Home AN EYE FOR AN EYE - THE ANSWER TO THE CHINESE PREDICAMENT IN JAMMU AND KASHMIR

AN EYE FOR AN EYE - THE ANSWER TO THE CHINESE PREDICAMENT IN JAMMU AND KASHMIR

 

Introduction.

Pursuing a Research study on the Indian state of J&K one realizes that the complex interplay present in and around the state has deep roots in Geopolitics of the Eurasian Hinterland. As an example, only a student of Geopolitics could relate the fact that psychological dis-connectivity of Kashmiris to their “Sufi Guru” Shah Hamadani[1], who brought this concept to Kashmir in the 14th Century from Persia and buried after his death in Khatlan, Tajikstan, may be the prime cause of Sufism or Kashmiriyat (as it is also called due to its distinct nature), dying a slow death. Until this problem of physical and mental connectivity is resolved the space created thereof will be filled by religious Jingoism and Radicalisation.

  As a part of the study on J&K an external geopolitical scan suggests that China is also becoming an important aspect in the Geopolitical game being played in the region. The “NewGreat Game[2] is alive after all, only the alignments have undergone metamorphosis and will continue to evolve in the near future. Through this Focus Article, an attempt is being made to explain this evolution, as well as suggest opportunities and threats for India.

China and its Border Disputes.China has deliberately kept the border dispute with India pending with little intent or resolve to find a settlement as it has with most of its neighbours. Over the last few years PLA has been testing Indian reaction by continuing its transgressions in areas acrossLadakh[3] in Jammu and Kashmir and much recently even on the Doklam[4]Plateu which even though is technically Bhutanese territory, its occupation by China to further progress operations towards the Jampheri Ridge can lead to a great Strategic disadvantage to India in the Siliguri Corridor. Jammu and Kashmir is home to several Himalayan glaciers. With an average altitude of 5,753 metres (18,875 ft) above sea-level, the Siachen Glacier is 70 km long making it the longest Himalayan glacier. China has influence or proximity to all these water source and Siachen by having Aksai-Chin under its control.

Map - China’s Disputed Borders

China’s Position on Kashmir.     China's position has been shifting since 1950s but for the last decade it has been more or less the same as that of the Western countries which is to see Kashmir as disputed between India and Pakistan. The stapled visa for Kashmiris[5] was an experiment by China that should be understood in the context of India's approach toward the Dalai Lama and Tibetan exiles. The period when this issue was alive is the period when there were new developments within Tibetan diasporas seem to want to give a message to India that its neutrality on Kashmir while Sino-Pakistan relation being very important can shift unless India restricts further the political activities of Tibetan exiles in India. China has been clear that it will not accept an independent new state in the region. Actually, it is in China's interest for the dispute to continue and for India and Pakistan to be on loggerheads with each other. This fulfils the primary agenda of preventing any new independent state in the region that may have a domino effect on Uighur Muslims and Tibetans and the secondary agenda of keeping India, the only possible competitor to China in Asia, tied down in South Asia through a permanent rivalry with Pakistan. China will not allow Pakistan to weaken further and one of the reasons is to prevent more Uighur separatists getting radicalized and trained in Pakistani territories. One cannot deny the inexorable advantage that geography has given Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Being the only link between the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and Pakistan, PoK is truly the ‘umbilical cord’—a bond that is symbolical of the very deep relationship between the two countries. The PRC has at various forums asserted that it only has an economic interest in PoK and has openly denied the presence of People's Liberation Army (PLA) personnel in PoK. A new perspective highlighting the true importance of PoK in China–Pakistan relations suggests that China would never allow the Kashmir dispute to be settled on terms that were favourable to India, because that would leave China with no border with Pakistan. In other words, should the Kashmir dispute be settled so that PoK (which includes the so-called ‘Azad Kashmir’ and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB)) is awarded to India, the ‘umbilical cord’ will be snapped, leaving China's ‘all-weather friend’ orphaned. Such an explanation merits a deeper analysis of China's long-term perspective on PoK and its growing interests in PoK. Are these interests an indication of the permanent presence of China in PoK? Is China creating Gilgit-Baltistan as a ‘buffer state’ to stem the spread of Islamic fundamentalism into Xinjiang? Of late China has been regularly blocking all UN resolutions to declare Azhar Mahmood a terrorist thereby giving tacit support to Terrorism.

 

Foreign Policy and Diplomacy.  China has leveraged its multi-lateral and bilateral ties[6] backed by strong economic clout to further its national vision. China is an established regional power and an aspiring global superpower. It has to demonstrate to the world its leadership capability by engaging countries in all aspects for promoting peace and stability in the world and in its neighbourhood in particular. India and China must engage on its aspiration to promote peace for mutual gains as an opportunity.

