China Backs Trump Offer to Mediate Between India, Pakistan in Kashmir

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at the podium during the unveiling of the Communist Party's new Politburo Standing Committee at the Great Hall of the People on October 25, 2017 in Beijing, China. China's ruling Communist Party today revealed the new Politburo Standing Committee after its 19th congress. (Photo by …
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper applauded the United States on Monday for offering to mediate the ongoing Kashmir sovereignty dispute between India and Pakistan, admitting China stands to benefit significantly if Kashmir becomes peaceful enough for Beijing to invest in infrastructure products there.

The Global Times column on the Kashmir dispute, which does not mention that China makes territorial claims in Kashmir, suggests that India’s intransigence – and not Pakistan’s support for radical Islamic terrorists in the region, as India has long claimed – is the reason that Kashmir dispute has lasted decades and that New Delhi should consider offers even from President Donald Trump to mediate.

Trump claimed during a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in Washington this month that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him for help mediating the crisis, stating he would happily help if possible. Modi’s office denied that Modi ever accepted such a thing and reiterated India’s longtime policy that it would engage only in bilateral discussions with Pakistan on the matter. Khan responded to the dispute by stating that he was “surprised” Modi, who has been relatively friendly to the Trump administration, would respond in such as he did.

China has typically remained in the background of the Kashmir dispute despite being a claimant, often issuing statements of support to Pakistan. China and India have a tepid at best diplomatic relationship and several other territorial disagreements, including possession of the Doklam Plateau, which China claims but India has defended on behalf of the small Himalayan nation of Bhutan.

The Global Times noted on Monday that the Chinese Foreign Ministry welcomed Trump’s offer to mediate in Kashmir in response to Trump’s statements during his meeting with Khan.

“China supports all countries, including the U.S., that sincerely aim at promoting peaceful negotiations between India and Pakistan, because this is also in line with China’s own interests,” the state-run newspaper claimed. “China has always supported international mediation because the peace and stability of South Asia is of great importance.”

The newspaper accused India of “always opposing third-party mediation” and argued that India must reconsider because all other attempts to resolve the dispute have failed.

“India should understand this: The international community is offering to mediate because India has made few attempts and achievements on the Kashmir conflict, and peace in Kashmir is important to global stability,” the Times argued:

Perhaps India should try to understand why the international community generally supports improving India-Pakistan relations through peaceful negotiations. That’s because during the more than 70 years of disputes, the two countries have always lacked an effective channel of negotiation. Clashes have erupted along the Line of Control, which had cost many innocent people’s lives.

“India should not deliberately ignore the international community’s attention and will. India is a major country in the region,” it continued, suggesting that India also has much to gain by resolving the dispute.

The Times did not shy away from noting that Beijing has strong interests in development in Kashmir through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s plan to take over the world’s major transport infrastructure. A violent Kashmir would cause BRI to “face severe challenges” in the region. As the BRI relies on developing countries taking predatory loans from China – which, when they cannot pay them, result in China taking control of the land in question – active, messy conflicts like the one in Kashmir between Muslims and Hindus poses business concerns for the program. Even if China’s plan works as it has in Sri Lanka and Kenya, Kashmir will be of little value to China if not at peace.

China, India, and Pakistan all control parts of Kashmir, but the most populated areas are disputed between Indian and Pakistani nationalists. India accuses Pakistan of aiding jihadist terrorists in the region, while Pakistan claims that Indian police violate the human rights of Muslims in Indian territory who would prefer to be under Pakistani sovereignty. The dispute has existed since the birth of both countries and shown little sign of abating in the near future.

During his meeting with Khan at the White House this month, Trump said he believed he could help mediate.

“So I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago and we talked about this subject and he actually said, ‘Would you like to be a mediator, or arbitrator?’” Trump told Khan. “I said ‘where?’ He said: ‘Kashmir, because this has been going on for many, many years.’”

“I was surprised at how long it’s been going on, I think they would like to see it resolved and I can help, I would love to be a mediator,” Trump said. “Right now there’s just bombs all over the place. They say everywhere you go you have bombs and it’s a terrible situation … If I can do anything to help that, let me know.”

Khan appeared interested but did not offer a confirmed yes to the suggestion.

“I feel that only the most powerful state, headed by President Trump, can bring the two countries together. From my point, I can tell you, we have tried our best,” Khan said.

Shortly after Trump’s remarks, a spokesman for India’s External Affairs Ministry said on Twitter, “no such request has been made by PM [Modi] to US President.”

The spokesman reiterated that “all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally” and “any engagement with Pakistan would require an end to cross border terrorism.”

“Surprised by [the] reaction of India to Pres Trump’s offer of mediation to bring Pak & India to dialogue table [for] resolving [the] Kashmir conflict which has held subcontinent hostage for 70 yrs,” Khan said on Twitter following New Delhi’s rejection of Trump’s offer. “Generations of Kashmiris have suffered & are suffering daily and need conflict resolution.”

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