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Engaging China on Kashmir: A Viable Option for Pakistan?

Army Personnel brave the chill at the India -china border at Nathula on Monday.PTI *** Local Caption *** "B-109, GANGTOK-250201 - FEBRUARY 25, 2008 - Nathula: Indian army personnel braving the severe cold and snows at Nathula, Indp-China border, on Monday. PTI Photo"
Kashmir, Pakistan, India, China, Conflict, Azadi

The contemporary situation in Indian-held Kashmir is worsening day by day. No one, either from the Indian or Pakistani side speculated the outcome followed after the slaying of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, whose fame as a poster boy for Kashmiri resistance proliferated with his social media activities. In a very short passage of time he became immensely popular among masses and surpassed many senior leaders. The Jammu and Kashmir valley before Wani’s death had already witnessed large proceedings of funerals, riots, and continuous strikes preceded by the barbarity against locals mutilated and killed in the counter insurgency operations by the Indian security force, but this time the ensuing events in terms of enormity and effects are unprecedented.

The situation was mishandled by the Indian State resulting as of now in the killing of more than 60 civilians and injuring of thousands. This eruption in Kashmir is not a black swan event that has happened all of a sudden but rather a culmination of injustices spanning over decades. It will also not settle through the current means in practice like political eye-wash statements from Pakistan and India. There is a dire need of intervention from the international community as India is repeatedly violating human rights of Kashmiris and has kept on denying even the most basic right of self-determination in relation to their land.

China being the third neighbour of Kashmir cannot distance itself for long from the on-going situation in Kashmir, as it may become a hub of potential threats to its grand economic initiative “One Belt One Road” (OBOR). It needs to be noted that the issue of Kashmir shall remain the bone of contention between India and Pakistan having the potential to upend South Asia in case of war between both the nuclear capable states. Tensions between Delhi and Islamabad are already increasing to the maximum level. Statements from both sides depict the same conventional stance on the issue. Pakistan calls for plebiscite in Kashmir as a part of implementation of UN’s Resolution on Kashmir, whereas India categorically mentions Kashmir as its internal problem. After Simla Agreement in 1972 Pakistan and India agreed to resolve all the issues peacefully and more importantly bi-laterally, but unfortunately till this date there is not even a single significant issue resolved under this agreement, which creates an opportunity for Beijing to offer a mediation role to both Delhi and Islamabad.

There are many examples from the past when a third country helped two neighbourly conflicting entities to act as a catalyst of peace process though mediation, for instance, the United States played a major role in talks between Palestinian Authority and Israel (the infamous Oslo Accords). It is in China’s own favour to maintain the peace and stability in region, especially in its immediate neighbourhood and nullify any efforts made to escalate the tensions between India and Pakistan. It has already been discussed previously that how indispensable is CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) for OBOR (One Belt One Road). China’s status as an emergent player in the world order will also solidify if it acts responsibly in the context of Kashmir.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office can also play a pro-active role through its diplomatic stations for China’s engagement on Kashmir issue and ask Beijing to host a common platform for all the indigenous and external stakeholders of Kashmir issue. Considering that the Kashmir issue, pending since around seven decades cannot be resolved with immediate effect, the initiative of peace process should be conducive in a manner that it provides relief to the oppressed people of Kashmir and enable them to see a way out of the conflict.

It is more likely that India will reject any offer of peace talks sponsored by China, especially involving Kashmiris, but this will in turn aid Pakistan in internationalising the Kashmir issue and shall create a negative image of India as the promoter of violence in an extra-territorial jurisdiction. The aura of peace and prosperity of India will be dealt a severe blow. Beyond that, it will also legitimize the freedom struggle of Kashmiris on all resistance fronts, either political or not. Kashmir’s disputed annexation with India was given a legal cover through a temporary arrangement in the Indian constitution, yet still India has never accepted Kashmiris as a stakeholder in this conflict. In case, India accepts China’s guided peace process, its long standing stance regarding Kashmir shall nullify and Kashmiris will finally have a say in the matters concerning them.

Regardless of the choice of India, this effort from Beijing will surely be a source of relief for Kashmiris. It will also be a giant leap forward in the solution to the long pending issue of Kashmir. The burden is on Pakistani diplomats now to engage China on Kashmir in a way that it results in a peaceful, stable and prosperous South Asia.

Anas Abdullah

is the Executive Director, CSCR. His expertise include ‘Domain Militancy and Counter Militancy’ with a particular emphasis on Counter Narrative, Kashmir Conflict and Middle East's emerging scenarios. He tweets at @_AnasAbdullah

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