Industry and Technology.  China has a developing industrial base. Ambitious Chinese expatriates have returned to become entrepreneurs. China's industrial output has increased by almost 50% since 2000 and hence its demand for commodities has skyrocketed, driving up prices. China’s industrial and technological needs require phenomenal energy. To secure its energy requirements, it has been working and spending a huge amount of money to develop land routes for inflow/outflow of resources and products from land routes other than SLOCs. China SLOCs are vulnerable to blockage and interdiction in IOR, East Sea and South China Sea. China is extremely sensitive to any development that affects its flow of energy requirements. Hence the land routes development in the area of TAR and through Aksai Chin to CARs and Pakistan[7]neighbouring J&K is critical to China.This thinking may be the basis of China’s much spoken One Belt One Road (OBOR) or the recently rechristened Belt Road Initiative[8] (BRI).

With a large skilled population, rising pollution levels in its coastal or near coastal Cities and Industrial towns, it is in the national interest of China to re-balance its population and industrial assets with a continental bias, but it does not have the resources in the hinterland and taking these there through a circuitous route from its coastal areas can be an economic challenge to say the least.

Then there is the big issue of giving jobs to its ever increasing skilled labour. In its push through its BRI towards the North, North West, West, South West as well as South it is actually fruitfully employing its own population. 70 Billion Dollars, worth of contracts have already been signed for the BRI and there are no prizes for guessing who the beneficiary companies and the work force employed by them are. The BRI is just a strategic push, outwards, before the “Middle Kingdom” implodes.

In a recently concluded National Security Seminar at USI on the Indo-Pacific region, Dr (Ms) Chisako T Masuo from Japan, who has been studying Chinese Geopolitics since the last two decades commented the following:-

  • Continental and Maritime silk roads have different natures and backgrounds.
  • Maritime silk Road means more strategic than economic.
  • BRI seeks to expand Chinese influence over the areas where American influence is relatively weaker in the world (division of the eastern and Western Hemispheres?)

The carefully chosen pivot of its maritime push lies firmly in the South China Sea, it’s recently claimed maritime territory through the infamously confabulated nine-dash line. It has very strategically strengthened its pivot through the construction of artificial islands on one side, and the shadow of the its South China sea fleet Base in the Hainan Peninsula and the Vietnamese mainland on the other.

While the world awaits the great US strategic shift to the Asia Pacific region the Chinese are making hay while the sun shines and extending their Maritime power from its pivot, both eastward into the Indian Ocean and westwards into the Pacific.

Opportunities and Threats for India

Opportunities.

  • Global Aspirations.   China aims to be a responsible power and all revelations of its involvement with separatist groups stand counter to its claims. India can exploit this sensitivity of China to its own advantage.
  • Regional Leverage.  China’s economic and military rise and unilateralism is seen as a threat by other regional and global powers like USA, Japan, Australia and ASEAN nations. In this context, all these countries view India as a suitable ally. India can exploit these new equations to deal with China from a relative position of power.
  • Demographic Divisions and Ethnic Unrest.      Large population with number of ethnic minorities has led to fault-lines among the people. Outbreak of ethnic disturbances and terrorist attacks by separatist groups occur periodically in outlying minority areas of Xinjiang, Qinghai and Tibet.  Can be exploited by India vis a vis the issue of Jammu & Kashmir

( An eye for an eye approach). Unlike India whose internal fabric is resolute, the Chinese society is extremely fragile and a small fault-line could lead to a big fracture all along the Middle Kingdom. It’s in mutual interest of both India and China (more so) that internal disturbances do not receive external support in each other’s territory.

  • Import Energy Requirements.       Low indigenous energy resources juxtaposed against the enormously growing energy demands. It necessitatesimport of crude through pipelines and sea routes, which is a strategicvulnerability.
  • Authoritarian Regime and loss of Face Syndrome.    While the strict enforcement of policies had hitherto fore provided the impetus for growth, the changing socio- economic milieu is increasingly seen as a detriment to national cohesiveness. Can be exploited by India vis a vis Jammu & Kashmir and the issue of huge Tibetan diaspora in India. The Chinese perceive themselves as having suffered the “century of humiliation” and “loss of face” is their Achilles heel. If this syndrome is exploited by India as a tit for tat, for China’s unconditional support to Pakistani state sponsored terrorist activity by blocking UN resolutions against known terrorists, consolidation of Taiwan and Tibet fully into itself could become a “bridge to far” for China.

