pakistan’s military establishment. As per reported in this paper, the military is eager to commence dialogue with India as the talks offer came directly from the military establishment which had ‘suspected’ Nawaz Sharif’s overtures with Modi.

Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa has been very busy in dealing with Pakistan’s foreign policy. His recent visits to various countries in a bid to improve bilateral relations have been termed as “military diplomacy” by political commentators.

When approached, Foreign Office Spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal chose not to comment over the question sent to him.

A former diplomat said that China was building pressure on New Delhi and Islamabad as hostility between the two archrivals did not go down well with the multibillion-dollar project launched by China under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

“With China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) reaching completion, Beijing is now building ‘soft pressure’ on Pakistan and India to resume talks. For the very purpose, China has now coined the term of ‘trilateral dialogue’ reflecting its seriousness on improvement in Indo-Pakistan ties,” he said.

The former ambassador said that Pakistan would not jump to the dialogue offer until the nature of proposal is crystallized. “Pakistan would be keen to know whether the trilateral dialogue would include Kashmir issue or not,” the former ambassador concluded.

It merits mention here that China has already initiated the dialogue to help improve bilateral relations between Islamabad and Kabul which has greatly helped the two countries to remove misunderstandings. However, the history of Indo-Pakistan acrimony is quite different from Pakistan-Afghanistan mistrust.