By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) - The Chinese and Pakistani foreign ministers held a third round of strategic dialogue on Saturday to discuss bilateral and regional issues, including security cooperation, the lingering Kashmir dispute and the Afghanistan peace process.
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, met in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, said a statement from Pakistan's Foreign Ministry.
The visit by Qureshi came days after a terror attack in northern Pakistan last week killed 13 people, including nine Chinese working on the construction of a dam, part of a multi-billion dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. Forty-one people were injured in the attack.
"The two sides exchanged views on bilateral strategic, economic and security cooperation, COVID-19 pandemic, peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and international and regional issues of mutual interest, and reached consensus to collectively take measures to safeguard their common interests and promote peace, prosperity and development in the region," the statement said.
Stressing that peace and stability in Afghanistan are vital for socio-economic development, connectivity and prosperity in the region, both sides called on Afghan stakeholders to reach a comprehensive cease-fire and to work in earnest to achieve a broad-based and comprehensive, inclusive, negotiated political settlement.
"Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to facilitate and support ‘Afghan-led and Afghan-owned’ peace and reconciliation process for the early realization of a peaceful, stable, united and prosperous Afghanistan, which would firmly combat terrorism and live in harmony with its neighbours," it said.
They reaffirmed support for the peaceful reconstruction of Afghanistan, readiness to expand economic and trade ties and support Afghanistan in enhancing its capacity for independent development.
The Pakistan side briefed the Chinese side on the "deteriorating" situation in Jammu and Kashmir, including "concerns, position and current urgent issues."
Beijing, according to the statement, reiterated that the Kashmir issue is a dispute left over from history between India and Pakistan, which is an objective fact and the dispute should be resolved peacefully and properly through the UN Charter, relevant Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements. China opposes any unilateral action that complicates the situation.
Extending felicitations to the Chinese side on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, Pakistan recognized the party's "immense contributions" to the Chinese people, China’s stellar rise on the world stage and its "unrivaled" achievement in lifting 800 million people out of poverty.
Both sides, the statement added, reviewed "with satisfaction their close cooperation in successfully controlling the spread of COVID-19, cooperation in protective and medical equipment, vaccine development and ensuring early post-pandemic economic recovery."
Islamabad thanked Beijing for its "steadfast" support for a vaccination drive in the country and setting up a vaccine finish facility at the National Institute of Health in Islamabad.
China assured that it would continue assisting Pakistan in strengthening its national health systems and dealing with adverse socio-economic effects of the pandemic.
"Both sides believe that the study of the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 is a matter of science, and should not be politicized," the statement said, referring to the US and other countries
A joint report by the World Health Organization (WHO)-convened global study on the origins of the SARS-CoV-2, published in March, has drawn an authoritative and scientific conclusion of related issues. China insisted that the report should be "recognized, respected and preserved" and should be treated as the basis of the WHO next stage of the origin tracing study.
Offering condolences for the loss of lives caused by torrential rains and flooding in Henan province, Pakistan expressed hope that with strenuous efforts of the Chinese government, normalcy would be soon restored and affected people would return home.
Both sides vehemently condemned the terror attack in northern Pakistan, which caused deaths and injuries to Pakistani and Chinese workers.
"The Pakistan side conveyed its profound condolences and sympathies to the bereaved families, emphasized that the sacrifices of Chinese nationals would not be in vain and that China-Pakistan partnership would emerge stronger through this test," said the statement.
Both sides expressed their resolve to expose the culprits and their reprehensible designs through an ongoing joint investigation, give exemplary punishment to the perpetrators, ensure comprehensive safety and security of Chinese projects, nationals and institutions, and prevent a recurrence of such incidents.
China reiterated its firm support to Pakistan in safeguarding its "territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence," independently choosing a development path based on national conditions, striving for a better external security environment and playing a more constructive role on international and regional affairs, it maintained.
Islamabad reiterated its commitment to the “One China Policy” and firm support to Beijing on core issues of its national interest, such as Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.
"The two sides will continue to firmly advance the construction of CPEC, ensure timely completion of under-construction projects, focus on economic and social development, job creation and improvement of people’s livelihood, and further strengthen cooperation in Industrial Park, infrastructure development, science and technology, medical and health, agriculture, human resources training, with the aim to continuously unleash the great potential of CPEC to make it a hub of regional connectivity," it said.