This is a blow to Pakistan's bravado in the event of escalation of hostilities.
China will not pick sides if war breaks out between India and Pakistan, according to a string of articles carried by media houses linked to the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC). The outlining of Beijing's thinking is bound to come as a further constriction of Pakistan's options for escalation against India, which is upping the pressure on Islamabad's continuing support for terrorism.
The op-ed in the Chinese state-run Global Times, which is widely considered to be a mouthpiece for the CPC, declared simply in its headline, "China will not pick sides in India-Pakistan disputes".
This is latest op-ed or editorial across the gamut of state-owned Chinese newspapers that are gradually changing the tone of their commentary, especially after the Balakot airstrikes and the subsequent Pakistani attempt at retaliation. After the Pulwama terror attack, in which Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists killed 40 Indian paramilitary personnel, Chinese government voices and the media repeatedly called for restraint. But after the airstrikes, the tone slowly changed into an emphatically stated position of neutrality.
"Although China supported Pakistan in alleviating poverty and wiping out terrorism, Beijing is not an enemy of New Delhi... China will not pick sides in India-Pakistan disputes. Aiming at easing the two countries' conflicts and improving the anti-terrorist situation, China will play the role of a mediator and facilitator amid the ongoing tensions," read an op-ed published by Global Times late on Sunday.
The op-ed also specifically mentioned Chinese President Xi Jinping's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), while strategically omitting mention of its flagship project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). China's anxiety over its investments in CPEC come against the backdrop of the fact that a part of the link passes through Gilgit-Baltistan, which is part of the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which is claimed in entirely by India.
The three days before that had seen other op-eds from Global Times proposing China as a mediator between the two South Asian nuclear powers. It also threw up the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), in which both India and Pakistan were inducted as members in June 2017, as a possible forum for the resolution of the India-Pakistan dispute.
The emphatic statement that China will not pick sides by a CPC mouthpiece is likely to deal a blow to the confidence and bravado of Pakistan's military-intelligence, which has held that the 'iron brother' would not allow India to run over Pakistan. This however is consistent with China's refusal to intervene during the 1971 war between India and Pakistan, which saw the country torn into two pieces.