Conflict & Justice

China praises Pakistan, downplays Xinjiang rift


BEIJING, CHINA - MAY 20: Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani (L) meets with China's President Hu Jintao during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People on May 20, 2011 in Beijing, China. Yusuf Raza Gilani is on and official four day visit to China.



China's Foreign Ministrypraised Pakistan as a firm partner against terror and religious extremism Wednesday, Reuters reported.

The official statement downplayed the risk that China's relationship with Pakistan might be strained by the belief that recent terrorist attacks in the restive Chinese province of Xinjiang are linked to groups based in Pakistan, the news agency said.

The ministry's statement was its first response to the attack in Kashgar city in China's far western Xinjiang region on Sunday, when a group of Uighur men killed a restaurant owner and waiter, and then hacked to death four people, Reuters reported.

Earlier, the government of Kashgar -- a Xinjiang city near China's border with Pakistan -- said the attack was organised by members of the separatist "East Turkestan Islamic Movement" and alleged that the group received arms and explosives training in Pakistan.

But Reuters reported that the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ma Zhaoxu, explicitly praised Islamabad in an apparent effort to "quash any notion of a rift over the attack in Xinjiang."

Notably, this combination of criticism and praise mirrors the longtime U.S. policy in Pakistan, which has been shaken after the killing of Osama bin Laden soured relations between Washington and Pakistan's military leaders.

Nevertheless, the Chinese flip-flop will make it more difficult for observers in Washington or New Delhi to argue that Beijing might be an effective ally in curtailing Pakistan's alleged support of terrorist groups if the U.S. were to cede its role as regional policeman and withdraw its massive financial support of the Pakistani military establishment.