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China Concerned About Escalating India-Pakistan Tensions - 2001-12-20

China urged Islamabad to avoid escalating tensions with India, as Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf arrived in Beijing for a visit Thursday.

The Pakistan president's five-day visit comes as Islamabad's relationship with India is deteriorating. India blames Pakistan nationals for last week's suicide attack on its parliament, in which 14 people, including the gunmen, were killed. Since the attack, the countries have exchanged heated rhetoric, and accused each other of reinforcing troops along their border.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue says at a news conference that "China is concerned about growing tensions between Pakistan and India." She says "China hopes both sides will exercise restraint, and resolve their problems through dialogue to maintain peace and stability."

President Pervez Musharraf meets with President Jiang Zemin and other Chinese leaders starting Thursday evening to discuss bilateral ties as well as the war in Afghanistan.

Ms. Zhang says that "China and Pakistan are close neighbors that have enjoyed a friendship since diplomatic ties were established 50 years ago."

Observers say China is likely to pledge more economic aid for Mr. Musharraf during his visit. Beijing has in the past provided Islamabad with military hardware, over the objections of the United States.

This is Mr. Musharraf's first visit to Beijing since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, and the start of the U.S. led war against terror. Islamabad has provided extensive support to the U.S. effort.

Beijing publicly supports the United States in the fight, but is said to be uneasy with Pakistan's close cooperation with Washington.