China is on the verge of being gulped into an India-Pakistan crisis, amid rising tensions in the Kashmir region that borders China.
Diplomatic relations between longtime rivals India and Pakistan reached their lowest point in years this week, after Pakistan claimed its air force shot down two Indian Jets over the disputed border Kashmir region, capturing one Pilot.
This so happened after the Indian military launched airstrikes against Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist camp in Pakistan, the first such incursion by Indian forces since the Indian-Pakistan war of 1971.
It isn’t that china shares border with the contested region of Kashmir; Beijing also has prominent links with both the countries that need to be balanced.
China has close military, economic and diplomatic ties with Pakistan, making it nation’s one of the closest allies in region.
Meanwhile, China’s long-running trade war with the US has forced Beijing to look for alternative trading partners. As result, China has started to rebuild ties with rival rising power India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Last year Modi made two visits to China.
China’s foreign minister, called for both India and Pakistan this week to “maintain self-restraint and focus on regional peace and stability.”
In an urgent late night call on Wednesday, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi asked Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to play “a constructive role in easing the current tensions.“
During the call, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed that “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected, and China does not want to see the acts that violate the norms of international relations.”
The director of the China Institute at SOAS University of London, Steve Tsang said that there was no benefit to China on any front if tensions between Pakistan and India spiraled.
The Xinjiang Dilemma
According to the china expert Tsang, the long-standing tensions that existed in the region were not a big problem for Beijing as they served to remind Islamabad of China’s importance as an ally.
But the escalation this week has put Beijing in an awkward position.
Tsang added, “They have to do something to show that they are helping to keep things under control, while not appearing unreliable as Pakistan’s ally.”
However, Beijing doesn’t want to overplay its support of Pakistan and push India into the arms of US President Donald Trump.
Compounding China’s problems is the fact India claims it was striking back against terrorists in Kashmir.
The mass detention of Muslim majority Uyghurs in China’s north western province of Xinjiang by the Chinese government is one of Beijing’s most controversial international policies — and justified by China’s government on the grounds that it is an essential measure in combating terrorism.
“They don’t want to be too hard on India because they are acting in response to Terrorism“, said China’s expert Tsang.
The experts of China said that the Country’s best option was to join the United States in working to diffuse tensions between Pakistan and India.
Han Hua, professor and South Asia studies expert at Peking University, said given China has greater influence in Pakistan, while the US holds more sway in India, it made sense for the two to cooperate.
“China’s message is clear to both sides: exercise restraint,” she said. “China’s interest lies in the stability of South Asia.”
The situations are much clearer for China across the border as Pakistan is a longtime friend as well as trading partner of Beijing. Moreover, Pakistan is also one of the buyers of Beijing’s weapons.
According to think tank CSIS, between 2008 and 2017, Islamabad purchased more than $6 billion of Chinese weapons with large debts accrued by Pakistan as a result of Chinese government loans and infrastructure.
But Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is determined to keep the relationships between the countries strong and said, “We need to choose China as an inspiration to lift our people out of poverty,”