Tensions between India and Pakistan appear to be gradually de-escalating even as the situation in Kashmir remains one prone to cause difficulty in the future.
This is why it is important for neighbours of both India and Pakistan to promote peaceful solutions to a crisis which in one form or another has been ongoing for decades.
China has consistently called for dialogue as the only means of creating an atmosphere of perpetual peace in South Asia.
China itself has continually pursued a peaceful approach in respect of its own relations with its multiple neighbours. For example, this is why last year saw reconciliation with India after the border disputes of 2017.
Likewise, China’s peaceful diplomatic approach to bilateral relations led to Beijing engaging in constructive dialogue with Vietnam in order to promote win-win relations between the two neighbours.
Naturally, many in Pakistan seek China’s assurances at a time of crisis. China retains a unique all-weather friendship with Pakistan, which in recent years has progressed and strengthened as the dynamism of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), looks to welcome a new golden era of prosperity along the corridor that stretches from China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to the Pakistani port city of Gwadar.
As other nations, including Saudi Arabia, are also investing in CPEC related projects, China will continue to welcome further win-win multilateral contributions to Pakistan’s development through the BRI.
Pakistanis who look to China for assurances in a time of crisis should likewise be aware that as a responsible country, China would never allow CPEC to be jeopardised by any negative regional developments.
This is why Chinese officials were among the first to call for a rapid de-escalation of the situation between India and Pakistan as China is supremely aware of the 20th-century history of warfare in South Asia that resulted only in lose-lose situations for people seeking to improve their long term conditions.
From China’s perspective, reducing poverty is the key to success when it comes to building social harmony within one country, as well as when it comes to easing tensions between neighbours with a long and intertwined history.
This is why China has stressed the importance of investment and economic renewal as a way of bringing peace to Myanmar’s Rakhine state and neighbouring Bangladesh.
It is within this spirit of problem-solving that China welcomes improved relations with India. Such strengthened relations can only help to defuse wider tensions in the region and replace them with a constructive win-win mentality that respects the national sovereignty of others and rejects militarism and zero-sum assessments of historic conflicts.
It is China’s wish to see both India and Pakistan follow a development model that strengthens regional harmony through mutual prosperity. For Pakistan, that path is one that continues to be guided by the BRI and no matter what India’s ultimate relationship with the BRI might be, China has an important interest in seeking peaceful internal development for its neighbours.
Overall, it would benefit multiple nations to forgo a zero-sum mentality which stresses competition among nations over cooperation between nations. Asian countries ought to realise that in the 21st Century, the concept that one country’s success is built on the failure of another, is both an obsolete and harmful way of viewing economic development and bilateral initiatives.
The truth is that, when one takes an objective view of bilateral relations in Asia, the great enemy of the people is poverty and under-development, not people in other countries.
When all major and medium-sized Asian powers adopt this perspective, it will help to pave the way for a better future not just in South Asia but throughout the continent more broadly.
The BRI, at its core, is a poverty-fighting and prosperity-building initiative. Furthermore, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation provides a regional security forum that is a unique setting insofar as China, Pakistan, and India are all mutual members.
By balancing a respect for the sovereignty of nations whilst incentivizing all countries to work collectively to build wider regional prosperity, China can help to provide the tools which can be used to build a better future for multiple partners.
This is the fundamental message that China is sending to its all-weather friend Pakistan as well as its important neighbour India. It is with this in mind that both Islamabad and New Delhi can approach China in a spirit of openness and good will.
When the potential for peace becomes more potent than the lingering fear of war, the region as a whole will be able to attain untold win-win benefits in the future.