Bejing: As Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for talks with Xi Jinping ahead of the Chinese President's important visit to India, China said the Kashmir issue should be resolved between New Delhi and Islamabad, significantly omitting its recent references to the UN and UN Security Council resolutions.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang during his media briefing here on Tuesday did not make any official announcement about Xi's visit to India.
However, Chinese officials informally said an announcement would be made simultaneously in Beijing and New Delhi on Wednesday.
The foreign ministry has also called for a special media briefing on Wednesday on "Chinese leader's outbound visit".
"India and China have a tradition of high-level exchanges. Both sides have communication exchange over high-level visit. Any new information will be released soon," Geng said in response to questions on Xi's visit to India.
Both India and China are major developing countries of the world and major emerging markets, he said.
"Since the Wuhan informal summit (last year), our bilateral relations have gathered good momentum," he said.
"We have been advancing our cooperation and properly managing our differences. We have a tradition of high level exchange and our two sides are maintaining communication on high level exchange in the next phase. We should make good atmosphere and environment for this," he said.
When asked about Khan's visit to Beijing ahead of Xi's trip to India and whether the Kashmir issue will figure in his talks with the Chinese leaders, Geng said that China's stand is that the Kashmir issue should be resolved between India and Pakistan.
"And so you are paying attention to the Kashmir issue, right? China's position on Kashmir issue is clear and consistent”, he said.
"We call on India and Pakistan to engage in dialogue and consultation on all issues including Kashmir issue and consolidate mutual trust. This is in line with interest of both countries and common aspiration of the world," he said.
His comments marked a significant shift on what China has been saying on Kashmir in recent weeks in the aftermath of India's move to revoke Article 370 of the Constitution removing the special status to Kashmir.
In its first reaction on August 6, the Chinese foreign ministry issued two separate statements.In one statement, China also expressed its opposition to India's move to create a separate Union Territory of Ladakh highlighting Beijing's territorial claims in the area.
The second statement said, "We call on both India and Pakistan to peacefully resolve the relevant disputes through dialogue and consultation and safeguard peace and stability in the region".
But, China added UN and UNSC resolutions on Kashmir when Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi visited Beijing few days later and met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
"It (Kashmir issue) should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreement," Wang had said.
A closed-door meeting of the UNSC on Kashmir where China maintained the same stand ended without any outcome or statement, in a snub to Beijing and Islamabad.
Later, Wang in his UN General Assembly speech mentioned the same which drew protests from India.
Geng's comments on Tuesday marks China's return to its original stand that Kashmir issue should be resolved bilaterally.
Observers say it is significant shift ahead of Xi's visit to India for his 2nd informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On Khan's visit, Geng said China attaches "great importance" to his trip.
Khan arrived here on a two-day official visit to China during which he would meet the country's top leadership including President Xi and discuss issues of regional and bilateral significance.
Significantly, Pakistan army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa arrived here ahead of Khan on Monday night, according to the Pakistan army's media wing - the Inter-Services Public Relations ISPR).
Gen Bajwa would also attend Khan's key meetings with Xi and Premier Li Keqiang, highlighting his powerful position in Pakistan's power structure.
"COAS arrived China on official visit. COAS will meet Chinese mil leadership including PLA Army Commander, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission & Commander Southern Theater Command. COAS will also join PM for meeting with Chinese PM and President," the ISPR tweeted.
Their visits came ahead of Xi's planned visit to India.
"China and Pakistan are all weather strategic cooperation partners. We have good tradition of close exchange and communication. We have strategic mutual trust and advancing practical cooperation. Our cooperation in CPEC is bringing more outcomes to our peoples," he said.
Geng, however, did not respond to question about General Bajwa's visit.