China urges India, Pak to 'exercise restraint'

China on Tuesday urged India and Pakistan to “exercise restraint” and asked New Delhi to carry out its fight against terrorism through international cooperation, hours after Indian fighter jets struck Jaish-e-Mohammed’s biggest camp in Pakistan in a pre-dawn attack.

When asked for China’s response to India’s air strikes on camps in Pakistan, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told the media here that “we have taken note of the relevant reports”.

“I want to say that India and Pakistan are both important countries in South Asia. A sound relationship and cooperation between the two serves the interests of both the countries and peace and stability in South Asia,” he said.

“We hope that both India and Pakistan can exercise restraint and do more to improve their bilateral relations,” he said.

On India’s assertion that it was a “non-military pre-emptive strike” directed against training camps of the militant groups who are carrying out “violent” acts in India, Lu said, “as for India’s claim on taking action against terrorism, well fighting terrorism is a global practice”.

“It needs necessary international cooperation. India needs to create favourable condition internationally for the same,” he said.

To another question, he said Pakistan foreign minister Shah Muhammad Qureshi has spoken to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the Pulwama attack in Jammu and Kashmir.

 “During the phone call, Wang listened carefully to Pakistan foreign minister’s notification and proposals on the issues and reaffirmed his opinion that the two sides need to advance their cooperation in the counter terrorism for peace and stability in the region,” the spokesman said.

Lu’s comments came ahead of Russia, India and China (RIC) foreign ministers’ meeting at Chinese city of Wuzhen on Wednesday in which external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj is due to take part.

In London, the British government called on India and Pakistan to pursue diplomatic solutions in the wake of the Pulwama attack.

UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt held telephonic conversations with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday, the UK foreign and commonwealth office (FCO) said in a statement.

“The foreign secretary highlighted the UK’s concern about the enduring threat to regional stability from terrorism. He encouraged Pakistan and India to improve cooperation and find diplomatic solutions that will create greater stability and trust in the region,” the FCO said.

Hunt condemned the Pulwama attack and expressed condolences to all those affected, it said.

The FCO statement came amid heightened tension between India and Pakistan after the February 14 suicide attack by JeM group that killed 40 CRPF soldiers in Pulwama.

The FCO said that the UK minister reiterated with both Indian and Pakistani counterparts that Britain was committed to working with both India and Pakistan as well as international partners at the United Nations to ensure that those responsible for the attack are held to account.

 “The UK has been, and continues to be, in close contact at senior levels in both countries and will be promoting international efforts to tackle the threats of terrorism and improve regional stability,” an FCO spokesperson said.

Hunt had come under pressure in the immediate aftermath of the Pulwama attack for referring to “India-administered Kashmir” in his Twitter statement while expressing his condolences to the victims.

Indian-origin Opposition Labour Party MP Virendra Sharma wrote to him to protest that “Jammu and Kashmir have been an integral part of the Indian state” and that the minister’s use of the “deeply offensive” phrase had upset Indians and British Indians.

“I hope that you will withdraw this phrase and demure from using it again in the future due to the connotations this seemingly innocuous phrase contains,” wrote Sharma, Chair of the Indo-British All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG).

His letter was followed by APPG Vice-Chair, Conservative Party MP Bob Blackman, also writing to the UK foreign secretary to point out his “factually incorrect” statement on Twitter.

“Your language may offend and again, I suggest retracting this phrase,” he wrote in the letter, which also asked the minister to clarify the support the UK is providing to “our friends in India in their ongoing battle against terrorists”.