China on Thursday offered to play a “constructive role” to ease tension between Pakistan and Iran following their missile strikes against each other over the last two days and asked the two countries to “exercise restraint and calmness and avoid escalation.”
Pakistan conducted “precision military strikes” against what it called “terrorist hideouts” in Iran’s Siestan-Balochistan province that killed 9 people in the wee hours on Thursday. The attack was seen as retaliation to Iranian missile and drone attacks on Tuesday which targeted two bases of the Sunni Baloch militant group Jaish al-Adl in Pakistan’s unruly Balochistan province.
The attacks have put China in a piquant situation as Pakistan is an all-weather ally, while Tehran is warming up to Beijing in recent years enabling China to expand its influence in the West Asia region. China also imports a considerable amount of oil from Iran.
“Did you say that Pakistan launched strikes on Iran? I’m not aware of this, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a media briefing when asked whether China is aware of Pakistan airstrikes inside Iran.
“Iran and Pakistan are close neighbours and countries who have influence and keep friendly relations with China. China sincerely hopes that the two sides will remain calm and restraint and avoid escalation of the tension. If there is need from the two sides, we would like to play a constructive role in cooling down the situation,” she said.
To a question by a Pakistan journalist whether China considered Iran’s airstrikes on a camp of the Sunni militant group, Jaish al-Adl in Balochistan a violation of UN Charter principles and international law, she said, “China stands for handling the relations between countries based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and international law, and respecting and protecting all countries’ sovereign independence and territorial integrity.”
China hopes and believes the two sides will resolve disagreements through dialogue and consultation, she added.
China’s offer to mediate can be a tightrope walk for it as Pakistan, a Sunni majority country, and Iran, with predominantly a Shia majority, have a tenuous relationship.
However, China claimed diplomatic success last year in another set of similarly stressed countries. It had brought arch-rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia together following which the two countries restored diplomatic ties after decades.
China’s USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), connecting Pakistan’s volatile Balochistan, neighbouring Iran, with its Muslim-majority Xinjiang province, is increasingly coming under pressure from Baloch nationalists and Sunni extremist groups with repeated attacks on thousands of Chinese workers employed in scores of projects in Pakistan.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)