In what can be seen as China attempting to do major volte-face, ahead of the Modi-Xi informal summit on October 11, the dragon has decided to snub its all-weather ally, Pakistan, and has stated that Kashmir issue should be resolved bilaterally between India and Pakistan. As if to rub salt into the wounds of Islamabad, this statement comes at a time when Pakistan PM Imran Khan and Army Chief Bajwa are in China to meet the top Chinese leadership including Premier Xi Jinping.
China had desperately tried to internationalise the Kashmir issue at the United Nations but to little avail and ahead of Xi Jinping’s visit to India, it has revised its stance on Kashmir to ensure that India warms up to it and Xi Jinping does not return empty-handed from India. After the spectacular betrayal by China and its equally spectacular failure to interfere in Kashmir, India enjoys a greater position of power at the negotiating table ahead of the Modi-Xi meet in Mamallapuram.
China’s sudden change of stance can be seen as a tight slap to Pakistan as India’s diplomatic heft forced China to take a pacifist stance in a move that is very unlike the belligerent communist state. It is important to note that China tried every trick in the book to help Pakistan internationalise the issue of Kashmir with the former exercising its power as the permanent member of the UN Security Council to force a UN meeting on Kashmir during a closed door UNSC meeting. China, who is used to having its way, was shell shocked when the closed-door meeting didn’t yield in any result or even a statement on Kashmir and desperately the Chinese delegation gave a statement on Kashmir post the meeting and tried to portray it as an official UNSC statement on Kashmir. China has also constantly made statements on Kashmir with utter disregard for India’s sovereignty, exposing the depths till which China can go with the aim to harm India’s interests.
It seems that India has seen through China’s nefarious ploy and managed to beat it at its own game as by supporting India’s stance on Kashmir, it accepts that Kashmir is an internal matter of India and must be solved bilaterally through ‘dialogue’ between India and Pakistan. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng was quoted: “We call on India and Pakistan to engage in dialogue and consultation on all issues including Kashmir issue and consolidate mutual trust. This is in line with the interest of both countries and the common aspiration of the world.” China also notably refrained from referring to UN resolutions on Kashmir, to please India. China’s insistence on Kashmir being resolved through ‘dialogue’ is also significant as Pakistan is amidst a harvest season where they attempt to infiltrate their home-grown terrorists into India before the onset of winter to destabilise Kashmir.
There is little doubt that the dragon has been forced to support India as Pakistan has become a liability that China cannot afford to have on its balance sheet. Imran Khan’s irritating tirades against India at the United Nations General Assembly and threatening the world with a nuclear war has made China wary of supporting Pakistan as its worried that it will also get caught in the cross-fire between India and Pakistan. China can’t be seen supporting a war-mongering nation and perhaps knows that Imran Khan is incompetent to save Pakistan’s blushes. The fact that Bajwa traveled with Khan to China further underlines the power that Bajwa enjoys in Pakistan reducing Khan to a piece of furniture.
Pakistan’s rapidly deteriorating economy is certainly a cause of concern for China who has sizeable investments in the country as in just one year of Khan’s tenure, Pakistan has broken all previous records in borrowing money as during the one-year regime of the present government an increase of Rs 7,509 billion (Pakistani currency) was recorded in the total debt of the country. China knows that Pakistan is borrowing more than it can afford to repay and at this stage can’t afford to spook India keeping in mind its investments in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, especially when the much anticipated Gwadar port is facing administrative issues and is proving to be a loss-making port forcing Chinese companies to exit Pakistan. China simply can’t afford any tensions in PoK which will directly put its crown jewels Belt and Road Initiative(BRI) and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) at a huge risk.
China attempted to test the waters at the United Nations and was delivered a stinging rebuke as the world collectively sided with India on Kashmir and it seemed China has had enough of Pakistan and has decided to orphan the revanchist state, at least ahead of the Modi-Xi informal summit.
China made it a norm to have border skirmishes with India before Xi Jinping’s visit to the country as it sought to assert its superiority. However, the events that took place at Doklam sent a strong message to China that the Narendra Modi government isn’t afraid to take China head-on if the latter decides to up the ante. Further even, India has now called China’s bluff and beat China at its own game as the Indian Army carried out an Integrated Exercise in Eastern Ladakh and the Northern Command Chief, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh also having visited Eastern Ladakh and addressed Indian soldiers there, in what asserts India’s unhinging position on Ladakh and Aksai Chin. India is also conducting war games 14,000 feet above sea well in Arunachal Pradesh.
These series of events on the diplomatic front and the Indian assertiveness at the border have placed India in a greater position of power at the negotiating table ahead of the upcoming meeting, much to the disadvantage of China as the latter is uncomfortable recognising Ladakh as an integral part of India and brazenly claims the territory of Arunachal Pradesh as its own. Chinese objection to these military exercises have been paid no heed.
India continues to develop at a rapid pace while China is facing the brunt of the trade war with the USA which is profusely bleeding its economy. At such a time, it is paramount for China to further improve trade relations with India which is China’s second-largest trading partner after the USA and an Indian boycott of trade with China will send alarm bells ringing in China. There are high stakes when PM Modi and Xi Jinping meet on October 11th and China hopes to sign multiple deals which might not be the case as India is determined to upset China’s applecart and make it behave. Now that China has felt the need to simmer down on Kashmir, it finalizes a clear diplomatic victory for India against Pakistan and China, as while Pakistan remains dependent on China, the dragon has conceded defeat in this diplomatic battle it initiated with hopes to bring harm to India.