China welcomes Modi, Khan exchanging greetings

China on Monday welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan exchanging greetings amid heightened tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

Beijing also said that it wanted peace between the South Asian nations and was willing to play a “constructive” role to help them resolve their issues.

Last week, Modi extended greetings to Khan on the eve of Pakistan’s National Day, saying it was time for the people of the sub-continent to work together for a democratic, peaceful, progressive and prosperous region, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence.

Khan responded on Twitter, telling Modi that it was time “to begin a comprehensive dialogue with India to address and resolve all issues, especially the central issue of Kashmir, and forge a new relationship based on peace and prosperity for all our people”.

The Indian government had described the message by Modi as a customary one.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said on Monday: “We noted relevant reports and we welcome the goodwill sent out to each other by both Indian and Pakistani leaders. We support the two sides in maintaining engagement and improve their relations, stabilise the situations and resolve their differences.

“China will continue to play a constructive role to this end.”

India and Pakistan almost went to war after the February 14 attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama that killed 40 CRPF troopers.

After the attack, the Indian Air Force and Pakistan Air Force carried out tit-for-tat strikes, leading to a dog fight between their planes. An Indian Mig-21 was downed during the dogfight and its pilot captured by Pakistan. He was subsequently released.

Asked what he meant by the word “constructive”, and whether there was a shift in China’s position on the India-Pakistan issue as earlier this month Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that Beijing was willing to mediate between them, Geng did not elaborate.

“China’s position on the issue of India-Pakistan relations is consistent. These two nations are important South Asian countries, and we hope they will resolve issues through dialogue and consultation. China hopes to stay in friendly relations with both of them and we will continue to play a constructive role in promoting the peace talks between these two countries,” Geng added.

China publicly maintains a “neutral” stance on the Jammu and Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan, but its diplomats and state media have often suggested Beijing’s mediation.

India opposes any third party intervention in the issue.