Reaffirming ties: No rift with China over fighting militants, says Khar

Minister questions report that Pakistan was haven to militants in Xinjiang.

Agencies August 24, 2011


Pakistan is committed to strengthening anti-terror cooperation with China, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said on Wednesday, rejecting reports that her country was a haven for militants blamed for an attack in west China.

Khar was speaking in Beijing after two days of talks ahead of a planned visit by President Asif Ali Zardari next week to Xinjiang, the restive west Chinese region where members of the Uighur minority have mounted attacks.

(Read: China blames unrest on Pakistan-trained terrorists)

Pakistan has leaned closer to China after its already tense relationship with the United States, its major donor, was further strained in May when US forces killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

Yet China has its own concerns over Pakistan. Officials in Kashgar, a city in south Xinjiang, said a stabbing attack there in late July was orchestrated by members of the separatist ‘East Turkestan Islamic Movement’ (ETIM) who trained in Pakistan before returning to China.

Khar, however, said there were no rifts between Islamabad and Beijing over fighting militants, and rejected reports about a Pakistan link to the Kashgar attack.

“The statement vis-à-vis Pakistan’s involvement of any sort was misconstrued, was not from the Chinese government,” she told a news conference, referring to the Kashgar attack. “Does it (ETIM) have any base in Pakistan? We don’t know,” she said, adding that her government would cooperate with China to eradicate such threats.

“We have a wide history of cooperating with the Chinese people to be able to dismantle this group or its presence in any form,” she said.

Khar’s comments underscored their determination to set aside any potential public discord. She said security issues brought Islamabad and Beijing closer together, rather than driving them apart.

“We respond to that (issue) by increasing our cooperation in counter-terrorism, increasing our intelligence cooperation,” she added. “We need to make this even more robust.”

China’s Foreign Ministry has also praised Pakistan as a firm partner against terror and religious extremism, playing down the risk that ties could be strained by the attack. The statement did not mention any link to the Kashgar attack.

(Read: Beijing downplays risk of rift with Islamabad)

Pakistan’s ambassador to Beijing, Masood Khan, told Reuters that President Zardari will visit Xinjiang’s regional capital, Urumqi, next week to attend the China-Eurasia trade fair.

Besides her detailed talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, Foreign Minister Khar also had a meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao who said that her decision to make her first official visit to China reflected her commitment to further strengthening the friendship between the two countries. He said the all-weather friendship between the two countries was founded on the common principles of peaceful co-existence and mutual respect.

Khar said the Pakistan-China relationship was without parallel in the world of inter-state relations. The two countries enjoyed complete convergence of interest on all bilateral issues as well as international issues of mutual importance.

The Chinese premier expressed his appreciation for Pakistan’s unwavering support on issues of China’s core interests such as Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang. He also reiterated China’s unconditional support to Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and renewed his country’s commitment to helping Pakistan’s post-flood reconstruction efforts.

According to Xinhua, Wen reaffirmed China’s support for Pakistan’s efforts in preserving national stability and promoting social and economic development.

(Read: China launches Pakistan’s ‘first’ communications satellite)

He called on the two sides to promote the sustainable development of the Pakistani economy.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th,  2011.