Russia and China don’t see eye-to-eye on either Kashmir or Crimea as proven by the stances that they took on each issue at the UNSC in 2019 and 2014 respectively.
It was a little more than five years ago after Crimea’s reunification that many people began to talk about Russia’s speculated “alliance” with China, but the fact of the matter is that these two Great Powers — who are comprehensive strategic partners with one another and are jointly working to accelerate the emerging Multipolar World Order — have always had their diplomatic differences, even if they weren’t that openly (let alone obnoxiously) discussed. Their stances at the UNSC towards Kashmir and Crimea in 2019 and 2014 respectively perfectly prove that it’s possible for closely partnered countries to disagree with one another — whether directly or indirectly — while still retaining excellent relations with one another this entire time.
About the first-mentioned, Russia twice reiterated its position that Kashmir is a bilateral dispute, which contradicts China’s approach that it’s a multilateral/international one. The author discussed the reasons for this in two recent analysis, “What Explains Russia & China’s Differing Stances Towards Kashmir?” and “It’s A Wrong Interpretation That Russia Support Pakistan At The UNSC“. As for Crimea, it should be noted that Russia called a UNSC meeting about it at the time and later vetoed a US-backed resolution condemning the region’s reunification referendum. China, however, merely abstained from voting on the US’ initiative, signaling that it didn’t want to take either Great Powers’ side at the time.
These two examples confirm that Russia and China don’t always see eye-to-eye with one another, especially regarding Kashmir and Crimea, though the notion still persists that they secretly do because Moscow didn’t veto Beijing’s move to take the first-mentioned up at the UNSC the same as Beijing didn’t vote in support of Washington’s anti-Russian resolution pertaining to the latter. That, however, is an inaccurate portrayal of their positions. It’s politically unrealistic to expect that either Great Power would vote against the other, just as it’s unrealistic to interpret the UNSC’s discussion of any issue as implying all of its members’ support for the position of whichever state it was that initiated the proceedings.
It’s that second-mentioned viewpoint that’s partially behind the opinion that Russia went against India at the UNSC last week. The idea is that if Russia was really as strongly in support of India’s position as its Foreign Minister and Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN’s unambiguously worded statements made it seem, then it would have vetoed China’s proposal to discuss Kashmir. That’s not the right way to understand events, and the best way to convey this point is with the example of Palestine, which has been on the UNSC’s agenda since around the same time as Kashmir. The US has previously called UNSC meetings to discuss this issue, though allowing the meeting to be held doesn’t imply that all members agreed with America’s position.
The same can be said of Russia passively allowing China the right to bring up Kashmir at the same forum last week. Simply allowing the meeting to proceed doesn’t mean that Moscow changed its clearly articulated position on the issue that was twice reaffirmed in the span of just as many days by its Foreign Minister and Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN. As for China’s abstention from voting on the US-backed initiative to condemn Crimea’s reunification in early 2014, that shouldn’t be interpreted as supporting Russia’s position and opposing America’s since Moscow’s own history of abstentions at the UNSC disproves this opinion, especially its most recently high-profile one regarding Libya in 2011.
Russia has repeatedly said that its abstention from voting on UNSC 1973 didn’t imply that it supported the Western members’ subsequent launching of a military campaign against the North African country. Likewise, its decision not to veto the measure either demonstrates that it supported some of the content of that resolution. Returning back to the example of Crimea, the same standard holds true. China isn’t against either the American or Russian positions on the matter and sees merits in both, which is why it didn’t vote or veto the proposed resolution but instead only abstained from it. The understanding that passive positions don’t imply consent is therefore important to remember when analyzing Russia’s decision to let the UNSC discuss Kashmir.
Russia is indeed trying to “balance” regional affairs through its recent “Return to South Asia“, but it took an unapologetically partisan approach towards Kashmir through the two unambiguous diplomatic statements that its officials made last week. Moscow’s “balancing” act will continue, but it won’t include Kashmir, where the country remains staunchly committed to the same position that it’s held for decades already. Even so, that doesn’t mean that last week’s meeting was a defeat for the Kashmiri cause like Indian media is misportraying it as, since the UNSC’s closed door discussions succeeded in returning the issue to the international agenda and therefore generating continued global attention.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.