Relations between China and Pakistan appear to be increasingly warm, as India and Pakistan continue to suffer a difficult relationship. The interplay between the three regional powers is becoming increasingly complicated given the varying interests of each state.
Border and economic corridor impact China-India relations
According to NDTV, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has requested a clarification of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which separates Indian territory from Chinese lands. However Beijing has almost completely rejected his proposal. Officials in Beijing would prefer a pact with India regarding a code of conduct rather than any clarification of the LAC, which the Chinese say has proved difficult in the past.
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“If we find that the clarification of the LAC is a building block, then we should go ahead. But if we find that it is a stumbling block, it could complicate the situation further. We have to be careful,” said Huang Xilian, Deputy Director General of the Asian Affairs at the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Another issue is China’s proposal for a $46 billion economic corridor through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj revealed that India has spoke to China about its concerns. “We lodged a protest calling the Chinese ambassador. We lodged a protest through our Ambassador there (Beijing). And when the Prime Minister had gone there (to China), he talked about it very firmly. He raised it very strongly that it is not acceptable to us what you are talking about China-Pakistan economic corridor going to PoK,” said Swaraj.
Kashmir and South China Sea cause friction
However China does not see any need for the economic corridor to take on any political significance. “We know the concern of the Indian side and those projects are not political projects. They are all for livelihood of people. There is no commercial action by China in that part of the region,” said Mr Huang.
“There is this kind of action for many years. We do not side with any party on the issue of the territory. We have been advocating that the disputes should be solved through concerned parties through peaceful means. The kind of commercial activities do not affect the position of China on the claimants of the territory,” he said.
Relations between India and China are complicated further due to ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea. China claims almost all of the sea, but Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all object. Although India has no claim of its own, the participation of India’s state-owned oil company ONGC in exploration work in oil wells claimed by Vietnam has provoked opposition from China.
China sees double standards at work here given the controversy over their investment in the Kashmir, while India claims that these commercial projects should not be politicized.
China and Pakistan enjoy increasingly warm relationship
At the same time, China and Pakistan appear to be enjoying an increasingly warm relationship. As well as the economic corridor, China supports Pakistan’s application to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), according to The Nation.
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said, “China has noted Pakistan’s aspirations for NSG membership. Pakistan has taken steps towards its mainstreaming into the global non-proliferation regime. We support Pakistan’s engagement with the NSG.”
The current consensus among member states is that the signing of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) is an essential requirement for a new member of the NSG, but China believes that Pakistan and other non-NPT states should be allowed into the group.
War of words continues between India and Pakistan
All the while, India and Pakistan are locked in an increasingly fierce war of words. Pakistani Minister for Defence Khawaja Asif has claimed that India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) has been fomenting disturbances in Pakistan, reports The Daily Times. The Minister alleges that India’s intelligence agency started causing trouble within Pakistan after Islamabad launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb against various militant groups.
Asif claims to have evidence of RAW involvement in the restive province of Balochistan, and suggested that India is sponsoring terrorism.
These accusations are part of an increasingly serious war of words between the two neighbors, and saber-rattling rhetoric has become common. Reportedly, Pakistani General Raheel Sharif told his countrymen not to worry about Indian posturing, because “we know how to respond befittingly to any aggression from India.”
Kashmir continues to be a huge obstacle to relations between the two countries, and General Sharif admitted that Kashmir is an “unfinished agenda.” He maintains that Pakistan and Kashmir are “inseparable.” His pronouncements provoked a strong reaction from Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, V K Singh. “I think this is the notion they will keep harbouring. They can keep harbouring that wrong notion. It will not make any difference to actual conditions,” said Singh.