The anti-India pincer strategy: Here's why Pakistan and China are raising the stakes on the border
Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Arup Saha put his finger on the spot when he said at an on-record press conference on Saturday that he found it a “mystery” that the Chinese incursion into Ladakh coincided with the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to India (17-19 September).
“It’s been always a mystery the way incursions take place and the way they get timed with various visits… It’s nothing new; it remains a mystery for all of us… You all know that in diplomacy a lot of signaling is done, especially so with our northern neighbour. It could be part of some signaling to my mind. But I am not going to guess what it really means,” Raha told journalists ahead of IAF’s 82nd anniversary celebrations on 8 October.
What the Air Chief said was a confirmation and corroboration of what this writer had written here on 27 September. A quote from my above-mentioned article would be in order here:
Actually, a new disturbing trend is visible of late. Incursions have become an unannounced tenet of China’s India policy just as infiltration has been for Pakistan for decades. Future events will have to be watched closely to determine whether there is any truth in this supposed trend which may be described as I-2 pincer diplomacy of China and Pakistan with respect to India – the ‘I’ meaning Incursions for China and Infiltration for Pakistan.
This is going to be the biggest security and strategic challenge for the Narendra Modi government in the near future – the I-2 pincer diplomacy of China and Pakistan where India’s two known bug bears act against it, working in tandem. Now considering that the past often foretells the future, let us see how the recent past is foretelling the future.
Once again, you have guns booming on the Line of Control (LoC) as Pakistani troops are wantonly and brazenly provoking the Indian soldiers. It is an open secret that Pakistani troops open unprovoked fire at the LoC and the International Border to give cover to its jihadi foot soldiers as they infiltrate into India.
Then you have a statement from Pervez Musharraf, the former President and army chief of Pakistan who was also the chief architect of the Kargil War of 1999, wherein he was quoted as saying on Sunday that India should not test Pakistan army’s patience. General Musharraf blamed the Indians for ratcheting up tensions along the LoC.
Now that Pakistan is once again making the LoC a livewire, does it mean that another Chinese incursion is in the offing?
Well, this may well be the case. This is precisely what this writer had said while warning about China and Pakistan working against Indian strategic interests in tandem by way of I-2 pincer diplomacy – ‘I’ standing for Incursions for China and for Infiltration for Pakistan.
Let us read the Chinese tea leaves and extend the logic further.
That China and Pakistan are all-weather allies who describe their bilateral relationship as higher than mountains, deeper than oceans, sweeter than honey is well known. But perhaps what has not been adequately focused, from the Indian point of view, is a steady build up in their military-oriented bilateral ties.
This is India’s worst national security nightmare: having to deal with two external enemies in a war situation simultaneously. Also China and Pakistan have already laid a firm framework towards this end. It has been several years since China has already taken sides in the India-Pakistan dispute, evident from the Chinese policy of issuing staples visas to Indians domiciles in Jammu and Kashmir (and Arunachal Pradesh) while Beijing issues regular visas to residents of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
China has been maintaining over twenty thousand troops in PoK for years in the guise of construction workers. Repeated protests from India to China on both these counts have produced zilch from the diplomatic perspective. This makes it clear that China has some long-term strategic designs and the Chinese periodically turn the heat on the Indians. Thus far, it appeared as if it pertains to the unresolved Sino-Indian border dispute and Pakistan was nowhere in the frame.
But the Chinese actions since last year (incursions just before Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in May 2013 and incursions coinciding with Xi Jinping’s India visit in September 2014) and the inexplicable aggressive posture of the Pakistan Army in brazen violations of ceasefire since Modi government took over point to more sinister things.
The Modi government will have to find out whether China and Pakistan are working in tandem against New Delhi. This is a valid question, one which is bound to have a huge impact on Indian national security in the near future. Now that Pakistan has livened up the LoC yet again, it will be important to see if Beijing too chips in to rock India’s boat. Or in other words, India will have to wait and watch to see if yet another Chinese incursion is in the works!
The writer is Firstpost Consulting Editor and a strategic analyst who tweets @Kishkindha.
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