China Pak nexus: There is a churn in international politics. In Asia, this decade has witnessed the rise of countries such as India and Vietnam. Japan is seeking to regain its lost influence in the region.
But the most dynamic of all these nations is China, which poses a challenge to the existing world order and the primacy of the United States (US).
China’s President Xi Jinping declared as much at the 19th Party Congress in 2017, when he advocated a concept of “community of common destiny of shared values”. In this backdrop, countries are exploring the possibility of new relationships, while assessing the impact of potential changes on their societies, security and values. The US and western nations are apprehensive of China’s challenge. So are China’s neighbours.
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India is especially affected — not only by China’s rise — but mainly by its territorial acquisitiveness. Within a few years of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, the communist regime in Beijing declined to accept India’s 4,057 km-long border with China and suggested it wants to open negotiations. As China grew in strength, it proceeded to lay claim to large tracts in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, including Aksai Chin which it had occupied forcibly, and the major portion of Arunachal Pradesh, including Tawang.
In recent years, China has advanced claims on Ladakh. Incorporated in China’s constitution is the ‘China Dream’, which includes the “rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation” or, as China explains, the “recovery of territories lost through the imposition of unequal treaties by imperialist foreign powers”. Asked about China’s territorial ambitions and its limits, retired Colonel Liu Mingfu, who is an influential military strategist often quoted by Xi, stated in 2019, that the map used by “the current Chinese government is the clear standard for national sovereignty and territory”.
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What is of greater concern for India is the growing collusion between China and its “iron brother” Pakistan, converging on the strategically important larger region of Kashmir comprising Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Gilgit, Baltistan and the Shaksgam Valley. The launch of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), with its multitude of projects to be built by Chinese workers with Chinese loans, in addition to lending permanence to Pakistani and Chinese occupation of Indian territory, is giving tangible shape to the fusion of Chinese and Pakistani military power. China’s strategic long-term interests in the Karakoram region and port of Gwadar are evident. China’s support for Pakistan has also become more overt, with Beijing insisting since April 2015 that India should resume talks with Pakistan and resolve the Kashmir issue. It has also argued that Pakistan is a bigger victim of terrorism.
In a bold and decisive move on August 5, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government unveiled India’s uncompromising stance on issues of sovereignty and territory. After decades of procrastination on the status of Kashmir, the Modi government, at the beginning of its second term, unequivocally asserted that Kashmir is an integral part of India, with no outside element having a role. The earlier policy of diffidence and indecision was replaced with determination. The amendment of the temporary Article 370 in the Constitution was approved by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Parliament, showing that the move had broad-based national support. It showed too that India would act alone when it came to its national interests and national security.
The government’s move has been timely, and comes just before the China-Pakistan nexus begins to more directly threaten Kashmir. India has now begun to mainstream Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country, further consolidating its sovereignty. Stopping Pakistan’s terrorist actions in Kashmir and elsewhere in India, and neutralising the terrorist support infrastructure, comprising separatist elements, are equally urgent threats that need to be thwarted.
Here too, the government took definitive bold measures. Calling Pakistan’s oft-repeated nuclear bluff and responding to a major Pakistan-sponsored terrorist strike on Indian paramilitary personnel, the Indian Army launched surgical strikes against a number of terrorist camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Weeks later, amid reports of terrorists assembling at the Jaish-e-Mohamed (JeM) terrorist camp at Balakot in Pakistan, the Indian Air Force carried out precision strikes on the facility.
This was soon after Chinese President Xi Jinping had again advised India’s PM to resume talks with Pakistan and resolve the Kashmir issue. India clearly signalled it would not be cowed down either by Pakistan’s nuclear bluff or its friendship with China.
In the shifting scenario, when the US and China are contesting global leadership and the latter is expanding its strategic space, India moved quickly and decisively to ward off two major threats. Such decisiveness and swiftness of action are essential for India to successfully navigate the challenging period ahead. With a clear assessment of threats and boldness, a better future awaits India.