Pakistan on Thursday rejected protests by India against a bus service to China, passing though PoK under the ambitious CPEC project, even as Beijing defended the proposed service saying its cooperation with Islamabad has nothing to do with the Kashmir dispute and will not change its principled stance on the issue.
According to reports, the new bus service will be launched between Lahore in Pakistan and Kashgar in China via Pakistan-occupied Kashmir on November 3.
"We reject the Indian Ministry of External Affairs' (MEA) purported protest and statement regarding bus service through China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)," Pakistan's Foreign Office (FO) said.
India on Wednesday said it had lodged strong protests with China and Pakistan over a proposed bus service between the two countries through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in New Delhi that the bus service will be a violation of India's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Kumar said it has been India's consistent and well-known position that the "so-called China-Pakistan 'Boundary Agreement' of 1963 is illegal and invalid, and has never been recognised by the Government of India."
"Therefore, any such bus service through Pakistan-occupied Jammu & Kashmir will be a violation of India's sovereignty and territorial integrity," he added.
The USD 60 billion CPEC, launched in 2015, is a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects linking China's resource-rich Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region with Pakistan's strategic Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea.
Meanwhile, China on Thursday sought to defend the proposed bus service with Pakistan through 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. Its launch apparently is coinciding with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's maiden visit to China starting on Friday.
Asked about India's objections, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in Beijing that he was not aware of New Delhi'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," Lu said.
China maintains that the Kashmir issue should be resolved bilaterally between India and Pakistan through dialogue and consultation. He defended the CPEC, saying it is an economic cooperation project between China and Pakistan, and is not targeted against any third party.