Threats

137.    Threats.        Relatively large geographical expanse, comparable population size, geographical proximity and a simultaneous economic rise make India and China natural competitors. This equation of rivalry coupled with Chinese headway in economy and military development leaves India vulnerable to a number of threats. The possible threats posed to India under the circumstances therefore are:-

  • Keep India embroiled in local and internal conflicts by developing proxies like Pakistan in its neighbourhood and propping internal armed struggles like insurgency in NE and LWE and thus blunt its larger growth prospects. China’s ambiguity on the issue of J&K coupled with stapled visa to J&K residents till few years ago is a threat in being both diplomatically and militarily.
  • Establish strategic military bases all around J&K thus posing a multidirectional military threat to it.
  • Increased presence in ASEAN and Asian Development Bank along with being a permanent member of Security council has ensured limiting India’s influence in these major Supra National actors.
  • Military.  China is rapidly developing its military potential which is much beyond its defensive requirements, which includes a blue water maritime capability and strategic nuclear forces. Rapid infrastructure development in TAR coupled with that in Aksai Chin is a developing threat to India and its capability in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Border Disputes. China’s deliberate decision to delay resolving of disputed borders with India indicates a strategic design to keep the pot simmering.
  • Effective Foreign Policy.     China is clearly siding with Pakistan on the issue of Jammu & Kashmir. While it has extracted commitment on issues of its own concern of Dalai Lama and Tibet it has refrained to remove ambiguity on its stand on J&K.
  • Chinese Clout in Multilateral Regional Fora.     In fora like the SCO, SAARC, ASEAN, NSG and many others where it even holds observer status, it has scuttled Indian advances by strategic intervention. All these fora can be a source of major international embarrassment for India if issue of J&K autonomy or independence is permitted to be discussed.
  • China – Pak Partnership.  This strategic collusion has seen a deepening of relations with brisk Chinese activities in POK and along the Karakoram highway. This alliance poses a major threat to India and more so militarily in Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Competition.  The competition for raw material, energy and water can easily conflagrate into a rivalry if it goes out of control.
  • Systematic  Approach to Modernisation of Capability.   Military being an important element of CNP, China is engaged in developing a revolutionized, modernized and regularized People’s Army with own unique characteristics.  It is endeavouring to transform the armed forces from numerical superiority to qualitative superiority, from manpower to technology intensive at a breakneck speed,which is detrimental to India.
  • Insurgencies.   Chinese support to Pakistan and its “all weather friendship” by covertly developing its nuclear, military and infrastructure needs in POK and rest of Pakistan is a great morale booster to continue abetting its proxy war with India. China has not yet even once clearly stated or denounced any of Pakistan acts of violence.
  • China’s Influences in IOR.  The Indian Ocean is becoming increasingly important to China’s economic and security interests. To protect its economic and security interests and to balance a “rising India,” China appears to be pursuing a simultaneous approach of cultivating relations with many states in the Indian Ocean littoral, as well as developing a “String of pearls” of bases and access rights to key facilities in the regionthrough theMSR strategy. China’s encirclement of India comes full circle by its increased presence not only at sea but on land borders with its increased military bases at TAR and Aksai Chin coupled with infrastructure development by its military engineers in PoK.

Conclusion.

A few days ago, Hafiz Sayeed has questioned the Pakistani Government for its blind eye towards the plight of the Uighur Muslims. The recent religious protests of the Barellivis in Islamabad and other cities of Pakistan, and the Military turning a blind eye to the same shows that all is not well in Pakistan.

China on the other hand has put all its eggs in one basket ie, the CPEC as far as the BRI is concerned and therefore will not allow Pakistan to weaken any further. For the success of CPEC it needs to create space around it. China realizes can only be done in case the focus continues to be in Afghanistan on one flank and Kashmir on the other.

Chinese unconditional support to Pakistan can not be carried on by it to a level where it is supporting a known Terrorist in the UN security council. India must make it clear that the same can be done by India too, although within the realms of Environment-Values-Resources (EVR ) congruence.

The much desired physical and mental connectivity to the Sufi shrines of Central Asia will have to be approached differently through the Chahbahar Iran gateway or by establishing an air-bridge from Kashmir to the Central Asian Republics.

Is there any other out of the box solution like a Chinese Road joining an Indian road artery in Kashmir through Ladakh, thereby connecting it to the Central Asian republics without getting Pakistan into the equation? Only time and Geopolitics will tell whether such a solution is feasible or not.

 

 

 

 

References

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mir_Sayyid_Ali_Hamadani

[2]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_Great_Game

[4]https://thediplomat.com/The Doklam Standoff Between India and China Is Far From Over

[5]www.thehindu.com/news/national/stapled-visa-issue-with...still.../article7268941.ece

[6]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_relations_of_China

[7]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asian_Highway_Network

[8]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Belt_One_Road_Initiative

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