Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi departed for Beijing today for crunch talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. Relations between Islamabad and Beijing have been strong in recent years, with President Xi Jinping often defending Pakistan’s interests in the region. Intervention in the Kashmir crisis will not just fulfil Beijing’s diplomatic duties, however, but defend China’s own interests.
Tensions flared in Kashmir earlier this week when India revoked Article 370 – a section of the constitution which guaranteed the region special autonomy.
Imran Khan labelled Prime Minister Modi’s actions as the “appeasement of fascism” as Pakistan downgraded its diplomatic relations with its neighbouring rival.
China, alongside Turkey, have come out in support of Pakistan over the dispute.
Communication Minister Murad Saeed said: “We are thankful to China and Turkey who stood behind us and supported our stance in the current crisis of Kashmir.”
Khan and Modi – clashing over Kashmir!
Pakistan and China are historically close
He was echoed by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Mushahid Hussain, who stated: “We should never forget our real friends, who always stood behind us.”
China responded furiously to India’s proposed transformation of the disputed lands into “union territories” ultimately controlled by India.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said: “We urge India to exercise prudence in words and deeds concerning the boundary question, strictly abide by relevant agreements concluded between the two sides and avoid taking any move that may further complicate the boundary question.”
Today, senior Chinese diplomat Lijian Zhao lavished more praise on his Pakistani counterpart following Mr Qureshi’s hastily arranged visit.
India and China have shared mixed relations
He wrote: “The visit was arranged in a very short time.
“That’s why we are called iron brothers.”
The words are indicative of China’s deepening relationship with Pakistan which, although hitting several stumbling blocks in recent years, could continue to grow amid the Kashmir crisis.
Washington, though noting that India’s move could bring “instability” to the area, focused instead on warning Pakistan against any action.
A State Department spokesman stated: “Pakistan must refrain from any retaliatory aggression, including support for infiltrations across the Line of Control, and take demonstrable action against the terrorist infrastructure on Pakistan’s soil.”
The Pakistan Foreign Minister is visiting China today
Kashmir is now home to 43,000 Indian troops
This was a stark change in attitude from the Trump-Khan meeting two weeks ago in which the Pakistani Prime Minister asked Washington to mediate in the crisis.
Analyst Sushant Sareen suggests that China has long surpassed the US as Pakistan’s allied superpower.
He said: “From around 2007-08, the US influence in Pakistan waned, and was steadily replaced by China.
“The Chinese meanwhile remained steadfast in their diplomatic, political and military support to the Pakistani state without interfering or imposing themselves in Pakistan’s domestic affairs.”
India vs Pakistan
Whether in defence, security or trade, Beijing has been a lifeline for Islamabad for over a decade.
It also fits in with the Chinese strategy of courting foreign nations – especially previous US allies – and bringing them into their sphere of influence.
China also have their own interests in Kashmir, however.
They control Aksai Chin, which is in the Indian-controlled region.
China and India have their own border disputes
Several scuffles have taken place at the border in the past, and Hua Chunying didn’t mince her words when condemning India’s move which sought to bring Aksai Chin fully under India’s control.
She said: “China is always opposed to India’s inclusion of the Chinese territory in the western sector of the China-India boundary into its administrative jurisdiction.
“Recently India has continued to undermine China’s territorial sovereignty by unilaterally changing its domestic law.
“Such practice is unacceptable and will not come into force.”