China Plays Peacemaker in Kashmir Conflict

  • Share
  • Read Later
It could take foreign intervention to get India off the hook in Kashmir, and right now New Delhi’s best hopes may lie in Beijing rather than Washington. Rather than following its tradition of simply backing Pakistan, China has publicly issued thinly veiled criticism of the Pakistan-backed guerrilla incursion, and has pressed for a diplomatic solution –- which would inevitably involve a Pakistani withdrawal. Meanwhile, domestic political pressure is mounting on India to evict the Pakistan-backed infiltrators. "If the intruders are still in Kashmir when the country votes in September, the election will be a walkover for the opposition," says TIME New Delhi correspondent Maseeh Rahman. But India’s generals are caught between continuing the direct assaults on the guerrillas’ mountaintop positions -- which have already cost India up to 200 men -- and the militarily sound but politically dangerous option of opening a second front.

"Many of India’s military men are concluding that India can reclaim its territory only by going to war with Pakistan," says Rahman. That would involve using India’s military superiority to invade Pakistan from Rajasthan province -- as it did in response to a 1995 incursion, inflicting heavy losses on Pakistan and forcing a withdrawal in Kashmir. The desire to maintain the international support it has won over Pakistan’s latest campaign may, however, restrain India from extending the war beyond Kashmir. India believes that its own, and Washington’s, diplomatic efforts have failed to resolve the situation because "Pakistan’s generals, rather than its civilian politicians, are in control of its Kashmir operation," says Rahman. With U.S. influence over the Pakistani military on the wane since the Cold War, talking Pakistan back from the brink may fall to China, the impoverished country’s major military supplier. And like the current Korean standoff, that would provide another opportunity for China to convince Washington that when it comes to resolving Asian conflicts, all roads lead to Beijing.