India’s defence and security strategists should take a serious note of the revelation that China has built a bridge in a sensitive part of the Line of Actual Control in the Ladakh region.
China’s repeated mention of Jammu and Kashmir during the Doka La stand-off since early June is ample indication that Beijing’s intentions regarding the northern state are inimical.
In the past few years, the Sino-Pakistan axis appears to have been preparing a major strategic initiative for the area. There are indications that China has supportive links with terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba. In addition, it seems to have worked through well-positioned third countries to prepare the ground in Kashmir.
The new Chinese construction has been brought to light by no less than Dr Sonam Dawa, the Chief Executive Councillor of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, an office with ministerial status. Dr Dawa, who has been a respected social and political activist for three decades, is the elected leader of the council that administers the sprawling Leh district.
Parallels with 1965
Ever since the strategic patterns of last year’s uprising on the streets of Kashmir became obvious, it has been clear that policy planners ought to examine developments in and around Kashmir in light of what happened in 1965. That year too, large numbers of infiltrators entered the Valley and Pakistan had planned to take over strategic locations such as the radio station under cover of mass protests.
Pakistani Army regulars in civilian clothes were among the infiltrators in the Valley that year. After a mass uprising on the streets of Srinagar did not take place as planned, the Pakistan Army had overtly moved in to cut off the highway near Samba. That highway was the sole connection between the state and the rest of the country, since the Manali-Leh highway had not yet been built.
Before launching what it called as the 'Operation Gibraltar' in Kashmir, Pakistan’s army had provoked India with skirmishes in the Kutch area, at the other end of the border between the two countries. That turned out to be a diversion, meant to take the focus of India’s strategists away from Kashmir. The situation could turn out to be similar this year, but is far more threatening since India faces a Sino-Pakistan axis rather than a single enemy country. Strategists should keep a hawk’s eye on the possibility that the Doka La stand-off could parallel the Kutch skirmishes of 1965.
China’s soliders have repeatedly intruded into the Ladakh area, particularly in the years since the Beijing Olympics in 2008. In 2009, China had for a few months refused to issue visas on the Indian passports of citizens from the state of Jammu and Kashmir — even to the then commander-in-chief of the Northern Command, who was a native of Jammu.
China and Pakistan have together cocked a snook at India’s concerns by going ahead with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes right through the state. Pakistan has formally included the Gilgit-Baltistan area into its territory by declaring it its fifth province last year.
During the Doka La stand-off, Chinese analysts and spokespersons have used threatening language directly with regard to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It has stated, for instance, that India’s defence of disputed territory on behalf of Bhutan could open the door for China to do the same in Kashmir at Pakistan’s request. Indian strategists must prepare for the possibility that China could up the ante with regards to Jammu and Kashmir. If that happens, Doka La could become the 2017 version of what Kutch was in 1965 — this time, for the Sino-Pakistan axis rather than for either alone.
The presence of China’s vice-premier at Pakistan’s Independence Day celebrations on Monday is another indicator of the two countries’ increasingly closer ties. Pakistan has ceded unprecedented authority to Chinese troops and officials in areas around CPEC and near the Line of Control between India and Pakistan.
Updated Date: Aug 14, 2017 15:39 PM