Bangla Sunday, September 27, 2020

How a Pak-China front is adding to India’s Kashmir woes

top news 2020-09-12 072154
The fact that the UNSC does not recognize India’s claims is evident from the way it continues to maintain its direct presence in the “disputed” territory of Kashmir and continues to call it an “India-Pakistan Question.”

While the Modi sarkar may have found a ‘final solution’ for the Kashmir problem and “settled” it, Kashmir remains an unresolved problem in the UN agenda. India’s recent request to the UN Security Council (UNSC) to permanently remove Kashmir from its agenda proves that its solution has not automatically taken it out of the UN’s list of problems. On the contrary, the fact that the UNSC continues to hold sessions on Kashmir is a refutation of India’s contention.

Indeed, India’s request for removing Kashmir from the UNSC agenda is the result not merely of its belief about Kashmir being its ‘integral part’ but is a response to Pakistan’s continuous effort to highlight the plight of Kashmiris at the international level, urging an internationally mediated resolution. 

In its statement on the Report of the Security Council for 2019, India complained that Pakistan “keeps pushing for discussions on an outdated agenda item in the council” which for “all matter needs to be removed from the council’s agenda permanently”.

However, the fact that the UNSC does not recognize India’s claims is evident from the way it continues to maintain its direct presence in the “disputed” territory of Kashmir and continues to call it an “India-Pakistan Question.”

An agenda from the UNSC list can be removed only when the matter has been resolved or with the emergence of a consensus among its members towards this end. But none of this has happened in the case of Kashmir. 

India’s quest for permanently removing Kashmir from the agenda is born out of its internal constitutional changes rather than on an international consensus. By asking the UNSC to permanently remove Kashmir, the Modi sarkar is only trying to internationalize its own [illegal] version of the ‘final solution.’ 

The UNSC’s refusal to remove Kashmir shows that India’s Kashmir woes remain very much alive, thanks to Pak-China countermeasures to internationalize the disputed territory. Since India’s annexation of Kashmir, the UNSC has held three in-camera sessions on it. 

The reason why China has taken up the issue is, in fact, a result of India’s own actions. The removal of Article 370 and the subsequent bifurcation of the disputed territory into two Union Territories: Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh has brought China into the fray forcefully. By changing Ladakh’s status, India has unwittingly allowed China to channelize its energies towards the region and take it up at the international level. China fees that its own territorial claims and sovereignty have been undermined by New Delhi’s increasing unilateralism. 

Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh’s high-sounding claims about taking Aksai Chin back have only added fuel to the fire that the Chinese dragon has started to emit.

This explains why India and China clashed at least twice in the Ladakh region, underscoring the fact that China is a direct player in Ladakh and India’s unilateral actions have increased its stakes in the overall Kashmir dispute. 

In other words, while the UNSC continues to treat Kashmir as an “India-Pakistan Question”, the de facto position of Kashmir is no longer bi-lateral. 

China’s increasing military activity and its pro-active diplomatic maneuvers in the UN strongly amplify the fundamentally changed ground realities and India’s increasing inability to prevent the dispute’s transformation into a trilateral matter. 

Pakistan, on the other hand, has issued a new political map. The new map does not only reiterate its position on Kashmir, but also takes due account of China’s sensitivities, terming the India-China Line of Actual Control (LAC) as a “frontier undefined.”

The map also links Pakistan with Chinese administered territories, signaling a strong possibility of joint military operations, aimed at deterring India. This map, generating a visual representation of Pakistani and Chinese claims, links both countries via the Shaksgam Valley, a part of the Gilgit-Baltistan region ceded to China by Pakistan under their 1963 border settlement. To the east is the Aksai Chin region, which is the de facto limit of China’s claims in Kashmir and marks that part of the region it has been controlling since the 1962 war with India.

While the new map may just be cartography, it could also be a prelude to a ‘two-front war’ in which the Chinese and the Pakistani armies will draw new lines of coordinated action.  

As it stands, the Chinese are already talking to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal for a trans-Himalayan economic corridor, linking Nepal to Pakistan and eventually Afghanistan via Tibet and Xinjiang. The fact that Nepal and India are already locked in a separate border dispute adds to the former’s significance as an anti-India player in regional geo-politics.