Of the many intriguing and important developments to occur during Imran Khan’s successful visit to the United States was Donald Trump’s offer to mediate in the Kashmir catastrophe. Making the matter all the more intriguing was the fact that whilst Donald Trump stated that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to play a mediating role in Kashmir, the Indian government later rebuffed the claims which is to say that New Delhi officially called Trump a lair when he stated that Modi had asked for the US to mediate.
Imran Khan however graciously accepted Trump’s offer and now Pakistan’s all-weather partner China has also endorsed the suggestion of a US led mediation effort for Kashmir. According to Hua Chunying of the Chinese Foreign Ministry:
“We support the international community, the US included, in playing a constructive role in improving Pakistan-India relations through dialogue”.
This reveals as much about China’s relationship with Pakistan as it does in respect of China’s relationship with the US and India. First of all, it has always been China’s position to support any efforts that bring peace to Kashmir so long as they are not those which would unilaterally undermine Pakistan’s internationally recognised position, the spirit of UN Security Council Resolution 47 and regional stability. Thus, whilst China’s own position in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is one that intentionally refrains from intervening in disputes between SCO members (Pakistan and India are both members), China has nevertheless embraced the possibility of a US headed mediation effort.
When it comes to China-US relations, Beijing’s statement on a Trump lead Kashmir peace process is manifest of a reality in which China is able to compartmentalise its manifold relationship with America. Although the two countries are in the midst of a trade war and whilst China condemns US provocations regarding Cross-Strait relations and provocations in the South China Sea, China realises that for the foreseeable future, the US will remain Beijing’s top trading partner whilst in matters of common interest such as the Korean peace process, both countries are able to lend constructive support.
In this sense, China self-evidently sees Trump’s remarks on Kashmir in the same way in which China sees the Korean peace process. As the US is more of an interventionist power whilst China rejects interventionism, Beijing is happy to allow Washington to peacefully test the waters in areas where Beijing traditionally exercises restraint and caution. Here, it is crucial to understand that whilst China has condemned all major wars that the US has entered since the end of the Cold War, China takes a very different view on peace processes in which the US involves itself. Hence, it makes logical sense why China is happy for Donald Trump to try and bring some measure of peace to Kashmir.
Finally, whilst China has taken action steps over the last year and a half to improve ties with India, this in no way means that China will placate New Delhi when it makes diplomatic blunders. India’s response to a statement from Trump that if anything made India look good rather than bad was not just inappropriate but it will have served only to anger Trump whilst making Imran Khan’s government look all the more reasonable in Trump’s. Whilst China is not particularly interested in the newly erected triangle of intrigue between Narendra Modi, Imran Khan and Donald Trump, China nevertheless has responded to what appears to be a positive offer to promote peace in a region flooded in blood.
China’s overall position can be defined as one of positive objectivity. China is always happy to associate itself with objectively peace promoting problem solving efforts whilst maintaining its commitment to total non-interference in the affairs of others (friend, foe and neutral party alike). That being said, whilst China does condemn actions such as America’s involvement in Iraq and Syria, China is happy to endorse developments including the Korean peace process. As such, if Trump succeeds in convincing all sides to come to the table in Kashmir, China will act to facilitate as much good will from all parties as is possible.