Colombo, August 9: After China sharply criticized India’s decision to change the constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir (J and K) and tighten its grip over Ladakh district which Beijing claims, the “Wuhan spirit” which pervaded recent Sino-Indian interactions is set to die out.
And China may go back to being Pakistan’s “iron friend.”
In this context, the question as to whether the second informal summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi set to be held in Varanasi on October 12, will take place.
In consonance with the Wuhan spirit, China had agreed to the Varanasi summit meant to mark the 70 th.,anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and India.
According to The Hindu, the Varanasi summit was to be “open-ended” though the Chinese side could ask India not to insist on the blacklisting of Pakistan by the Financial Action Task Force, an inter-governmental organization to counter money laundering and terror financing.
But China cannot make any such request now, given the heightened tension between India and Pakistan following New Delhi’s abrogation of Art 370 which related to the autonomy of J and K.
After the formal ending of J and K’s autonomy and the bringing of Ladakh under New Delhi’s direct control, China issued a strong statement condemning the twin moves. China accused India of “undermining its territorial sovereignty,” because it claims Ladakh.
Beijing has always opposed India’s inclusion of what it deems to be Chinese territory in the western section of the China-India border, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswomen, Hua Chunying, said in a statement Tuesday. “The recent unilateral revision of domestic laws by the Indian side continues to undermine China’s territorial sovereignty, which is unacceptable and will not have any effect,” Hua said.
Writing in Global Times, Chinese commentator Hu Weijia says that China is willing to help Kashmir develop its economy through triangular cooperation with India and Pakistan. But India’s Kashmir move has ruled out the possibility.
“The move will cause the region to lose an opportunity to develop its economy and improve living standards. Political stability is the prerequisite for economic development in Kashmir. At the very least, India has the responsibility of promoting poverty alleviation in Indian-controlled Kashmir. If New Delhi’s move results in economic turbulence in Kashmir, poverty could have a far-reaching impact on efforts to fight terrorism in the region,” Hu wrote.
The Indian government is justifying the abolition of Art 370 and Art 35A not only on the grounds of integrating J and K fully with the rest of India, but also to promote the economic development of J and K. Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale told foreign envoys that the steps were taken in order to boost economic growth and increase job opportunities in J and K, which were being hindered, thus far, by restrictions on the influx of capital and labor from outside J and K.
But the question that remains unanswered is: Can economic development, investment and labor influx take place when the local population feels politically and economically deprived and neighboring Pakistan and China have become more hostile than before because the changes have affected their political and strategic interests?
And under the changed circumstances can India succeed in its bid to narrow the US$ 60 billion trade gap with China? The yawning trade gap has been worrying India ,especially because of China’s unwillingness to buy more from India.
On which side will the United States be in the current stand off between India and Pakistan? A US State Department said: “We are concerned about reports of detentions (in J&K) and urge respect for individual rights and discussion with the affected communities. ”
And just stopping short of calling for international intervention, US called for “direct dialogue” between India and Pakistan “on Kashmir and other issues of concern”..
Some analysts say that the sudden move on New Delhi’s part to tighten its grip over J and K was partly influenced by the possibility of a Pakistan-US gang up. President Donald Trump had offered to mediate on the Kashmir dispute and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had responded to it enthusiastically.
However, in Pakistan, it was rumored that India did what it did in Kashmir after informing the US. But the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells denied any fore knowledge of the Indian move.
However, an India-Pakistan war or an increased terrorist Pakistan-sponsored activity in J and K seems unlikely if one were to go by the word of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. Imran told TV anchors that Pakistan cannot afford war due to a weak economic situation and that sending “non-State actors” (terrorists) into Kashmir “has more disadvantages than advantages”.
He however stated that Pakistan will “actively galvanize Western governments and public opinion on the violations in Kashmir”. An “airtight legal case” is also being prepared before the UN General Assembly session, he added.
The UN Secretary Antonio Guterres said on Monday said he is following “with concern” the tense situation in the region and urged India and Pakistan to exercise restraint.
Answering a question on whether the UN chief intends to play a role in resolving the issue, UN spokesman Stphane Dujarric said: “We are very concerned about the rise in tensions. As for the Secretary General’s role, he has often expressed his position on that and his position remains the same.”
The UN chief’s position is that his good offices are always available should “both sides” ask for it.
Impact on Afghan Peace Process
With the situation on its eastern border changing radically for the worse, Pakistan will not be able to concentrate on helping the US in Afghanistan where the US is wanting Pakistan to influence the Taliban to order a ceasefire and negotiate with the West-supported Kabul regime so that American troops could begin withdrawal by September 1.
Islamabad’s intensified pre-occupation with Kashmir and the Eastern border could delay the peace process in Afghanistan which is at a critical stage with eight meetings having been held in quick succession and with the US desperately hoping that the Taliban could be tamed by Pakistan.
This is perhaps the reason why the Taliban’s statement on Kashmir developments is not radical but nuanced.
The Taliban has expressed “deep sadness” over the recent developments in Jammu and Kashmir and urged India and Pakistan “to refrain from taking steps that could pave a way for violence and complications in the region and usurp the rights of Kashmiris.”
The statement calls for international intervention to prevent insecurity in Kashmir. The OIC, Islamic countries and the UN have been singled out for reference. The Taliban says that outside intervention could encourage India and Pakistan “to prevent the spread of crisis and resolve the issue in a calm and composed manner.”
The statement concludes by rejecting any hypothesis that the Kashmir issue and the Afghan problem are linked.
It underscores that “the issue of Afghanistan is not related to Kashmir” and, furthermore, Afghanistan should not be “turned into the theatre of competition between other countries.”