Prabhash K Dutta, India Today. Read the article here.
China is already occupying 20 per cent of land belonging to Jammu and Kashmir. While Pakistan has failed to find support over Kashmir move, China, on the other hand, may hold the key in this India-Pakistan diplomatic warfare.
China is a global superpower with a chequered diplomatic history particularly for India. It launched an attack on India at the height of Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai sentiment espoused by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and occupied Aksai Chin in Jammu and Kashmir. In the globalised set up, for years it blocked tagging Masood Azhar a global terrorist when the rest of the world agreed with Indian viewpoint.
While Pakistan has been visibly aggressive and desperate in attempting to swing international opinion on Kashmir, especially after the scrapping of special status of Jammu and Kashmir by the Narendra Modi government, China has been more subtle and nuanced.
China knows that it is the best bet for Pakistan if the Imran Khan government has any chance of getting international attention over Kashmir. The other hope for Imran Khan is US President Donald Trump, whose utterances on Kashmir and mediation offers have been firmly refuted by his own administration.
This makes China a serious player in diplomatic warfare between India and Pakistan over the status of Jammu and Kashmir. China is present in Jammu and Kashmir in two main pockets — both illegally acquired.
China in Kashmir
China occupies about 38,000 sq km of Aksai Chin, which it claims to be a part of the Hotan County, lying in the southwestern part of Xinjiang Autonomous Region. China has rejected the Simla Accord of 1914 signed between representatives of China, Tibet and British India.
According to this accord, Ladakh is part of Jammu and Kashmir. China does not recognise this agreement saying that it was signed by a government that did not represent the people of China. The current communist regime of China came to power in the country in 1949.
China continues to recognise Ladakh as “disputed” territory where Indo-China boundary is yet to be demarcated. This stand has helped China justify its occupation of Aksai Chin.
Besides, China has got an area of over 5,800 sq km in Shaksgam Valley of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and renamed it as Trans-Karakoram Tract. It was originally part of Hunza-Gilgit region of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. In return, China has stood by Pakistan in all its dirty games against India.
The Pakistan-China boundary agreement of 1963, under which Pakistan gifted a part of Jammu and Kashmir’s land, calls for re-settlement of boundary limits in the region once the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan is resolved. This clause has a hidden message for China that it may get more land in strategically significant region.
How China reacted post-August 5
On August 5, the Narendra Modi government ceased the operation of Article 370 giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir and also bifurcated the state into two Union Territories. Ladakh will be carved out as a Union Territory without a legislature.
China responded to the move angrily saying India has violated sovereignty concerns of China. The obvious reference was to its claim over Ladakh.
“Recently India has continued to hurt Chinese sovereignty by unilaterally changing domestic lawThis act is not acceptable and won’t be in any sense binding,” the Chinese foreign ministry said on August 6. Here, the choice of words by the Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying was curious.
She categorically termed the Article 370 move by the Modi government a matter relating to “domestic law” of India but asserted it is not “binding” on China with regard to Aksai Chin, which was referred to by Union Home Minister Amit Shah when he moved the motion to make changes in the status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Ten days later, China extended unhindered support to Pakistan over its Kashmir policy. “China will continue to firmly support Pakistan in safeguarding its legitimate rights and interests and continue to preside over justice for Pakistan on the international stage,” China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said after hosting his counterpart from Pakistan.
This commitment came just ahead of Wang’s meeting with Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, who visited Beijing as part of India’s diplomatic outreach to international community in the aftermath of Kashmir move.
China then pressed for a closed-door deliberation of the United Nations Security Council over the Kashmir move and pushed for a statement after the meeting. But none of the other permanent members agreed to the proposal leaving both China and Pakistan utterly disappointed.
Where is it heading to?
Both Pakistan and China have over the past week have snoozed their comments over Kashmir sensing that the world opinion is not on their side. This was also evident during Wang Yi’s return visit to Pakistan, where on Sunday, he reiterated China’s support to Pakistan but a joint statement called for bilateral settlement of the dispute.
“Parties need to settle disputes and issues in the region through dialogue on the basis of mutual respect and equality,” the joint statement said about Kashmir issue.
The China-Pakistan deliberation took place ahead of UNHRC session in Geneva where Pakistan presented a 145-page document to stress its claim that India has violated human rights in Jammu and Kashmir. India was well prepared to counter Pakistan.
But there could be more in the offing. China and Pakistan may again make a concerted effort at the UN General Assembly later this month to raise the Kashmir bogey at the annual session.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan will address the UNGA the same day, on September 27. Imran Khan is likely to speak within minutes of Narendra Modi’s speech. He is banking heavily on China’s support to get the world’s ear on Kashmir.
There is another development that may see more Chinese involvement in Kashmir. When special status of Jammu and Kashmir was scrapped, China was battling to save its image in the view of massive demonstrations in Hong Kong that drew global attention. Now Hong Kong situation is largely under control and China is said to be ready for poking India diplomatically over Kashmir.