AFP - November 21, 2009
SRINAGAR: The leader of Indian Kashmir's moderate separatists said on Saturday China has a stake in peace in restive Kashmir as part of the disputed Himalayan region is under Beijing's control.
The statement came amid rising Sino-Indian tensions over a Chinese embassy policy of issuing different visas to Indian Kashmir residents and the disputed Indian border state of Arunachal Pradesh.
"I believe China is not a party to the Kashmir conflict but it has stakes as far as peace in the region is concerned," Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who heads moderate separatists, said in a statement.
Kashmiri separatists have rarely mentioned China's role in resolving the dispute over Kashmir that is mainly divided between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan. China holds a small area of Kashmir.
"China has a direct link with Kashmir as certain parts of Kashmir, including Aksai Chin, are under its control," said Farooq, adding he would soon visit China on an invitation from a non-governmental organisation.
Pakistan, which holds Kashmir's northern tip, has fought two of its wars with India over the territory since the subcontinent's independence from British rule in 1947.
Farooq, who is chief priest at Kashmir's main mosque, also welcomed a joint statement earlier in the week by US President Barak Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, which voiced support for better India-Pakistan relations.
"Hurriyat welcomes the approach adopted by China and America jointly in terms of addressing the issue of Kashmir in South Asia," he said.
India has bristled at the US-Chinese statement, saying it requires no outside help to improve relations with Pakistan.
Indian-administered Kashmir is in the grip of an Islamic insurgency which has claimed more than 47,000 lives by official count since the start of the revolt in the region in 1989.
China, a close ally of Pakistan, views Kashmir as a disputed region.