By P.K.Balachandran/Daily Express
Colombo, August 20: China’s brazenly anti-India and pro-Pakistan stand at the UN Security Council (UNSC) on the developments in Jammu and Kashmir (J and K), has cast a shadow on Sino-Indian relations in general, and the planned summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in India in October, in particular.
For India its decision to revoke Art 370 and Art 35A of the Indian constitution which had given a measure of autonomy to J and K not accorded to most other Indian States, and to downgrade of J and K from the status of an autonomous “State” to a Centrally administrated “Union Territory” are internal matters with no room for foreign intervention.
But China does not agree, because it claims Aksai Chin, a part of the Ladakh district of J and K which is now directly ruled from New Delhi as a Union Territory without a local legislature.
China joined Pakistan in taking the major step of invoking the jurisdiction of the UNSC, where it is a permanent member with a veto.
Both China and Pakistan accused India of violating human rights in Kashmir during the on-going crackdown and lockdown. India’s justification that law and order has to be maintained for the very survival of democracy in J and K, has been rejected as a specious argument.
As it turned out, the UNSC neither backed Pakistan’ s call for action against India, nor accepted China’s demand that a call be given to prevent unilateral actions which would heighten tension in J and K and the region. Direct Central rule over Ladakh has major security implications for China, given its occupation of the Aksai Chin area of Ladakh.
Indian diplomats told Hindustan Times that India has the right to expect China to respect its sovereign claims over Ladakh and Aksai China just as China expects India to accept its claims over Tibet ,Taiwan and Xinjiang as part of the “One China” policy.
Despite China’s best efforts, the UNSC only called upon India and Pakistan to settle their disputes bilaterally. The council nonchalantly abdicated its responsibility to settle the matter or help settle the matter. Though it was a closed-door consultation, the UNSC could have issued a statement or its Chair, Poland, could have made a statement if it wanted to play a role. But no statement was issued because most nations, including permanent members US, Russia and France, openly said that the issue should be settled through bilateral talks between India and Pakistan.
Back To Square One
So, Pakistan and India are back to square one, back to the Shimla Agreement of 1972 by which they are pledged to settle all issues bilaterally.
The Shima Agreement signed by Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi of India and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan in the aftermath of the 1971 India-Pakistan war, said that India and Pakistan are resolved “to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them.”
The agreement stated that the two countries agreed to respect each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and to non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. It further said that “the basic issues and causes of conflict which have bedevilled relations between the two countries for the last 25 years shall be resolved by peaceful means; that they shall always respect each other’s national unity, territorial integrity, political independence and sovereign equality.”
While India says that its traditional stand rooted in the Shimla Agreement has been vindicated by the UNSC’s call for bilateral talks, Pakistan says that it has succeeded in internationalizing the Kashmir dispute after many years of failure to do so, despite the UN’s involvement in the issue for a number of years since 1948. Both claim victory.
Pakistan’s representative in the UN, Dr.Maleeha Lodhi, said that at long last, the voice of the struggling and suffering people of Kashmir has been heard in the UN. She promised that Pakistan will see to it that their voice continues to be heard.
Relations between India and Pakistan, never good, have deteriorated further, affecting diplomatic, trade, communication and people-to-people ties.
Pakistan alleges that India is looking for an excuse to invade that part of J and K held by it, and points out that the Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh has said that India will revise its policy of “no first use of nuclear weapons” depending upon the circumstances. But India says that Pakistan-inspired terror strikes are imminent, and has alerted its forces, including the navy.
As regards China, the 22nd round of the India-China Special Representatives Dialogue on the boundary issue is to take place in New Delhi in mid-September. According to Hindustan Times, India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is evaluating the “early harvest” proposals sent by Beijing to build trust between the two sides ahead of the meeting. But dates for the meeting between interlocutors Doval and Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi have not yet been finalized.
At the Foreign Ministers’ dialogue on August 11-13 in Beijing, Indian Foreign Minister, S.Jaishankar, had held out an olive branch to his Chinese counterpart, when he proposed that “differences should not be turned into conflicts.”
Jaishankar’s soft line was obviously dictated by the need to see that the October 11-12 informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Varanasi ,India, takes place as scheduled.
For India, China is a different kettle of fish which is not to be confused with Pakistan. New Delhi believes that it can carry on a conflict with Pakistan without much economic ill-effects. And Indo-Pak conflicts can also give the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) handsome domestic political dividends.
Therefore, with the UN and the major Western powers on its side, and most of India backing it, the BJP government in New Delhi is expected to carry on with its agenda to bring J and K completely under its control as part of its larger and multi-pronged Hindu nationalist agenda. But the worrying part is managing China, which can breathe down India’ its neck quite menacingly.
(The featured image at the top shows Indian and Chinese Foreign Ministers S.Jaishankar and Wang Yi meeting in Beijing in mid-August)