Thursday, 17 March 2011

Kashmir Dispute and Role of China

Kashmir Dispute and Role of China

Presentation by Dr Shabir Choudhry in a Debate on Gilgit Baltistan arranged by Interfaith International on 16 March 2011 in Geneva

In name of Allah I begin.

Mr Chairman, friends and colleagues Aslamo alaykam and good evening.


Big thanks to Dr Charles Graves and Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri for their help and support in arranging this seminar on such an important topic.

Also I want to thank my colleagues:

• Abbas Butt, Mohammed Asim,
• Mohammed Shoaib and Imitiaz Ul Maqsood who, as a part of the delegation visited Gilgit and Pakistani Administered Kashmir.

The journey was extremely difficult and hazardous.

Strategic importance of Jammu and Kashmir
Total area of Jammu and Kashmir is more than 84,000 square miles, and it has great strategic importance. The State of Jammu and Kashmir is also endowed with ample natural resources. This is where South, Central and East Asia converge. It is at the crossroads of three great civilizations and was traditionally a gateway for both India and China to Central Asia and beyond, in to the heart of Europe. This is old trading route known as the Silk Route which contributed enormously to the wealth of so many countries and brought different civilizations closer to each other.
With time strategic importance of these areas has increased. Apart from India and Pakistan, other countries like China, Afghanistan, Central Asian states, Iran, Russia and America also have keen interest in these areas.
Kashmir’s importance is enhanced because of the areas of Gilgit Baltistan, which are legal and constitutional part of the State; but attempts are made to annex these areas from the State.

Parties to the Kashmir Dispute

We may have certain desires with regard to the status of Jammu and Kashmir, however, we have to look at the legal position when analysing the Kashmir dispute. The Ruler of the State Maharaja Hari Singh, in accordance with his rights offered India and a Standstill Agreement, while India wanted to discuss this matter further, Pakistan accepted the Standstill Agreement.

But in complete violation of this Standstill Agreement Pakistani officials managed a Tribal Invasion to occupy Kashmir in which thousands of people of Kashmir were killed, their property and personal belongings looted and their women raped and kidnapped.

The Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir fearing threat to his throne and to his people requested India for help. India urged the Maharaja to accede with India before any help could be sent. The Maharaja had no choice but to accede to India which was provisionally accepted and had to be ratified by the people of the State.

Because of that unprovoked aggression against Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan occupied a large area of the State. The UN Commission for India and Pakistan in its resolution of 13 August 1948 categorically asked Pakistan to vacate these areas. The UN resolution reads:
1. As, the presence of troops of Pakistan in the territory of the State of Jammu and Kashmir constitutes a material change in the situation since it was represented by the Government of Pakistan before the Security Council, the Government of Pakistan agrees to withdraw its troops from that State.
2. The Government of Pakistan will use its best endeavour to secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purpose of fighting.
3. Pending a final solution, the Territory evacuated by the Pakistani troops will be administered by the local authorities under the surveillance of the commission.

So one can see initially the dispute was between India and the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It was they who had to decide if that provisional accession was acceptable to them or not. Pakistan became a party because of that unprovoked aggression and occupation of the Kashmiri territory.

However, it is accepted that there are three parties to the Kashmir dispute, namely India, Pakistan and the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Other countries may have a position or a view on the Kashmir dispute, or what is happening there, but they are not a party to the dispute.

Role of China

China is our neighbour, but is not a party to the Kashmir dispute. However, China in a war with India in 1962 occupied Aksai Chin, a Kashmiri territory; and to have a better link with that territory they negotiated a deal with Pakistan in 1963. For the Chinese friendship and economic and other help Pakistan gave away around 2200 square miles of our territory to China from Gilgit Baltistan, known as Shaksam Valley.

China and Pakistan entered in to an agreement over this on 2 March 1963. In article 6 of this agreement Pakistan acknowledged that the sovereignty of the region did not rest with Pakistan; and that China was not a party to the Kashmir Dispute. The agreement reads and I quote:

‘The two parties have agreed that after the settlement of the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India, the sovereign authority concerned will reopen negotiations with the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the boundary as described in Article Two of the present agreement, so as to sign a formal boundary treaty to replace the present agreement, provided that in the event of the sovereign authority being Pakistan, the provisions of the present agreement and of the aforesaid protocol shall be maintained in the formal boundary treaty to be signed between the People’s Republic of China and Pakistan.’ Unquote

That Agreement and subsequent Chinese role with regard to the Kashmir dispute clearly prove that China was not a party to the Kashmir dispute. It is disappointing to note that over the past years government of Pakistan and some Kashmiri are working hard to make China a part of the Kashmir Dispute.

Now that Pakistani official find future of their country uncertain, and because of conflicting and competing interests, they are faced with a possible war or a military confrontation with the USA in which India could also be drawn in, they feel necessary to seek the Chinese help to face these challenges. Because of that Pakistani government has allowed a large presence of the Chinese army under the pretext of development work.

This is not to suggest that the development work is not taking place. Of course China is involved in dozens of mega projects in the region. According to reliable reports and evidence of those who have visited the region, China is constructing many roads and bridges and dozens of tunnels.
Many of the Chinese soldiers are building a railroad. Others are extending the Karakoram Highway, which connects China and Pakistan across the Karakoram mountain range, and engaged in activities for constructing dams, highways and other projects. They have also leased dozens of strategically important regions which are also full of natural resources; and this is loot and plunder of our resources.

