Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Chi –Pak’s GB Googly - deft move by Xi

Chi –Pak’s GB Googly - deft move by Xi
By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch     11/01/16 World Affairs Journal

When Americans coined “Af-Pak”, both territories being overseen by US CENTCOM, perhaps there was also the déjà vu of the boundaries changing between the two unofficially or officially. Given those parameters, it would be appropriate to term China and Pakistan as ‘Chi-Pak’, more so as former Pakistani army officer Agha H Amin predicted in 2012,“……Pakistani politicians will remain the puppets of the military; terrorism will remain a tool of foreign policy while the Pakistani military runs the Pakistani state under a facade of PPP or PML or Tehrik-i-Insaaf….. There is no doubt that Pakistan will be a semi autonomous Chinese province by 2030 or so… Pakistani Baluchistan by 2030 would be a completely Chinese run show…”. 

Following Pakistan’s terror strike on the Pathankot IAF base, much noise has been made by Pakistan about condemning terrorism but Nawaz Sharif asking for more proof indicates the shape of things to come – that the so called investigations will get bogged down because of insufficient proof under the Pakistani legal process, as has happened in case of punishing the perpetrators of the Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks. At best some peripheral raids would be conducted with much fanfare while the perpetrators of the Pathankot raid are housed, wined and dined under ISI protection. While journalists in Pakistan who dare to expose the military-terrorist links are bumped off periodically, the judiciary too stays in line for obvious reasons. But that is not all the response post the Pathankot attack with India content that “ball is now in Pakistan’s court”. 

Pakistani media has now reported that Pakistan is considering upgrading the constitutional status of its northern Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) region, part of the erstwhile State of J&K legally ceded to India at the time of Partition, in a bid to provide legal cover the $46 billion Chinese investment into the China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC). The proposal would see the region being mentioned by name for the first time in Pakistan’s constitution, bringing it one step closer to being fully absorbed as an additional province of Pakistan. Quoting a Pakistani official speaking on conditions of anonymity, the report says, “China cannot afford to invest billions of dollars on a road that passes through a disputed territory claimed both by India and Pakistan.”

More significantly, according to Pakistani analyst Ayesha Siddiqa, the move could also signal Islamabad’s desire to end the Kashmir conflict by formally absorbing the territory it controls — and, by extension, recognizing New Delhi’s claims to parts of the region it controls, such as the Kashmir valley. “If we begin to absorb it so can India. It legitimizes their absorption of the Valley,” she said.
The timing of the above report indicates that perhaps there is a larger Chi-Pak game-plan and the Pathankot terror strike too perhaps was linked to it – orchestrated by the Pakistani military (as viewed by Bruce Riddell) on behest of China under President Xi Jinping’s “robust foreign policy”. At this juncture, one needs to look back to see the sequence of events that preceded the Pathankot strike and the surprise announcement of formalizing integration of Gilgit-Baltistan into Pakistan; summarized as under: 
·         In 1963, Pakistan gifts Shaksgam Valley to Pakistan. China says it will negotiate with whoever the area belongs to once the Kashmir issue is resolved.

·         In 1964, the China-Pakistan sub-conventional nexus is formed with Chou-en-Lai advising Ayub Khan to prepare for prolonged war with India and raise a militia to fight behind enemy lines.

·         In 2004, following ceasefire with India, Pakistan moves Sunni terrorist camps into Gilgit-Baltistan, experiments with mixing blood that doesn’t work following which institutionalized killings of Shias through proxies begins. Presently, the Shia population in Gilgit-Baltistan has already been reduced from 70% to 50%.

·         In 2005, China for the first time lays claim to entire Arunachal Pradesh as “South Tibet”, her earlier claim confined to Tawang Plateau. 

·         In August 2010, New York Times reports, “The entire Pakistan-occupied western portion of Kashmir stretching from Gilgit in the north to Azad (Free) Kashmir in the south is closed to the world, in contrast to the media access that India permits in the eastern part, where it is combating a Pakistan-backed insurgency. But reports from a variety of foreign intelligence sources, Pakistani journalists and Pakistani human rights workers reveal two important new developments in Gilgit-Baltistan: a simmering rebellion against Pakistani rule and the influx of an estimated 7,000 to 11,000 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army.”

·         This was a time when China was objecting to ONGC Videsh assisting Vietnam in oil exploration on grounds of disputed waters while she sent troops into POK without reference to India, later saying China was undertaking only some development projects like hydel works.

·         On September 2, 2010, report in the Economic Times titled ‘China calls PoK ‘northern Pakistan’, J&K is ‘India-controlled Kashmir’, says China denied it had 11,000 troops in Gilgit-Baltistan region but referred it as “India Controlled Kashmir”.

·         Intelligence reports emerge that China is digging 22 tunnels in Gilgit-Baltistan for deployment of missiles, local owners of these lands are barred from going to the area. 

·         In 2011, China’s CCTV starts showing map of India minus J&K and Arunachal Pradesh. India lodges official protest but CCTV continues to show it during 2011 even after the Indian protest.

·         In 2015, Pakistani military courts come down ruthlessly on dissidence in Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan. Killings and executions with or without legal procedure are unleashed. 

