July 13 (UPI) — India on Thursday rejected an offer by the Chinese to mediate the longstanding border dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir.
China had offered to play a “constructive role” in hosting talks to resolve the conflict, which has been the subject of two wars between the neighboring nuclear powers.
Indian officials said the nation remains willing to negotiate a settlement with Pakistan over the disputed territory, but only between the two nations and with no international mediators involved.
“We are ready to have a dialogue with Pakistan on Kashmir under a bilateral framework,” Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Gopal Baglay said.
Both India and Pakistan control portions of Kashmir, though both nations stake a claim to the entire region. Kashmir is majority Muslim and pro-Pakistani separatists have waged guerilla campaigns and fomented riots against Indian forces intermittently for years.
China’s offer comes at a tense time in its own relations with India. The two nations have been involved in a month-long standoff over a separate border dispute in the tiny nation of Bhutan, which sits between India’s easternmost province and the southern China border.
Bhutan is closely allied with India, but has been the target of Chinese encroachment on its border in the high Himalayas. The Indian military has blocked the Chinese construction of a road on the border of Bhutan, which officials there have said is on their land. China has called on India to remove its troops but so far neither side has budged.
Analysts told Voice of America the Chinese construction project is the latest border encroachment on Bhutan in an ongoing attempt to exert influence there and peel away India’s closest ally in Southeast Asia.
“At a strategic level, China would like to separate India from Bhutan, they would like to open up Bhutan to their greater influence, that goes without saying,” said Manoj Joshi, a strategic affairs analyst at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.