China was completely isolated at the UN Security Council (UNSC) in its latest attempt to raise the Kashmir issue and the US countered it by pointing to cross-border terrorism, according to diplomatic sources.
Besides the US, Germany, France and Russia made a strong defence of India at the informal meeting on Wednesday and opposed the matter being discussed at the UNSC as it was a bilateral matter, the sources told IANS.
Russia referred to the Simla Agreement of 1972 under which the two countries agreed to settle their disputes bilaterally without the involvement of third parties and said the Council was not a forum for it, the sources said.
The US was also firm that there should be no press statement by the Council or anything being put out and the other countries backed it.
While the past two occasions when Beijing attempted to sneak in the Kashmir issue also ended in failure due to the broad support India has, this time the isolation was magnified for Beijing which has been blamed for causing the COVID-19 pandemic to spin out of control affecting the global health and economy and has been using it as a cover for aggressive actions from the Himalayas to the South China Sea and beyond.
China is also facing intense international criticism for the suppression of the Uighurs and the widespread human rights violations against the Muslim minority, hundreds of thousands of whom have been put in restrictive camps.
China's Permanent Representative Zhang Jun, therefore, carefully avoided any mention of human rights in Kashmir, according to the version of his remarks at the meeting put out by his spokesperson.
This was despite Zhang using to spark the discussion a letter from Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to Council President Dian Triansyah Djani that focused on what he said were human rights issues in Kashmir, according to diplomatic sources.
There were indications that Zhang was trying to lower the pitch less than two months after the Chinese army clashed with Indian troops in Ladakh.
What stood out in the statement was Zhang referring to India as a "friendly" neighbour and Beijing's commitment to "to growing friendly relations" with New Delhi.
Another carefully worded point in Zhang's remarks was that India and Pakistan should peacefully resolve their disputes based on "bilateral agreement", a tacit acknowledgement of the Simla Agreement that New Delhi insists should be adhered to.
Zhang did mention Council resolutions, but the basic one from 1948 demands Pakistani troops, regular and irregular, leave Kashmir.
Having failed as had happened several times to get Kashmir on the Council agenda, Zhang brought it up this time informally after it finished closed consultations on Syria.
He used the category of "any other business", a catchall provision for anything a member wants to talk about without the matter being acknowledged on the record, to talk about Kashmir, according to the sources.
It was timed to be a publicity exercise for its all-weather friend Pakistan to coincide with the anniversary of India abrogating the special status of Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.
On the past two occasions when China had brought up Kashmir at such closed-door informal sessions, the Chinese permanent representative was able to speak to the media after the Council had refused to issue a press statement.
But now because the UNSC meetings were being held remotely due to the lockdown brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, depriving Zhang of an opportunity to give his version to the media that is usually stationed outside the Council.
Therefore, the Chinese mission took the unusual step of selectively circulating a document that it said was a question and answer by its spokesperson on the Council session but it was mostly a summary of Zhang's remarks.
China, which has claims on territories in Kashmir, opposes "unilateral actions that will complicate the situation", he said.
China was "seriously concerned" about "the relevant military actions", he added -- and that was left ambiguous as it could also refer to the Ladakh clashes.
The operative parts of Zhang's remarks were addressed equally to India and Pakistan, rather than admonishing India.
"We call on relevant parties to exercise restraint and act prudently. In particular, they should refrain from taking actions that will escalate tensions," he said.
China "calls on the two countries to focus on national development, set store by peace and stability in South Asia, properly handle historical grievances, abandon the zero sum thinking, avoid unilateral actions, resolve disputes peacefully through dialogue and consultation, and jointly uphold peace and stability of the region", he said according to his spokesperson's statement.
China brought up the Kashmir issue in August 2018 and in January in informal settings at the Council.
It withdrew another attempt last December in the face of overwhelming opposition.
(Arul Louis can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)
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