BEIJING/NEW DELHI: A week before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected as state guest in Washington, a monitoring role to China in South Asia, particularly between India and Pakistan, a fact that has stuck in New Delhi's throat. The US and China have agreed to work together to bring about stable and peaceful relations in all of South Asia, Obama said during his joint briefing with Chinese president Hu Jintao in Beijing. Hu, who spoke first in the briefing, did not mention Pakistan or South Asia. They (US and China) "support the efforts of Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight terrorism, maintain domestic stability and achieve sustainable economic and social development, and support the improvement and growth of relations between India and Pakistan," the joint statement said. This is a rare occasion when a US president has acknowledged that Beijing has a role to play in the India-Pakistan relationship. The move, if serious, runs counter to predictions of US foreign policy experts that the US would not acquiesce in a future Chinese hegemony in the region. While New Delhi maintained a studied silence on the joint statement, it has infuriated officials in the foreign office because it brings back nasty memories of another US-China joint statement by Bill Clinton and Jiang Zemin on June 29, 1998. Then too, it was Clinton and Jiang, in what India considered "offensive" language, scolding India and Pakistan for their nuclear tests. India had reacted sharply then, buffetted by general international condemnation after the tests. But Tuesday's statement cuts at the heart of an Indian effort to build a relationship with the US without China complicating the issue. Former diplomat KC Singh said, "The statement was uncalled for and gratuitous, and serves to poison the chalice before the PM goes to Washington." The reality is perhaps that the joint statement was drafted by Obama's China officials who don't carry sensitivities of India with them. But that it was allowed to go through signals to many Indian strategists that Obama may be more than pliant to China, giving it a role in a region where it's bound to come into conflict with a country Obama says is a US strategic partner, India. The question is whether the US was pressured into giving China a bigger role in the region in return for other favours in areas like the North Korean and Iranian nuclear issues. The Indian government, which has always opposed third party intervention in the India-Pakistan dialogue, is likely to be worried about the new development. The joint statement also shows that Washington is agreeable to the idea of China playing a bigger role in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which is another issue that can rattle New Delhi. "The two sides are ready to strengthen communication, dialogue and cooperation on issues related to South Asia and work together to promote peace, stability and development in that region," the joint statement further said explaining the parameters of US-China cooperation in the region. A Chinese foreign ministry official later said the two leaders did not discuss specifics of the situation in South Asia because there was not much time available for that. There were a lot of other issues for them to discuss, he said. But the joint statement is the product of weeks of discussions between two sides and the US administration officials did approve the phrases concerning China's role in South Asia.