India protests China-Pakistan bus via PoK

Rising Kashmir

China and Pakistan reaffirmed their "all-weather" relations in Beijing on Friday, as visiting Prime Minister Imran Khan sought fresh financial support from his giant neighbour in the face of a troubled economy back home.

China has repeatedly said that the Indian-Pakistani territorial dispute had to be settled through dialogue between the two sides.

Saudi Arabia has already pledged $3 billion to help Pakistan stave off its fiscal crisis and agreed to defer oil payments.

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.

China has pledged more than US$60 billion to Pakistan in the form of loans and investments for roads, ports, power plants and industrial estates under the scheme, but the South Asian nation's ability to meet the repayments has always been a matter of some concern.

But while neither leader mentioned economic aid in front of reporters, China's top diplomat guaranteed support from Beijing in a separate meeting with his Pakistani counterpart.

During his visit to Saudi Arabia last month, Riyadh committed United States dollars 6 billion funding which included USD 3 billion deferred payment for oil imports.

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Finance minister Asad Umar, who is accompanying Khan, earlier told media in Islamabad that Pakistan's strategy was to seek loans from multiple sources instead of asking the International Monetary Fund (IMF) alone to plug the entire gap in the country's financing needs.

The CPEC is a $46 billion-worth infrastructure project funded by China that aims at increasing the region's integrity by connecting the Pakistani port city of Gwadar and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region via transportation routes.

The country's foreign exchange reserves have fallen to a near five-year low of US$7.8 billion, the State Bank of Pakistan said on Thursday, while the net foreign reserves held by commercial banks have also dropped, to US$6.4 billion. Khan had initially vowed to curb borrowing, but has proceeded with projects such as one to build 5 million public housing units and has predicted that Pakistan would soon overcome its economic woes.

After visiting Beijing, Khan is set to be a key note speaker at a major import fair in Shanghai, an event being touted by China as an opportunity to show the world the country welcomes foreign companies and their products.

"In 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that it is only by respecting the autonomy of countries involved, there can be regional connectivity and avoid differences and disorientation". The trip "is significant for President Xi Jinping, whose flagship BRI has had hiccups in recent months".

Khan will meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Saturday, when the two countries are expected to sign a series of agreements.

Mr. Lu stressed that the CPEC was an "economic project", and did not reflect China's position on Kashmir.

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