·         In 2015, China blocked India’s move in the UN for action against Pakistan for the release of 26/11 mastermind Zaki Ur Rehman Lakhvi from jail. The UN Sanctions Committee, which met at India’s request, was to seek a clarification from Pakistan on Lakhvi’s release in the 26/11 trial but China blocked the move on grounds that India did not provide sufficient information. Lakhvi’s release was flashed over the international media and he was rearrested after vehement protests by India, so what proof is China talking about?

·         In May 2015 CCCTV again shows map of India minus J&K and Arunachal Pradesh during visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

·         On 25 November 2015, a Conference on ‘China in Pakistan: Growing Human Rights Concerns’ was jointly hosted by the International Human Rights Defenders and Members of the European Parliament in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, attended by more than 120 participants from European Parliament, Civil Society and European Union, which brought out: mass local resentment over Chinese projects negative environmental impact and the utter disregard for environmental safety norms by the Chinese infrastructure developers – literally trashing environment; PLA presence in Pakistan Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan under the pretext of ensuring safety to their workers; PLA creating Shia-Sunni divide causing direct threat to region and locals; need for mechanism to investigate adverse effects of PLA presence in Pakistan and Gilgit Baltistan; Pakistan has given mining license to Chinese companies which has deprived natives of their lands; Baluch people are subject to capital punishments without even going through courts with Pakistan continuing its kill and dump policy in the region – 336 bodies were found in alleged “kill-and-dump” cases during 2015 as per rights activists.

·         In 2015, when Xi announced the $46 billion investment in the CPEC, issue of legal status was never raised by China.

·         In November 2015, before the 26-member strong delegation led by General Fan Changlong, Vice Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission came to India, after visiting Pakistan and signing the agreement for four tier security of the CPEC. 

In all probability the Pathankot terror strike was a calculated joint Chi-Pak orchestrated by the Pakistani military, aimed at sensational damage to the IAF base and response from India. If the dialogue is scuttled (let us say postponed indefinitely), so much the better. Gilgit-Baltistan will promptly be declared Pakistani territory. Nawaz Sharif saying more proof is needed for the Patahnkot terror strike indicates no action will be taken by Pakistan or perhaps some perfunctory action will be taken, even as Nawaz Sharif, Raheel Sharif and Rizwan Akhtar condemn terrorism in unison. The US State Department has already given the leeway to Pakistan for a ‘timeless’ inquiry referring to how long it took to nab Osama-bin-Laden (as if propagators of Pathankot strike are hiding in a third country), while US makes no mention of the $10 million bounty announced on Hafiz Saeed who continues to be treated as royalty in Pakistan. So, more terror attacks may follow. Following Gilgit-Baltistan, rest of POK too can incrementally be declared part of Pakistan while Pakistani military continue to wage proxy war on India at will, to retain pre-eminence in Pakistan. Bruce Riddell already has attributed this capability to Pakistan, which is not surprising given that India has failed to establish credible deterrence against proxy war despite being subjected to terrorism over past three decades. It sure is a deft move by Xi; the question of legality of land over which the CPEC comes up will be buried forever.

The CFL was drawn under the 1949 Karachi Agreement under aegis of the UN Commission and the UN was well aware of the legal accession of entire erstwhile State of J&K to India. The preamble of the UN Resolution mandated that Pakistan withdraw its security forces from POK before a plebiscite is held. Pakistan instead increased her security forces presence and unlike India changed the demography of POK deliberately, killing the issue of plebiscite forever. Results of first ever poll both sides of the Line of Control in J&K conducted by the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), UK in conjunction King’s College during 2009-2010 (held on behest Musharraf and funded by Gaddafi’s son in Libya) brought out that 98% of people in J&K do not wish to be part of Pakistan and 50% of people in POK do not wish to remain with Pakistan. 

Does the above quote by Ayesha Siddiqa indirectly hint at an understanding to resolve the Kashmir Issue? Farukh Abdullah too went on record last month to say the LoC should be converted to IB. Whatever be the case, India needs to carefully weigh the pros and cons especially with the Gurdaspur and Pathankot attacks having been engineered across the IB. Riaz Mohammad Khan, former foreign secretary of Pakistan in his book ‘Afghanistan and Pakistan: Conflict, Extremism, and Resistance to Modernity’ has examined extremist serving as instruments of its (Pakistan’s) foreign policy. He refers to Pakistan’s foreign policy towards India being based on nurturing some of the most dangerous international terrorist organizations and their local protégés: “groups such as Sipah-e-Sahaba and Jaish-e-Muhammad commonly resorting to threats to browbeat opponents. 

An interesting argument in his book is that the instruments of Pakistan’s foreign policy, the mujahedeen, were not really controlled by the state; in fact, he talks of growing evidence that it was the other way round. There is some sense in what Riaz Mohammed Khan writes about reverse indoctrination albeit presently terrorist leaders like Hafiz Saeed are not controlling but advising the military.

Perhaps that is the reason Musharraf says, “Even if the Kashmir issue is resolved, Jihad against India will continue.” Once Pakistan includes Gilgit-Baltistan in her Constitution, Congress that bent backwards in face of grave incidents on the LoC during UPA II and lay inert when Shaksgam went the Chinese way and more recently PLA moved into POK, will be baying from the rooftops for Prime Minister Modi to act – citing the two resolutions by the Indian Parliament that entire state of erstwhile J&K is part of India. The ball will then be fairly and squarely in Modi’s court, if not already. 

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