Jammu and Kashmir's public works department minister Naeem Akhtar's remarks on China's increasing proximity to Pakistan and Jaish-e-Mohammad has evoked a strong reaction from the Jammu and Kashmir police and central security agencies, who have denied Chinese involvement in any terror activity in the state.
However, there is more to it than a mere exchange of words between the civilian government in Jammu and Kashmir and security agencies. China's relationship with Pakistan has flourished in past few years. However, the billion-dollar investment pledged by China in building the country’s highways, ports, railways and industries has caused an eye-sore in New Delhi.
The investment is part of premier Xi Jinping’s ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) initiative, an attempt to revive and modernise the traditional Silk Route. While many Asian, African and European countries have joined the Chinese initiative that is touted to transform the ways of global commerce, the BJP-led Centre’s decision to stay away from the initiative has not pleased its coalition partner, the Peoples Democratic Party, in Jammu and Kashmir.
PDP and Chinese dragon
None other than the PDP president and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti raised the question of the Chinese dragon ‘encircling’ New Delhi last year after a batch of Amarnath pilgrims were killed by suspected militants in Botengu village of south Kashmir's Anantnag.
"Kashmir issue is not a law and order problem. It is happening because of external forces. The ongoing fight is a handiwork of ‘external forces’ and now unfortunately China is also trying to meddle in it,” Mehbooba had told media after briefing Union Home Ninister Rajnath Singh about the security measures taken after the attack on pilgrims. Mehbooba didn’t blame the attack on China per se. But her larger point was that India should not isolate itself in the South Asian region by adopting the politics of disengagement when it comes to China and Pakistan. Her party has repeatedly asked the Centre to hold talks with Pakistan on Kashmir issue.
In recent past, Mehbooba has also backed Beijing's proposal to build alternative routes through Jammu and Kashmir to link India with its OBOR initiative which "reinforces the need to rediscover traditional trade routes of Kashmir".
A key part of the initiative, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), passes through Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Her passionate plea for joining the CPEC came after China's ambassador to India Luo Zhaohui offered to rename the corridor and build alternative routes through Jammu and Kashmir to address New Delhi’s concerns.
"We can change the name of CPEC (and) create an alternative corridor through Jammu and Kashmir, Nathu La pass or Nepal to deal with India's concerns," the ambassador had said. The PDP feels that New Delhi is missing out on the opportunity offered by CPEC to engage with Pakistan via China for resolving the Kashmir problem. If China offers to invest in Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan’s role as a ‘sponsor of terror’ in the region will start to diminish due to stronger Indo-China economic ties.
"China making investment in Pakistan occupied Kashmir should alarm New Delhi but it also offers an opportunity to engage Pakistan diplomatically. Disengagement with either is no option because Jammu and Kashmir has been the primary victim of India-Pakistan aggression," a senior PDP leader told Firstpost.
The Question of Masood Azhar
Ideologue of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, Naeem Akhtar, recently told a national daily that Masood Azhar has been ‘adopted’ by the China because the country has blocked multiple attempts to designate the Jaish-e-Mohammad chief as a ‘UN designated terrorist’.
Advocating dialogue with Pakistan over Kashmir issue, Akhtar however, incorrectly, told the newspaper that the Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahudin has been listed as a "global terrorist in UN” but “the great wall of China has been erected around Azhar".
"China has been regularly vetoing attempts to designate him (Azhar) as a terrorist in United Nations. Such things don’t happen without reason. Why only him? Why not others? Why didn’t China block such moves in UN against other people? The China connection needs to be understood," he said.
"Unlike earlier, the great game is literally being played inside Kashmir. The Kashmir issue isn’t limited to the fight between India and Pakistan now. There is another major factor involved. It isn’t Pakistan alone, it is China too," Akhtar, a confidante of the PDP founder, late Mufti Sayeed, said.
The ever-changing geo-strategic landscape of the Asian subcontinent with Pakistan and US drifting apart after the latter suspended the annual military aid to the country due to continuing chaos in Afghanistan, and the reported talks between Chinese diplomats and separatist rebels in Balochistan, make the ‘great game’ even more interesting.
“With converging economic interests of Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan on a host of issues, New Delhi can no longer afford to close its eyes to the emerging, new realities. By isolating itself in the region to please the US, New Delhi is opening fronts for more encounters like Doklam and Ladakh with the Chinese dragon,” Professor Noor A Baba, Dean of Social Sciences at the Central University of Kashmir, said.
Updated Date: Feb 23, 2018 10:38 AM