September 13, 2005Foreign AffairsSecurity

China’s anodyne position on Kashmir

Don’t mention Aksai Chin though

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

The Jamestown Foundation’s latest China Brief has an article on China’s Kashmir policy (via Simon World). Jing-dong Yuan’s analysis suggests that China’s official position on Kashmir has changed over time and is now unequivocally in favour of India and Pakistan resolving the dispute under the Simla agreement.

Beijing is also interested in the evolving negotiations over Kashmir due to its own entanglement, which is largely a result of the October 1963 Sino-Pakistani Border Agreement. India claims the Chinese-controlled Aksai Chin of approximately 35,000 square kilometers as part of the territory in Ladaakh, Kashmir. While a remote possibility, a resolution of the Kashmir dispute between New Delhi and Islamabad could re-open the sovereignty issue left over in the 1963 Sino-Pakistani border agreement.

Beijing has growing interests in seeing a stable South Asia and is seeking a better relationship with India. That explains Beijing’s more unequivocal position on the Kashmir issue, which in turn is firmly grounded in the belief that the only realistic way to resolve the Kashmir conflict is through peaceful negotiation between India and Pakistan. As Islamabad’s trusted friend, Beijing could and should use its influence to convince Pakistan that it is also in their own interest to resolve the issue peacefully. [Jamestown Foundation]There can be a difference between position’ and policy’. While Yuan’s analysis reflects China’s official position to a great degree of accuracy, it does not automatically follow that this reflects China’s policy on Kashmir, which is linked not only to Kashmir-specific issues like the status of Aksai Chin, but also its broader policy towards India.

Thanks to the approach India and China have taken over bilateral negotiations, the most contentious issues have been placed on the back burner. That means greater trade and investment, opening of trade routes in the Himalayas, de facto reciprocal acceptance of Chinese sovereignty over Tibet and Indian sovereignty over Sikkim. One scenario that has been thrown up in recent years is a grand bargain, with India accepting the transfer of Aksai Chin to China, in return for China’s recognition of the Indian position on the border in Arunachal Pradesh.

But the rapprochement that is taking place over the borders is accompanied by competitive geopolitical moves — China’s moves to gain access to the Indian Ocean through Pakistan, Myanmar and Thailand are bound to meet with an Indian response. Competion for access to oil and other natural resources and strategic co-operation with the United States and Japan will also have a bearing on the India-China equation, and therefore on China’s policy towards Kashmir. Indeed, it is not inconcievable that China will have an interest in keeping Kashmir as a thorn in India’s side to be pressed whenever the situation demands. Not least for this reason, India must develop better relations with Taiwan.

Related Links: PINRs report on the significance of Sino-Russian military exercises and the modernisation of the Chinese navy.

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