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Monday, June 14, 1999 Published at 21:53 GMT 22:53 UK

World: South Asia

Analysis: China's balancing act

China supplied arms to Pakistan, but now aims to be neutral

By Asia analyst Jannat Jalil

The visit of Indian External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh to Beijing is the highest level official Indian visit to China since India carried out nuclear tests last year.

At the time India said one of the main reasons for the tests was its concern about Beijing's nuclear capability. Bilateral relations which had been improving in recent years detriorated sharply.

Kashmir Conflict
However, since then China has been once again seeking to improve its relations with India, which were strained by a border war in 1962 and China's control of a part of Kashmir claimed by India.

To further this end, it has adopted a neutral stance over the Kashmir conflict despite its close ties with Pakistan.urging both India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and to resolve their differences through dialogue.

China has long been an ally of Pakistan's particularly in the military sphere, and some defence experts believe that China helped Pakistan to develop its nuclear weapons programmme.

[ image: Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz]
Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz
It was these close ties between the two countries that led the Pakistani Foreign Minister,Sartaj Aziz, to pay a brief visit to Beijing before flying to Delhi on Saturday for the first direct talks between India and Pakistan since the fighting escalated last month.

Mr Aziz said after his talks with Chinese leaders that China had not offered, nor had Pakistan requested, any support if the conflict continued.

The Chinese leadership's attempts to position itself equally between India and Pakistan means this visit is unlikely to produce anything new. But it will be a chance for the two important regional powers, India and China, to further develop their improving relations.

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