India's worst fears may come true, China wants to mediate in Kashmir issue
By ANN News Desk
03 May 2017

​NEW DELHI (The Statesman/ANN News Desk) - India has consistently said that Kashmir is a bilateral problem to be resolved through talks with Pakistan, but Islamabad has never let go off any opportunity to seek multilateral mediation or raise the issue at global forums.

India's worst fears of China meddling in the Kashmir dispute appear to be coming true. 

China's massive investments in the One Belt, One Road initiative, including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, give it a vested interest in resolving regional conflicts such as the “dispute” over Kashmir between India and Pakistan, a state-run Chinese daily has said. 

The two nuclear armed South Asian neighbours have had a rocky relationship over Kashmir since the British bid goodbye to the subcontinent in 1947, but not before dividing it into a secular, but mostly Hindu India, and a Muslim Pakistan.
 
Pakistan controls roughly one-third of Jammu and Kashmir, nestled in the Himalayan region and bordering India, Pakistan and China, and refers to it as Azad (free) Jammu and Kashmir. The Indians call it "occupied" territory. The two neighbours have fought three wars over Kashmir so far. 

The Global Times, which reflects the thinking of the Communist Party leadership, wrote: “Given the massive investment that China has made in countries along the One Belt, One Road, China now has a vested interest in helping resolve regional conflicts including the dispute over Kashmir between India and Pakistan.”

China has invested an estimated US$54 billion in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that runs through Pakistan-administered Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan. Beijing has already stationed troops for the safety of Chinese workers in Gilgit-Baltistan and parts of Pakistani Kashmir.

The CPEC running from Kashgar to Gwadar is one of the flagship projects under President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an ambitious plan to build a new Silk Road linking Asia, Africa and Europe by pumping in billions of dollars into infrastructure projects such as railways, ports and power grids.

India has repeatedly raised it concerns over the CPEC with China as a key part of it passes through Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

In June 2015, barely two months after President Xi announced plans to invest US$46 billion to develop infrastructure and energy projects in Pakistan as part of the economic corridor, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi told China this was "unacceptable".

India has consistently said that Kashmir is a bilateral problem to be resolved through talks with Pakistan, but Islamabad has never let go off any opportunity to seek multilateral mediation or raise the issue at global forums.

The article in The Global Times “indicates that China only appears not to 'interfere' in the internal affairs of other countries but its investments, for example in the CPEC, give Beijing the perfect cover to launch its diplomatic game. It probably explains the model of interference that China is beginning to follow: First invest, next interfere,” said a report in the Hindustan Times.

“With its 'iron brother' friendship with Pakistan, it is also fairly clear which way Beijing will swing when – not if – it decides to meddle in the complex Kashmir dispute,” it added.

The Chinese daily cautioned that Beijing would have to be cautious while undertaking any such task. “While China has the capability to resolve conflicts through mediation given its increased economic influence, the nation needs to be very prudent in dealing with other big powers, India included, in the region,” the article said. 

“In fact, mediating between India and Pakistan over Kashmir issue would perhaps be one of the toughest challenges facing China in dealing with regional affairs to safeguard its overseas interests.’’ 

The daily cited China's ability to mediate in conflicts outside the country – such as its recent mediation between Myanmar and Bangladesh over the Rohingya issue – saying it reflected Beijing's increased ability to resolve conflicts beyond its borders to maintain regional stability.

Meanwhile, India's proposal for bilateral dialogue on Kashmir was dismissed by 
Sartaj Aziz, adviser to Pakistan's Prime Minister on foreign affairs, on Tuesday.

Aziz said India had "scuttled all opportunities for meaningful dialogue" over the past two decades, according to a statement issued by Pakistan's Foreign Office.

His remarks followed New Delhi's rejection of a suggestion by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for multilateral dialogue to settle the Kashmir issue. India rejected the proposition, insisting the matter must be resolved bilaterally through talks between Islamabad and New Delhi.

"The Indian counter-proposal that it is ready for bilateral dialogue with Pakistan is no longer credible because in the past two decades, India has scuttled all opportunities for a meaningful dialogue to resolve the Kashmir issue in accordance with the UN Security Council’s relevant resolutions on Kashmir," Aziz said in the statement.

Aziz said Erdogan's move to "strengthen the dialogue process among the stakeholders for resolving the Kashmir issue, and his call for a multilateral approach to settle the Jammu and Kashmir dispute...must be welcomed".

Pakistan welcomes statements and endeavours aimed at addressing human rights issues in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and resolving the dispute.

Before beginning his two-day visit to India, Erdogan had suggested Pakistan and India need to “strengthen multilateral dialogue” to find a solution to the Kashmir issue.

Gopal Baglay, spokesperson for India's Ministry of External Affairs, said the Indian side had told Erdogan during talks that the Kashmir issue has a "prominent dimension of cross-border terrorism" which needs to be stopped by "those who are perpetuating it”. The Indian side also told the Turkish President that Kashmir was a bilateral issue and India was prepared to hold a dialogue with Pakistan on the matter. 

Aziz criticised Baglay's statement, saying: "India’s contention that Kashmir issue is primarily an issue of cross-border terrorism, is a claim that no one in the world is prepared to accept today."

He said an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation declaration adopted in April "outrightly rejected Indian attempts of equating the Kashmiris’ freedom struggle with terrorism".

Highlighting atrocities committed by Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir, the Foreign Office statement quoted Aziz as saying, "Nobody believes that thousands of young boys and girls, who have been agitating ceaselessly since July 2016, are terrorists."

"The Indian government has broken its own record of brutality in Indian Occupied Kashmir," the statement said, adding more than 100 protesters have been killed in the region.

"Indian forces have blinded hundreds of Kashmiris, including children, and injured over 16,000 protesters with live ammunition, pellet guns and gas shells," the Foreign Office claimed.

The statement pointed out the people of Jammu and Kashmir are "losing faith in Indian democracy" and cited the low voter turn-out during recent by-polls in Srinagar.

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