Games Pakistan plays
China crosses the tipping point in regional hubris
By Aditya Pradhan
Why is the presence of Chinese troops in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) such a contentious issue? The cut-and-dry statement of General VK Singh on September 5 had set aside all the previous niceties on Indo-China diplomacy. General Singh told the media that alarms bells were ringing in the defence establishment over the presence of over 4,000 Chinese troops in PoK involved in construction work.
For once, it seems the US intelligence has also played quite some role in unearthing the growing nexus between the Chinese and the Pakistan especially on account of American pressure on the latter to stop active involvement of the state in terrorism.
Hillary Clinton’s latest statements on how the Pakistan government is proactively involved in the killings of American soldiers in Afghanistan even while Pakistan builds this façade over Kashmir freedom struggle have made the two natural allies – Pakistan and China, come together on more counts than in the past.
The Chinese construction teams in PoK include combat engineers from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Only last month, Union Defence Minister AK Anthony told Parliament that India had asked China to stop its construction of infrastructure in PoK. Now that General Singh has raked up the issue again in a public forum only underlines the fact that both China and Pakistan have not paid heed to India’s concerns.
These developments come in the wake of the joint decision by India and China to hold the 15th round of talks over the contentious border issue. Top bureaucrats on both sides, viz: National security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and China’s state councillor Dai Bingguo will lead the talks. Till recent past the Indian government had maintained the decorum of not allowing charges being levelled against the neighbouring country though there have been increasing instances of Chinese incursions into India.
There have also been American intelligence reports of how the China was destabilising the Indian economy with its cheap and unregulated manufacturing base. On many occasions Indian officials have themselves attributed Chinese incursions into Indian territory to an unclearly demarcated Line of Actual Control.
According to reports emanating from the defence ministry, India and China will start a new joint border mechanism that will ensure a direct linkage between Delhi and Beijing over the boundary situation. This ostensibly is to prevent confusion over territorial disputes. But many in the military also aver that the incursions have more to do with the bad intentions than clarity on the ground.
Historically, India has always been saying that the problems in Indo-China relations have been parked on perceptions. The usual downplaying of the divergences in opinion between the two countries now seems to be slowly wearing off.
During the NDA rule in the late 90s, then Union Defence Minister George Fernandes had said that India’s nuclear weaponry programme was based on the fact that China was enemy number one. Though the minister received a lot of flak from the Left-driven media for his plain-speaking, the effect was not lost on policy makers in the subsequent ministry heads.
Also, the defence ministry has been time and again talking about the growing Chinese military capabilities as a matter of concern for many other countries in the region as well. “China’s assertive foreign policy should not be at the cost of other countries in the neighbourhood”.
In the midst of all this there is also commercial interests being propounded by China. Nur Bekri, chairman of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, will visit India in November this year. He will be accompanied by a business delegation to explore possibilities of expanding trade and investment between the two Asian giants.
If Pakistan is using the current situation in the region for its benefit, it will become even more contentious in future for the US. The Obama Administration has been the most forthright in the history to call Pakistan a terrorism-supporter. It also lends credence to the growing realization that India has been playing some quiet games in the international arena especially when it comes to the US, on changing the regional equation in favour of India. Though the presence of 4,000 Chinese troops in PoK should not come as a surprise for India the government would do well to take the newly developing equations to logical conclusions – and that is, to make US come over to the Indian side of the divide.