Fifth Columnist: War by other means
Apr 22 2017
China threatens to change India’s position that Kashmir needs no third party intervention
But winning elections is just one part of the game. The larger challenge remains governance and there is no bigger threat to the Indian establishment than the Kashmir valley today. That the party is caught in a Catch-22 situation in Kashmir would be to make the understatement of the decade.
There is little doubt that had there not been a BJP-PDP government in the state, the situation would be a fit case for dismissing the state government and put Jammu and Kashmir through a small spell of President’s rule. But how do you dismiss a government, which is run by your own party?
There is realisation in the highest echelons of the government that such an act would be tantamount to admission of defeat, a defeat that would be capitalised upon by the opposition and indeed, deliver a body blow to BJP’s winning ways elsewhere in the country. Sure, the situation in the valley is not unprecedented; India has handled similar situations in the past, notably in the late 1990s and then later around 2010 or so.
But there is one critical difference. New Delhi, which has for close to seven decades, chafed at the prospects of a third party intervention in Kashmir, insisting it is a bilateral affair between India and Pakistan, could now have a very powerful third party in its hair, all without so much as a formal announcement.
The sea change in the troubled Kashmir Valley, and by extension the larger undivided Kashmir, is the $62 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), one of Beijing’s most ambitious infrastructural programmes since the Communist takeover in 1949. CPEC runs through the entire length of Pakistan, through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the southern state of Balochistan. It reduces the distance for Chinese goods bound for US, Europe and Africa by a substantial 2,000 miles and vice-versa by providing an alternate to the Strait of Mallaca route, through which most of Chinese trade currently takes place.
China – given its economic might and the methods used to achieve its amply-demonstrated hegemony - has decided that a strong Pakistan is a priority for this economic dream to be realised. Coming in the way is India, an old Asian rival, who needs to be contained, not just economically but politically and militarily as well.
So instead of an announced détente of embattled countries sitting across the table to sort out matters, China has decided to display its hand. It will intervene in the Kashmir Valley without appearing to do so.
This is what explains the sudden shift in tactics in Kashmir in the last few months, more specifically since November 2016 when CPEC became partly operational when Chinese cargo was transported overland to the Gwadar Port for onward maritime shipment to Africa and West Asia.
It is extremely doubtful whether this tactical shift, from picking up soft targets in Kashmir to full blooded attacks on Indian security forces not just in Kashmir but border states, could have been carried out by a country as beleaguered as Pakistan without the might of the Chinese behind them. Things have reached such a pass now that arms and ammunition captured from Pakistan-sponsored jehadis in the Kashmir Valley have Chinese markings. Beijing has clearly given up any pretence at assistance to all weather ally Pakistan; it is now doing so openly.
A close look at the narrative in the last few months reveals the true picture. Pakistan’s leading lights, like their successive army chiefs, have been harping on the threat to the CPEC, which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which India claims as its own territory. In fact, these days there is more talk about this economic corridor than the Kashmir Valley, both in Islamabad and Beijing.
The blatant Pakistani provocation on the death sentence handed out by a Kangaroo military court to alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, lists his attempts at derailing the CPEC project, an economic plan of action closer to Beijing’s heart than any in recent memory.
This week, in typical dragon-speak, in a diplomatic maneuver worthy of the highest traditions of Sun Zu, Beijing said the CPEC had `no direct link’ with the Kashmir issue. Sure, there has been political mishandling of Kashmir; the fact that a self-professed Hindu political party has tied up with a covertly separatist political formation, in itself represents a contradiction of Herculean proportions. But surely, that cannot be the only reason for the grim political situation in the valley.
The sudden appearance of videos of atrocities by Indian security in the last couple of weeks, the shrill New Delhi-based campaign by liberals, ill disposed to the Modi dispensation and quite capable of demanding foreign intervention only if to ground the Indian prime minister’s nose to dust, no matter what the national consequences, are sure signs that there is a thinly-veiled attempt to break the will of the Indian state.
The propaganda about all of Kashmir being in flames itself is subversive. Other than the valley, it would be preposterous to suggest that the Hindus of Jammu and Buddhists and Shias of Ladakh want ‘independence’ from the Indian union. More than winning elections, Kashmir is the biggest challenge that Modi and the BJP dispensation currently face. And this is not going to be any less a daunting target than winning elections in UP.