A senior Chinese diplomat said China and Pakistan will defend their core interests as India called on Beijing and the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council to place a Pakistani militant leader on a counterterrorist sanctions list. Deputy foreign minister Kong Xuanyou stated China’s position at meetings with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islamabad on Tuesday and Wednesday. Their agendas included discussions on the recent crisis afflicting the disputed Kashmir region that borders China. India has pressed China to support its move to designate Masood Azhar, leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed group which claimed responsibility for the deaths of 40 Indian soldiers in Kashmir last month, as a terrorist under international law. India has pursued Azhar for decades, but China did not support the move and cited reasons such as lack of evidence against the 50-year-old for its refusal. Last week, France, Russia, Britain, and the United States – four of five permanent members of the UN Security Council – backed India’s call to impose an arms embargo, global travel ban and asset freeze on Azhar. A 15-member UN sanctions committee has until March 13 to raise objections to India’s proposal. In a statement released by the Chinese foreign ministry, Kong said “China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic partners and have consistently supported each other on issues involving core interests”. He said China was very concerned about the situation between Pakistan and India, and he appreciated Pakistan’s insistence on cooling tensions with India by dialogue. Pakistan begins crackdown on militants as pressure mounts India and Pakistan have been at odds over Kashmir since 1947 and the emergence of independent states in the partition of India by the British. Kong said: “China maintains that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be earnestly respected, and is unwilling to see acts that violate the norms of international relations.” China called on Pakistan and India to refrain from aggravating the situation in Kashmir and begin dialogue as quickly as possible to restore peace and stability. Beijing would continue to play a constructive role in this regard, Kong said. China said Kong’s trip and role as mediator was at Pakistan’s invitation. Beijing’s latest effort coincided with Pakistan’s announcement that it had begun a crackdown on Islamist militants, including relatives of Azhar, Reuters reported. The latest push to blacklist Azhar followed a rapid escalation in tensions between Pakistan and India in the wake of the Jaish-e-Mohammed attack on Indian troops in Kashmir. Both Delhi and Islamabad ordered air strikes – the first time the two nuclear-armed powers have done so – while ground forces exchanged fire at more than a dozen locations across Kashmir. How India and Pakistan became nuclear states Du Youkang, director of Fudan University’s Pakistan Study Centre in Shanghai, said that in his view China would take a principled stance on the sanctions committee proposal and would not take sides. “Both India and Pakistan are important neighbours to China, and China hopes that the South Asia region will remain stable and peaceful,” Du said. Tensions eased on Friday after Pakistan released an Indian pilot who had been shot down over Kashmir. Pakistani Prime Minister Khan described the move as “a goodwill gesture aimed at de-escalating rising tensions with India”.