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China-Pakistan ties will continuously to make new headway: Chinese FM spokesman

BEIJING: Since formation of the new Pakistani government, China-Pakistan relations have maintained a sound momentum of growth, Chinese foreign ministry said.

Reply to a question during media briefing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, “China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic cooperative partners. Recent years have witnessed the development of our bilateral ties at a high standard. Since formation of the new Pakistani government, China-Pakistan relations have maintained a sound momentum of growth.”

Going forward, there will be more high-level exchanges between Pakistan and China.

Steady progress has been made in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and practical cooperation across the board and cultural and people to people exchanges are getting closer and closer, said the spokesman.

“Our two countries also maintain good coordination and cooperation on major international and regional issues,” he added.

The spokesman added, “We are convinced that with the concerted efforts of our two sides, China-Pakistan ties will continuously to make new headway.”

US sanctions will have no impact on India-Russia defence deal, says Russian envoy

US sanctions will not be an impediment to India-Russia defense deals, and New Delhi and Moscow could soon sign agreements on frigates and Kalashnikov assault rifles, Russian Ambassador to India Nikolay Kudashev said Thursday.

Describing the recently-inked USD 5.4 billion S-400 missile defense system deal as the “largest contract” in the history of Indo-Russia ties, he said it was one of the “speediest” agreements to be signed between the two countries and there were no protracted negotiations.

The implementation of the contract, signed during President Vladimir Putin’s visit from October 4-5, would start in 2020 and would last for five years, he said.

“In the coming months, you can expect more deals. Talks are on, this is the normal process. We hope that within two-three months… We could soon have a deal on frigates, it is very much on the agenda of the two sides, and we could soon have a deal on the Kalashnikov assault rifles,” the envoy told a select group of journalists here.

“Yes,” Kudashev said emphatically, when asked whether it would be right to state that Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act or CAATSA would not put pressure on India and Russia for further defence deals.

His remarks come just a day after US President Donald Trump said India would soon “find out” if the punitive CAATSA sanctions apply to it over its USD 5 billion deal with Russia to purchase the S-400 Triumf air defence system.

The CAATSA is a US federal law that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia. In Russia’s case, the act primarily deals with sanctions on Russian interests such as its oil and gas industry, defence and security sector, and financial institutions.

Under the CAATSA sanctions, only Trump has the authority for a presidential waiver to India on weapons deal with Russia.

The S-400 deal was underplayed by New Delhi, perhaps in a bid to keep its robust ties with Washington unblemished.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Putin, who held their annual summit, did not mention the S-400 deal in their respective press statements. Government officials also did not publicly announce the inking of the deal, with only official sources confirming it and a joint statement making a mention of the deal.

Asked about the playing down of the S-400 missile defence system deal during President Putin’s visit, Kudashev said the relationship between the two countries is very close and military and technical part of it is important, but it need not be interpreted as a defining one.

“The visit was about growing connectivity politically, economically, militarily in a humanitarian way, multi- dimensional… It was not about arms race, it was not about countering CAATSA, with its own CAATSA. The agenda was unifying, it was peaceful and that is why the military and technical side was important, but was one part of the statement,” he said.

On why the S-400 deal was not signed publicly, the Russian envoy said under Russian rules and protocol agreements are done before or on the sidelines of talks not necessarily in the presence of leaders, and added that may be talks were on till late.

The Russian ambassador also slammed CAATSA, saying it was an instrument of political pressure and unfair competition.

Another Russian diplomat said the notion that some other defence deals were not signed during Putin’s visit because of CAATSA was wrong as these were complex agreements and needed more time.

Kudashev also invoked statements made by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj saying India does not acknowledge sanctions other than those introduced by the UN.

He said that during Putin’s visit, the two countries also discussed strategies to identify common priority areas and how to protect their trade relationship from unpredictable factors like sanctions.

Talking about the proposal of jointly developing the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), he said that it was still on agenda, but India’s priority at present were S-400, frigates, helicopters, assault rifles.

Kudashev also said India and Russia should consider signing pacts such as the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), inked between New Delhi and Washington.

China Has No Intention of Interfering in U.S. Politics: Commerce Ministry

BEIJING (REUTERS) – China has no intention of interfering in U.S. politics and hopes Washington would stop finding excuses for its unilateralism and trade protectionism, the Chinese commerce ministry’s spokesman said on Thursday.

Last week, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence accused China of “malign” efforts to undermine President Donald Trump ahead of next month’s congressional elections. Pence also accused China of using its economic might to bully smaller countries.

China has not engaged in, and will not engage in, “economic invasion”, Gao Feng, the commerce ministry’s spokesman, said at a weekly briefing.

The United States and China have slapped tit-for-tat tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of each other’s goods over the past few months in an escalating trade conflict that could knock global trade and investment.

China is open to restarting trade talks with the United States, but regrettably the U.S. side has shown no sincerity still, Gao said.

(Reporting by Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Michael Perry)

Pakistan is against an arms race in the region: FO

The remark was made during the weekly FO briefing in Islamabad.

Dr Faisal said that countries providing India any weapons should make sure their assistance does not disturb the balance of power in the region. He also stated that Pakistan’s armed forces are nonetheless fully ready to respond to any aggression.

While speaking of India, Dr Faisal mentioned that Pakistan had not made any efforts to schedule talks with India on the sidelines of the upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in view of the UN General Assembly incident.

“Pakistan has not shied away from talks with India and is open to discuss all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen and terrorism,” Dr Faisal said, noting that it was India that had backed off from talks on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly sessions after initially agreeing to them.

According to Radio Pakistan, while speaking of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Dr Faisal said that both Pakistan and China are open to third party investment in some of the projects — including the special economic zones.

He also clarified that, contrary to reports, no CPEC projects were being “reviewed” and that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement on the matter had been taken out of context (when reported by some sections of the media).

The FO spokesperson said that engagement with the United States has increased ever the since the new government took office.

Presenting an example of the increased engagement, the FO spokesperson said that during US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad’s recent visit, Pakistan had made it clear that it would take all possible steps to facilitate a political settlement in Afghanistan as peace across the border means peace within Pakistan.