China is ready to help resolve the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan because it has a "vested interest", an opinion piece in the Global Times said today.
China has so far kept its distance in the Kashmir dispute, but the commentary in the Global Times - run by the Communist Party of China - indicates a probable in shift in Beijing's policy.
"Given the massive investment that China has made in countries along the One Belt, One Road, China now has a vested interest in helping resolve regional conflicts including the dispute over Kashmir between India and Pakistan," said the commentary by a Global Times reporter.
"China has always adhered to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, but that doesn't mean Beijing can turn a deaf ear to the demands of Chinese enterprises in protecting their overseas investments," the commentary said.
But India is likely to reject any Chinese interference in the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir, the northern third of which is held by Pakistan and the southern two third by India. India has consistently resisted third-party mediation over Kashmir, including by the United Nations or the US; and moreover Beijing is seen as a close ally of Islamabad and its neutrality would be in question.
The commentary said "mediating between India and Pakistan over Kashmir issue would perhaps be one of the toughest challenges facing China in dealing with regional affairs to safeguard its overseas interests".
By "vested interest", the article meant the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes through Pakistan-controlled Kashmir that is claimed by India.
The $46-billion CPEC is the key artery of the One Belt One Road (OBOR), an ambitious project of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is arguably on his way to becoming as powerful as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.
India has vociferously opposed the project, saying it won't approve of the road, which goes through its territory occupied by Pakistan.
Beijing is keen on India joining the project but New Delhi has been non-committal. India is unlikely to send any representative to the mega Belt and Road conference this month.
The newspaper noted China's increased ability and economic might, which it said was shaping it to become a stabilising force in the region.
"China's recent mediation between Myanmar and Bangladesh over the Rohingya issue shows the increased ability of Beijing in resolving conflicts beyond its borders to maintain regional stability.
"Myanmar is a key point along the One Belt, One Road route. While China has gradually increased its investment in the country's western Rakhine state, religious and ethnic conflicts in the turbulent region have increasingly become a source of concern for Chinese investors, and are creating obstacles for Beijing and Naypyidaw to find a sustainable model for future economic cooperation.
"China has been at the centre of a regional power shift; thus the country now needs to learn how to act as a stabilising force and conflict mediator in the region.
"There is so much to learn for China about how to play its role as a regional power at a time when the country is witnessing a boom in outbound direct investment. For instance, China has the capability to resolve conflicts through mediation given its increased economic influence."