Pakistan and India are in middle of the most tumultuous period in years, after both countries attacked each other in air strikes this week. India attacked what they claimed was a militant camp in Pakistani territory on Tuesday and said a “very large number” of fighters were struck. However, Islamabad denied there had been any casualties and Pakistan’s top civilian and military leaders rejected India’s comments that it had struck a “terrorist camp”.
The attack came after a suicide car bomb attack killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Kashmir on February 14.
In retaliation to India’s airstrikes, Pakistan shot down two Indian jets over the disputed border to Kashmir and captured a pilot.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmoud Qureshi said the Indian pilot would be handed over to Indian authorities on Friday to de-escalate the crisis between the two nuclear armed neighbours.
Qureshi told parliament: “As a gesture of peace and to de-escalate matters, the Indian pilot who is under arrest with us will be released today in the afternoon at the Wagah border.”
Why is China critical in India vs Pakistant conflict?
China shares a border with the contested region of Kashmir and could be key to solving the crisis between the two countries.
China’s Foreign Ministry Wang Yi called for Pakistan and India to “maintain self-restraint and focus on regional peace and stability.”
The country has close economic, diplomatic and military ties with Pakistan which means it is one of the nation’s closest allies in region.
China relies on Pakistan to fulfil its oil demands and to compete with the growth of India as a powerful Asian nation.
Qureshi asked Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to play “a constructive role in easing the current tensions.”
Wang Yi stressed “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected, and China does not want to see the acts that violate the norms of international relations.”
Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at SOAS University of London, told CNN there was no benefit to the country if tensions between India and Pakistan escalated.
He said: “China cannot afford to be seen as failing Pakistan, but at the same time I don’t think the Chinese really want to pick a fight with the Indians over this”
Experts have said the best option China has was to join the US in working to defuse tensions between Pakistan and India.
Han Hua, professor and South Asia studies expert at Peking University, said as China has greater pull on Pakistan and the US has more power over India, they should join together.
She said: “China’s message is clear to both sides: exercise restraint. China’s interest lies in the stability of South Asia.”