India has accused its regional rival Pakistan of killing and mutilating two of its soldiers along their border in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
“In an unsoldierly act,” the bodies of two soldiers were mutilated, said a statement from the Indian army, adding that “such despicable act of Pakistan Army will be appropriately responded,” reports Voice of America (VOA).
Pakistan has reportedly denied the claims.
Nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan have already fought two wars over Muslim-majority Kashmir. Both countries have repeatedly accused one another of violating their 2003 Kashmir ceasefire agreement.
Pakistan, its ally China, and their mutual rival India all have competing claims to Kashmir.
The deaths of the two Indian soldiers on Monday comes as an editorial published by China’s state-run Global Times urges Beijing to interfere in “turbulent” Kashmir because of its investment in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that runs through the Pakistan-occupied portion of the region.
“If New Delhi chooses to play dirty, however, Beijing should not hesitate to answer blows with blows,” declares the editorial.
“Given the massive investment that China has made in countries along the One Belt, One Road, [OBOR] China now has a vested interest in helping resolve regional conflicts including the dispute over Kashmir between India and Pakistan,” notes the report, referring to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
The economic corridor is a nearly $50 billion infrastructure investment plan under OBOR that cuts through the Kashmir territory claimed by India.
“’One Belt, One Road’ is China’s grandiose plan for land and sea routes connecting the world’s second largest economy with the rest of Asia and beyond. Representing investments of hundreds of billions of dollars, it is a pet project of Chinese President Xi Jinping,” explains India’s News 18.
“This is perhaps the first time that Chinese official media started floating Beijing’s interest in playing a mediatory role to resolve the Kashmir issue,” it adds, alluding to the Global Times report.
Pakistan-occupied Kashmir shares a border with China’s predominantly Muslim and autonomous province of Xinjiang, but mainland Pakistan does not border China. India and China also share a border.
Beijing has remained in the shadows of the ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, but that may soon change.
The Global Times notes, “China’s official stand is that the Kashmir issue left over from history should be resolved between India and Pakistan though Beijing has been stepping up its investments in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).”
Amid ongoing confrontations in Kashmir between Pakistan and India, China has been increasingly providing military and economic assistance to its ally Islamabad.
“Cross-border gunfire leading to the deaths of soldiers and civilians on both sides has intensified along the Kashmir border since last September, when relations plummeted following an attack on an Indian army camp that killed 17 soldiers,” points out VOA. “Both sides blame each other for the firing.”
Pakistan receives more weapons from China, the world’s third-largest arms supplier, than from any other country.
Last year’s annual report to Congress issued by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission noted that the primary purpose of Beijing’s assistance to Pakistan is to contain the rise of their mutual rival India.
Economically and militarily, China is stronger than the two other countries.
“China exploits the longstanding rivalry between India and Pakistan to ensure its own ambitions in South Asia are achieved,” reported the U.S. Commission. “This strategy aims to keep India so preoccupied with its western neighbor that it will not have the ability to mount a serious challenge to China’s power and influence in Asia.”