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Xi's visit to South Asia of great importance

By Shark Minnow ( Updated: 2014-09-29 17:19

With monsoon floods bordering Northern India and Pakistan, President Xi Jinping's visit to India and Sri Lanka couldn't have come at a more critical, yet opportune moment.

More than 250 have been killed and thousands more stranded in the tempestuously bordered region of Kashmir. With controversy and conflict between the two countries since their post-World War II independence, it seems as though icy relations have been thawed with the gushing of water that has seen both countries declare a state of emergency.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the flood hit region over the weekend and assessed it as a state of national emergency, sending aid to the Northwestern State of Punjab as well as to the Pakistan administered region of Kashmir.

In addition to the floods, demonstrations in Islamabad calling for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down made this an important diplomatic mission.  The protests, coupled with the floods caused Xi to skip his visit to Pakistan until the situation improves.

When Xi eventually arrives, the importance of his talks within the Indian Subcontinent should not be underestimated. While China's diplomatic relations to the East have recently cooled with Vietnam and the Phillipines over territorial disputes, Xi's journey to the West is a chance for him to be a bulwark for stability and cooperation between India and its neighbors.

India's relations with the US haven't been cordial in the past year, with US Secretary of State John Kerry pushing for better economic ties during a visit in July.

As the two most populous countries in the world, both BRICS members, and home to two of the fastest growing economies, both China and India have nothing to lose from deepening their ties as Asian economic powerhouses in both regional and global affairs.

China's relationship with Pakistan has always been healthy, but needs to be strengthened through mutual trust and economic interdependence that includes India and smaller nations such as Sri Lanka.

If anything, Xi's eventual talks with Sharif should be to strengthen political ties amid the current backlash that has been seen in Islamabad. Stronger trade between China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region and Pakistan will be of strategic importance in combating unrest and improving overall relations within both regions, but for now will be put on hold.

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