The presence of the Chinese army helps Pakistan to keep local people under control, as presence of armed men deter any possible disturbances from the local population, who detest Pakistani rule there. Anyhow, before I analyse implications of the presence of the Chinese army, I want to tell what a Pakistani writer, Aziz Narejo, who, while analysing the situation of Pakistan said, and I quote:
‘They lost half of the country in just 24 years. They still didn’t learn. Created some more monsters in the name of religion and ethnicity. Today everything seems out of control. The rightist groups, which were supported in the name of religion to fight the nationalist and progressive elements in the country and to wage proxy wars on the borders and in India and Afghanistan, have started working on their own agenda. They now think they are in a position to claim the whole pie – ‘why settle for less’?’

He further said:
‘Country is clearly on a path to self-destruction. Many of the people would still not realize the seriousness of the situation. They are in the constant state of denial and blame every misfortune either on America or India. Well, the two may have some blame to share but considering them responsible for everything, distracts us from the malaise that may be afflicting us from within. It also keeps us from focusing on other countries, which are pouring money into the seminaries producing the suicide bombers and murderers. More we close our eyes to them, closer we get to our destruction.’ Unquote

Pakistani governments have history of providing their services to foreign powers for the sake of economic and military help. It looks that now they are ready to provide certain services to the Chinese for the sake of economic and military assistance. Pakistani and the American secret agencies are already at a war with each other.

The Americans feel, despite billions of dollars in economic help and military hardware to Pakistan, they have been let down by the Pakistani government and their agencies in the war on terrorism. They feel Pakistani army and their agencies have been playing a double game with them for too long; and time for a show down has come. So there is a strong possibility of worsening of relationship between them, possibly leading to some kind of military confrontation. Fearing that scenario the Pakistani authorities wanted to ensure that their ‘trusted friend’ China is available to help and support them, especially in Gilgit Baltistan.

However, the presence of the Chinese army in the disputed territory of Gilgit Baltistan is very serious matter; and poses the following dangers:

1. It is a serious threat to the peace and stability of the region;

2. It gives a free hand the Chinese to plunder natural resources of the region;

3. It is a serious threat to social, cultural and economic interests of the local people;

4. It is also possible that due to Pakistan’s serious problems and bleak future, China might take over this region to safeguard interest of both countries and to keep India out;

5. The USA might see this threat to their regional and strategic interests;

6. The USA might also find threat to their armed personnel in Pakistan and in Afghanistan and some impact on ‘War on Terrorism’;

7. India may also view this threat to their position in Jammu and Kashmir and threat to their regional and strategic interests.

Pakistan and China might have certain common interests, for example, economic and military cooperation and enmity with India, but what Pakistani government needs to understand is that China has its own interest to have a foot hold in this region that they can have access to warm waters and new markets via Gawadar Sea Port?
At present, it takes Chinese tankers up to 25 days to reach the Gulf, but control of Gilgit Baltistan and route to Gawadar Port will ensure that China has unfettered road and rail access to the mouth of the Persian Gulf, which is a major shipping route and will provide connections to African, Asian and European markets in matter of a few days. This will not only boost the Chinese trade but it will also significantly increase their influence in those regions.

It must be understood that the Pakistani interest is not China’s top priority. They have long term agenda and want to emerge as a global economic and military power and could use unstable country like Pakistan as a stepping stone to advance Chinese national agenda.

Apart from us - people of Jammu and Kashmir, some Indian politicians and analysts are also concerned about the Chinese assertiveness. Kiren Rijiju, a Member of Parliament representing Arunachal Pradesh (West), is very critical of Chinese advances. In an article published on 2 March 2011 with a title of: ‘It is time to wake up’, he expresses very serious concern over Chinese intrusions in Arunachal. China has a claim over this territory and when the Indian Prime Minister visited the region he did not go to Tawang giving ‘some leverage to the Chinese who can say ‘he has not gone to Tawang, because it is a disputed territory’.
Kiren Rijiju claims India gives too much importance to Pakistan and America and very little attention to China. He thinks India does not know enough about China. India does not have sufficient knowledge about their defence capabilities, their intelligence and their designs for the region. In his view ‘If ever, India and China go to war one day, it will be on this issue.’
However, some other experts feel this military clash will be over the region of Gilgit Baltistan which is part of former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir; and this clash could drag in other countries with disastrous consequences.

Few months ago Kashmir National Party sent a delegation to the region of Gilgit Baltistan. They met many people there and compiled a report on the visit which has been released today by Dr Charles Graves. During the visit we noted that people of the Gilgit Baltistan were extremely worried about presence of the Chinese army. They know Pakistan and China are plundering their natural resources and want to intimidate and harass the local people that they cannot speak against the Pakistani rule and plundering of their resources.

Apart from that the local people fear that their homeland could become a battleground for a new war, what some analysts say could be a new round of the great game which started in the 19th Century.

During our visit we conducted a small sample survey and you can see details of that in the report. However, I will briefly discuss salient points of that survey; and show you by PowerPoint slides how thinking of local people has changed and how sense of fear and intimidation prevails in that region.

Mr Chairman I thank you for your patience.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

it is UN’s duty and responsibility to resolve Kashmir in accordance with the aspirations of Kashmiris.