Endorsing the idea of trilateral cooperation between India, China and Pakistan under the aegis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Beijing's envoy Luo Zhaohui on Monday said such an arrangement could "in the future" help resolve bilateral issues between New Delhi and Islamabad.
Reacting to Luo's remarks about a possible trilateral summit, the ministry of external affairs said matters related to India-Pakistan ties are "purely bilateral in nature" and have "no scope for involvement of any third party".
The Chinese envoy to India also said that the India-China bilateral ties can't take the strain of another Doklam episode and emphasised the need to find a "mutually acceptable solution" on the border dispute through a meeting of special representatives.
He said "some Indian friends" had suggested trilateral cooperation comprising India, China and Pakistan under the aegis of the SCO, which was a "very constructive idea".
"Security cooperation is one of the three pillars of the SCO. Some Indian friends suggested that China, India and Pakistan may have some kind of trilateral cooperation under the SCO," he said in his keynote address on 'Beyond Wuhan: How Far and Fast can China-India Relations Go' at an event organised by the Chinese embassy in New Delhi.
Responding to a question on whether a trilateral meet between the Asian neighbours will help in solving the India-Pakistan dispute, he said he personally considers it "a good and constructive idea".
"Maybe not now, but in the future, that is the great idea. It will help to resolve bilateral issues and help to maintain peace and tranquillity," he said.
The envoy's remarks come after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain exchanged pleasantries following a press conference by SCO leaders in Qingdao last week.
In response to queries on the comments made by Luo on a possible trilateral summit between India, China and Pakistan, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said: "We have seen reports on comments made by the Chinese ambassador in this matter. We have not received any such suggestion from the Chinese government.
"We consider the statement as the personal opinion of the ambassador. Matters related to India-Pakistan relations are purely bilateral in nature and have no scope for involvement of any third country."
Dwelling on Sino-Indian ties, Luo said it is quite natural to have differences with neighbours but they need to be controlled and managed through cooperation.
"We need to narrow differences through expanding cooperation. However, it does not mean that differences would be ignored. The boundary question between our two countries was left over by history. We need to build on convergence to find a mutual acceptable solution through the Special Representatives Meeting while adopting confidence building measures to maintain the peace and tranquillity along the border," he said.
"We cannot stand another Doklam (sic)," the envoy said.
Indian and Chinese troops were involved in a 73-day standoff at the Doklam tri-junction of India, Bhutan and China between June and August last year.
Luo suggested that India and China should think about signing a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. He said a draft on this was provided to the Indian side about 10 years ago.
One of the immediate fallouts of the Doklam standoff was the suspension of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra from Nathu-La side and the annual military exercise between the two countries. China also did not give the hydrological data of the Brahmaputra and Indus rivers that originates in Tibet.
The envoy said today China will continue to promote religious exchanges and make arrangements for Indian pilgrims visiting Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet.
Post-Doklam, there have been frequent high-level engagements between the leaders of the two countries.
Luo said Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who met twice in the past two months in Wuhan and Qingdao, are likely to meet again on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit and G20 Summit later this year.
Responding to a question on India-China cooperation in Afghanistan, Luo said the two countries have identified a programme to train Afghan public servants and diplomats.
"This is a first step and in future, there is more...," he said.
In the informal summit between Modi and Xi at Wuhan, the two countries agreed to work jointly on an economic project in Afghanistan.
The envoy called for cooperation between India and China to coordinate each other's position on issues such as rising protectionism around the world.
"Against the backdrop of anti-globalisation and rising protectionism, China and India, as major emerging market economies, are faced with the pressure of established powers. We should coordinate our positions and also explore ways to be with each other," the envoy said without naming the US.
The US has slapped high tariffs on certain steel and aluminum products, which has led to a trade-war kind of a situation as other nations too are raising their tariff walls.
He said China will import more sugar, non-Basmati rice and high-quality medicines from India to reduce the trade imbalance.
"We would also like to negotiate a regional trade arrangement with India to expand trade relations," he added.