Beijing: China on Thursday sought to defend the proposed bus service with Pakistan through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir or PoK, saying its cooperation with Islamabad has nothing to do with the territorial dispute and will not change its principled stance on the Kashmir issue.
India on Wednesday said it has lodged strong protests with China and Pakistan over the proposed bus service between the two countries through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) under the so called 'China-Pakistan Economic Corridor' or 'CPEC' project.
India has protested the so called 'CPEC' project as it runs through PoK, which India maintains is part of Jammu and Kashmir, its northernmost state, and therefore Indian territory.
India's Ministry of External Affairs said on Wednesday that the bus service will be a violation of India's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Pakistan and China don't share a border. Pakistan's only link to China is through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir's Gilgit-Baltistan region, which is part of Jammu and Kashmir. It is India and Afghanistan which share a border, now cut-off by Pakistan's forceful occupation of PoK.
According to reports from Pakistan, the new bus service will be launched between Lahore and China's Kashgar via Pakistan-occupied Kashmir on November 3. The launch apparently is coinciding with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's maiden visit to China starting Friday.
Asked about India's protest, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said he was not aware of India's diplomatic protest. "But on the issue of Kashmir, China's position is clear cut. We made it clear many times," he said.
China's stand he said is that the "cooperation between China and Pakistan has nothing to do with the territorial dispute and will not affect China's principled position on Kashmir," he said.
China maintains that the Kashmir issue should be resolved bilaterally between India and Pakistan through dialogue and consultation.
Despite having no border of direct link with Pakistan, China defended the over USD 50 billion so-called 'China-Pakistan Economic Corridor', saying that it is an economic cooperation project between China and Pakistan.
"It is not targeted against any third party," he said, despite the project passing through PoK.
The so-called 'CPEC' involves a host of projects with an aim to connect China's Xinjiang province with Balochistan's Gwadar port.