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Diplomacy

India Shuts Down Chinese Ambassador's Proposal for Trilateral Cooperation with Pak

"If a China-Russia-Mongolia trilateral is possible, then why don’t we try working China-India-Pakistan out?" Chinese ambassador Luo Zhaohui had said.

New Delhi: Chinese ambassador Luo Zhaohui’s push for trilateral cooperation between China, India and Pakistan under the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation umbrella was dismissed by New Delhi with a reiteration of the long-established position that India-Pakistan relations are a no-go area for third countries.

On Monday, Chinese ambassador Luo Zhahohui inaugurated a seminar on “Beyond Wuhan: How far and fast can China-India relations go”, where he made the proposition which elicited an Indian rebuttal before the day ended.

Noting that China-India relations have gone beyond bilateral scope, Luo said that the two sides “should continue to push forward ‘China India Plus’ cooperation”.

Pivoting to the recent SCO summit, Luo noted that security cooperation was one of the three pillars of the regional group. “Some Indian friends suggested that China, India and Pakistan may have some kind of trilateral cooperation under the SCO. If a China-Russia-Mongolia trilateral is possible, then why don’t we try working China-India-Pakistan out?” he said.

Another example of “China India Plus’ cooperation was a joint training programme for Afghan civil servants.

While the Chinese envoy framed the trilateral proposal as having come from “Indian friends”, the suggestion didn’t find any taker in New Delhi.

Ministry of external affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that India had not received any such suggestion from the Chinese government.

“We have seen reports on comments made by the Chinese ambassador in this matter. We have not received any such suggestion from the Chinese government. We consider the statement as the personal opinion of the Ambassador. Matters related to India-Pakistan relations are purely bilateral in nature and have no scope for involvement of any third country,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the signing ceremony of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit, in Qingdao, China on June 10, 2018. Credit: PIB

SCO country leaders at the signing ceremony of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, in Qingdao, China on June 10, 2018. Credit: PIB

This is not the first time that the Chinese ambassador has taken such a personal initiative.

Last year, he had suggested the renaming of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to soothe Indian sensitivities at a closed-door event. The sentence was excised from the copy of the speech uploaded on the embassy a day later after it was clear that India would not relent on attending OBOR summit in Beijing. Even then, it was suggested that Luo Zhahohui had apparently acted on his own.

While Luo’s trilateral suggestion may be his own handiwork, Beijing has also been recently promoting SCO as a “great vehicle” for improving ties between India and Pakistan and therefore as the guarantor for regional security. Both India and Pakistan formally joined SCO as full members at the summit in Qingdao earlier this month.

In an interview to Chinese state television on June 11, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yihad said that “after joining the SCO, maybe we can say that their relationship might be better”. He went on to pronounce SCO as a “great vehicle” for bettering relations between India and Pakistan, which “as a result is a better safeguard the peace and stability in the region”.

China had last year offered to play a “constructive role” in improving relations between India and Pakistan when Kashmir was witnessing a series of violent clashes between protestors and security forces. New Delhi had also dismissed that overture, pointing out that India was ready to discuss Kashmir in a “bilateral framework”.

The Chinese statement on mediating between India and Pakistan on July 11, 2017, was also issued in the background of the ongoing stand-off between troops of the two Asian countries at Doklam in Bhutan. The Doklam crisis, which lasted months, ended after both sides agreed to withdraw from the site.

In his speech on Monday, the Chinese envoy also alluded thatthe relations between two sides cannot take the strain of having “another Doklam”.

“We need to control, manage, narrow differences through expanding cooperation. The boundary question was left over by history. We need to find a mutual acceptable solution through Special Representatives’ Meeting while adopting confidence building measures,” he said, adding, “We cannot stand to have another Doklam”.