Avoid escalating tensions, China urges

Pakistanis left stranded yesterday following the suspension of the rail service between Delhi and Attari in India and Lahore in Pakistan. Kashmiris fleeing the border town of Chakothi on Wednesday. Left: Children with banners and Indian national flag
Children with banners and Indian national flags cheering after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan yesterday said the country will release an Indian Air Force pilot in its custody.PHOTO: REUTERS
Pakistanis left stranded yesterday following the suspension of the rail service between Delhi and Attari in India and Lahore in Pakistan. Kashmiris fleeing the border town of Chakothi on Wednesday. Left: Children with banners and Indian national flag
Pakistanis in Karachi celebrating the shooting down by their country’s air force of Indian fighter jets on Wednesday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Pakistanis left stranded yesterday following the suspension of the rail service between Delhi and Attari in India and Lahore in Pakistan. Kashmiris fleeing the border town of Chakothi on Wednesday. Left: Children with banners and Indian national flag
Pakistanis left stranded yesterday following the suspension of the rail service between Delhi and Attari in India and Lahore in Pakistan.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Pakistanis left stranded yesterday following the suspension of the rail service between Delhi and Attari in India and Lahore in Pakistan. Kashmiris fleeing the border town of Chakothi on Wednesday. Left: Children with banners and Indian national flag
Kashmiris fleeing the border town of Chakothi on Wednesday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING • China's Foreign Minister has called on Pakistan and India to avoid escalating tensions, expressing to his Pakistani counterpart "deep concern" over the Kashmir crisis amid fears aerial battles could snowball into an all-out conflict.

Mr Wang Yi's comments came as Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi called him on Wednesday to provide an update on the latest developments in the stand-off, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

Mr Wang told Mr Qureshi he hoped the nuclear-armed neighbours would "exercise restraint and earnestly fulfil their commitment to preventing the expansion of the situation", a statement said.

Mr Wang also stressed that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected, and that China did not wish to see acts that violate the norms of international relations.

Tensions between the historic rivals have dramatically escalated since they announced that they had shot down each other's fighter jets on Wednesday.

While both sides have sought to play down the threat of war, the rare aerial engagement over the divided and disputed territory of Kashmir significantly raises the stakes in a stand-off sparked by a suicide attack on the Indian-controlled side earlier this month.

New Delhi had vowed retaliation after a Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed the attack, which killed dozens of troops in Indian Kashmir.

On Tuesday, India said its air force conducted strikes on a JeM militant camp inside Pakistan - the first time since 1971 that it hit territory in divided Kashmir.

Beijing, one of Pakistan's closest allies, has poured billions of dollars into the country as part of a huge infrastructure project that seeks to connect China's western province of Xinjiang with the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar in Balochistan.

On Wednesday, Britain, France, and the United States asked the UN Security Council to place JeM leader Masood Azhar on the UN terror blacklist, which would subject him to a global travel ban and assets freeze - a motion China is expected to object to.

 
 
 
 

China blocked attempts to impose sanctions on the JeM leader in 2016 and 2017. The group itself was added to the terror list in 2001.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump is hopeful of a resolution to the India-Pakistan crisis.

Mr Trump, speaking at a press conference in Hanoi yesterday after a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said he had had "reasonably attractive news from Pakistan and India".

The US has been "involved in trying to have them stop", he told reporters. "We have some reasonably decent news... Hopefully that's going to be coming to an end," Mr Trump added.

The comments were his first since India and Pakistan both claimed to have shot down each other's fighter planes after a rare aerial engagement in the skies over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir on Wednesday, with Pakistan capturing one Indian pilot.

The incident - the latest in a dangerous sequence of events between the two countries - sent tensions rocketing, as major world powers and bodies including China, the US and the United Nations urged restraint.

New Delhi said it lost one fighter jet and a pilot was missing in action, later confirming he was in Pakistani custody.

India also downed a Pakistani jet, the Foreign Ministry said.

Pakistan, on its part, claimed to have shot down two Indian jets and denied that it lost any aircraft in the dogfight.

Islamabad said its incursion across the heavily militarised border was in response to Indian warplanes bombing Balakot, well inside Pakistani territory, on Feb 26.

That attack was the "jaw-breaking" response Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised after militants staged a suicide bombing in Indian Kashmir on Feb 14, killing at least 40 paramilitaries.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2019, with the headline 'Avoid escalating tensions, China urges'. Print Edition | Subscribe