China on Thursday praised Pakistan for “remaining calm and exercising restraint” at a time when tensions were high with its neighbour India, Reuters reported.

The statement came a day after Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou visited Pakistan and met several senior officials, including Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Kong said China and Pakistan were “all-weather” strategic partners who always supported each other, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. “China has paid close attention to the present situation between Pakistan and India, and appreciates Pakistan’s remaining calm and exercising restraint from the beginning, and persisting in pushing to lower the temperature with India via dialogue,” the ministry statement added, paraphrasing Kong.

“China calls on Pakistan and India to refrain from taking actions that aggravate the situation, show goodwill and flexibility, launch dialogue as soon as possible, and work together to maintain regional peace and stability,” Kong added, the statement said.

“We commend that Pakistan has been restrained and calm and tried to ease the tension,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told mediapersons in Beijing, according to PTI. “He [Kong] also stressed that China believes the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a country should be upheld. We are not willing to see any action that is violating international law.”

He added that Pakistan appreciates China’s “unbiased attitude” and said it was not willing to see an increase in tensions with India. “It is willing to resolve the problem with India and hopes that China and other members of the international community can play a constructive role in this process,” Lu said.

Islamabad thanked Beijing for its steadfast support, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said in a statement. “Vice Foreign Minister was briefed on Pakistan’s efforts to resolve all issues with India through dialogue,” the statement added. “He underscored that Pakistan and China are close friends and partners. He reiterated China’s support to Pakistan for peace and stability in the region. He also acknowledged Pakistan’s measures against terrorism.”

India-Pakistan tension

These statements came at a time when there has been a rise in global pressure on Pakistan to act against terrorist groups within the country, since the February 14 suicide bomb attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district. Forty CRPF personnel died in the attack, which was claimed by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad.

Pakistan is also under pressure from the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force to deliver on its commitments to curb terror financing. Last year, the task force had put the country on its watchlist in an effort to push Pakistan to halt support for terror groups.

Firing across the border has escalated amid tensions between the two countries following the cross-border strikes conducted by the Indian Air Force on February 26. Both countries engaged in aerial skirmishes the next day, and Pakistan captured IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, after his fighter jet was shot down. Varthaman was later released.

Crackdown in Pakistan

Pakistan on Thursday said it has detained more than 100 people and taken control of 182 schools as part of its ongoing crackdown on banned outfits. It has, however, downplayed speculation that the action was a response to India’s allegations and said that it was part of a long-planned drive.

On Monday, Pakistan had enacted a law to streamline the process for the implementation of United Nations sanctions against individuals and organisations amid global pressure to curb the activities and financing provided to terror groups operating on its soil. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had said the government issued the United Nations Security Council (Freezing and Seizure) Order, 2019, in accordance with the provisions of Pakistan’s United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Act, 1948.

On Tuesday, Pakistani Interior Ministry said officials had detained 44 members of banned organisations, including Jaish chief Masood Azhar’s brother Mufti Abdur Rauf, and son Hamad Azhar.

The Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its charity wing Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation have also been affected by the crackdown.