Does China hold the key in resolving the Kashmir Question?

China has been taking a different stance than India and views Kashmir as a separate entity and not an integral part of India. It has been publishing tourist maps depicting Kashmir as a separate entity...

Does China hold the key in resolving the Kashmir Question?

Abdurrahman Aydin

On February 5, 2014, Naeem Sarfraz,  a former Naval officer and a Research Fellow at Dalhousie University in Halifax, argued in an op-ed published by The Express Tribune that `the solution to Kashmir lies in Beijing`.

Sarfraz says, over the past six decades, three parties to the Kashmir dispute - India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir - have failed to reach a solution. Now bringing China to the negotiation table is necessary because, without Chinese involvement, any solution may be unworkable. He came to this conclusion due to the nature and the history of the conflict of the region of Jammu & Kashmir.

The 1947 Indian Independence Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that partitioned British India into the two new independent dominions of India and Pakistan provided the rulers of 562 princely states the right to accede to India or Pakistan. Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir, opted to merge his state with India against the wishes of his predominantly Muslim population, who later revolted against him. Thousands of Pakistani tribesmen entered Kashmir to help their Muslim brethren. After signing the Instrument of Accession to India with Singh on October 25, 1947, India sent troops into Srinagar. Following these events, India and Pakistan fought their first war in 1948.

Not content with India’s rule over most of Kashmir, the first Prime Minister of independent India Pandit Nehru declared Aksai Chin, a territory contiguous to Kashmir, a part of India. Claiming the ownership of uninhabitable but strategic region, China rejected India’s claim and built a road from Eastern Turkestan to Tibet through the Aksai Chin area. Escalating tensions between two sides led to a military clash between two countries on October 20, 1962, which ended complete Chinese control over Aksai Chin at the expense of India. Today, 20 percent of the disputed region of Kashmir is under Chinese administration.

Pakistan also claimed Aksai Chin as a part of Kashmir leading to some tension with China; but with an agreement  signed on March 2, 1963 Pakistan surrendered its claim of territory in Aksai Chin, in return China transferred Hunza to Pakistan. India rejected the agreement, claiming the entire territory belonged to India.

Today, India occupies Jammu, Ladakh and the Kashmir Valley, which Pakistan refuses to accept. China occupies Aksai Chin in Ladakh, which India refuses to accept. And Pakistan occupies Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Nagar and Hunza, which India refuses to accept. As observed, India, China and Pakistan are all parties to the Kashmir dispute. However, China did not take part in talks on resolving the dispute till today.

The United Nations decided to hold the plebiscite in Kashmir in 1948 to choose whether it should accede to India or Pakistan. The plebiscite could not take place because both countries failed in withdrawing their forces from Kashmir, required by the UN Security Council Resolution. Many international efforts to foster peace between Pakistan and India and scores of bilateral efforts, up to the heads of state level have gone nowhere. After 1948 events, Pakistan tried the military option twice in 1965 and 1999 but failed to achieve the desired results on the ground. Kashmiri insurgency against Indian military`s oppression caused tens of thousands being killed; but did not bring the Indian government anywhere close to a peaceful solution of the dispute. The emergence of radical groups in Kashmir has further complicated the issue.

The failure of reaching a permanent solution between Pakistan, India and the people of Kashmir encourages Naeem Sarfraz to contemplate on the role China can play in resolving the dispute. He thinks that the dividends of Chinese participation are huge. He`s convinced that Pakistan’s position will be strengthened by the presence of a powerful friend at the table. Moreover, presence of China as a party in negotiations will enhance the prospects of a peaceful resolution of the dispute. Bringing China on to table itself will reduce the violence born out of the deep frustration of Kashmiris and Indian military atrocities. Sarfraz argues that, “with Kashmir becoming a trilateral issue, all bilateral issues can be delinked from Kashmir, without appearing to abandon the Kashmiris. Trade can blossom, bringing widespread prosperity to a poverty-stricken region. Issues like Sir Creek, maritime boundary, detained fishermen and easier border controls will also become simpler to resolve.”

Is Mr Sarfraz right?

It is true that China is also a part of this complex issue to which a solution is essential for lasting peace in the region. China has been taking a different stance than India and views Kashmir as a separate entity and not an integral part of India. It has been publishing tourist maps depicting Kashmir as a separate entity. Moreover, the Chinese consular department has been issuing visas to Kashmiris living in Indian-held Kashmir on a separate sheet of paper and not stamped in their passport. Since, according to the Chinese, Kashmir is a disputed region, the Kashmiris are not considered Indian citizens and therefore should not be granted a visa on their Indian passport. In November 2009, the Chinese authorities reiterated that they would continue issuing visas on a separate sheet.

At present, the international community generally ignores the Kashmir dispute. Instead they tend to bow to the demands of India, a growing economic power where many western companies have their interests. And until now, the international community has not shown any tangible interest towards Pakistan’s demand to seek an enduring solution to the Kashmir dispute. 

Kashmir is a problem with global dimensions. Three nuclear giants that have some of the worlds’ largest armies have come together in Kashmir where each country lays it’s claim and has it’s stakes. Despite the occasional statements from both the, Indian and Pakistani, sides of the forward movement on the Kahsmir issue, no major steps have been taken and nothing concrete has actually been happening. 

It is true that China may be of help to move one important step ahead because it has increasingly been gaining more influence throughout the world. It also has a long history of some of the world’s longest lasting empires with vast experience of diplomacy. Nevertheless, gained the control on the piece it wants to have, China did not want to involve in the issue further although it accepted Kashmir as a separate entity than India.

Although, India does not accept the Chinese claims on Aksai Chin, yet it does not desire the Chinese participation in the negotiations of overall status of Kashmir. The question that needs to be answered is who is going to bring China to the table? This is perhaps desirable for the Pakistanis. However, Pakistan will not be able to bring China to the table if China does not want to take the initiative in that direction.

Experts on the region emphasizes on the India's stand, which focuses on finding a solution to the dispute through bilateral negotiations (that India perfectly knows will not go anywhere and will keep maintaining the status-quo). According to experts, Pakistan on the other hand has always been looking for an interlocutor for which China is the best candidate. However, at this point, this only remains as a Pakistani wishful thinking.

Having failed to get desired result from internationalization of the issue, with the so-called free world turned their back to the plight of the people of Kashmir, Pakistanis, now wish Chinese involvement in this dispute. Although China considers Kashmir a separate entity, it does not see any benefit in involving in this delicate problem. They have got their bit of Kashmir. It seems they are satisfied with it. As I stated before, India does not accept Chinese claim on Aksai Chin back, both India and China are aware that that piece of land will remain with China. Moreover, China has stopped support of Kashmiri insurgency in return of gaining India`s support on Chinese rule over Tibet. China will not involve in this conflict and not risk and give India a reason to actively support Japan, Vietnam and others by actively supporting Pakistan on solving the Kashmir dispute.

Furthermore, China and India have pledged to increase the volume of trade to $100 billion. China does not have much reason to risk this lucrative economic relationship. Suffice it to say here that Srafraz’ thoughts on Chinese participation in the resolution of Kashmir dispute seems farfetched and, China at this moment is in favor of strengthening itself by increasing its weight in world economy rather than throwing itself in political disputes whose return is uncertain.

Last Mod: 11 Şubat 2014, 11:43
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