CHINA WATCH [JULY 18-24] – China Calls for Indian Withdrawal

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Summary:

The President of National Conference (NC) and former chief minister (CM) of Jammu and Kashmir (J & K), Farooq Abdullah, has urged India to consider the role of third parties in resolving Kashmir issue with Pakistan. China has reiterated its demand for withdrawal of Indian troops from territory in Doklam Plateau. China has called CPEC the fastest and most effective project among all the projects of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). 

 

China Calls for Indian Withdrawal

Chinese soldiers guard Nathu La mountain pass, between Tibet and northeastern Indian state of Sikkim

China has reiterated its demand for withdrawal of Indian troops from territory in Doklam Plateau. Spokesman for Ministry of Defence Col. Wu Qian said “China’s determination and resolve to safeguard national security and sovereignty is unshakable.” He added “[H]ere is a wish to remind India, do not push your luck and cling to any fantasies.”[iii] It has been more than a month since Indian and Chinese troops are engaged in an impasse over border dispute in area close to borders between China, India and Bhutan. China insists India should pull back its troops before any talks could be started. India has suggested both countries should withdraw forces and negotiate.

On the other hand, Pakistani High Commissioner to India met Chinese and Bhutanese envoys Luo Zhaohui and Vestop Namgyel respectively on two different occasions.[iv] Although there is no official word about the content of meetings, Indian media have reported Doklam crisis was discussed.

Earlier during the week, Indian government and Chinese media rejected as baseless the reports of a Pakistani news outlet Dunya News which had claimed the killing of over 150 Indian Army soldiers in a Chinese attack in Sikkim.

Both India and China seems to be increasingly uncompromising this time on the border issue. India’s non-compliance with China’s demand of withdrawal (without the use of force) is proving to be a conundrum for Beijing. If New Delhi persists with current position, Beijing will be left with three very undesirable options. Firstly, to let the impasse continue. It will be a major test of Beijing’s patience which has already been wearing thin. Secondly, to comply with India’s suggestion of mutual withdrawal and forsake its own position of Indian withdrawal. It will be a serious blow to Beijing’s nationalist sentiments and image. And thirdly, apply a limited force to push back Indian forces. But this option is also not without costs and risks. China’s image as a power prone to aggression can further be reinforced internationally. Besides, the risk of escalation of dispute into a war with India will also linger. Even if China’s traditional ally Pakistan is currently engaged with India in border skirmishes, Beijing has not yet given any inclination of looking for option of using Pakistan’s front against New Delhi.

‘Approach U.S., China to Mediate in Kashmir Issue’: Farooq Abdullah 

Farooq-Abdullah (1)

The President of National Conference and former chief minister (CM) of Jammu and Kashmir (J & K), Farooq Abdullah, has urged India to consider the role of third parties, such as the U.S. and China, in resolving Kashmir issue with Pakistan. He said “[F]or how long are you going to wait? Sometimes, you have to catch the bull by the horns. War means annihilation, as they (Pakistan) have atomic bombs, just like we do. The way (to resolve the issue) is through dialogue”.[i] He went on to advise India “[U]se your allies to initiate a dialogue and find a lasting solution. US President Donald Trump has said he wants to settle the Kashmir problem, we didn’t ask them to. China also said that it wants to mediate in Kashmir. Somebody has to be approached”.

However Farooq’s idea of ‘third party’ role was met with a strong criticism from other leaders. CM of J & K, Mehbooba Mufti, issued a stern reproof in this regard.[ii] Mufti said “China, America should mind their own business, we all know what is the situation of the countries wherever they intervened, be it Afghanistan, Syria or Iraq.” While addressing Farooq, she asked “[W]hat is the situation in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq today? Does Farooq sahib wants same thing to happen to us?”

The very idea of ‘third party’ role exposes the dilemma of India’s Kashmir policy. Even if officially New Delhi maintains it is ready to talk about this issue with Pakistan only at bilateral level, it has resisted taking up this matter. Instead, India has adopted a new refrain on Kashmir issue with Pakistan: We should talk about cross-border terrorism before Kashmir. While India has (to an extent successfully) lobbied against cross-border terrorism at international level, the Kashmir issue is going nowhere. Two significant factors complicates India’s Kashmir narrative. Firstly, there has been a sudden and strong spike in resistance to India’s rule over Kashmir. Unlike the past cases, this movement is home grown and not supported directly by Pakistan. Since the killing of a local pro-independence militant Burhan Wani in July last, the movement has become fiercer and not dying away. Secondly, Pakistan is not ready to put aside Kashmir at any rate. Tensions at Kashmir border have escalated between the two nuclear powers which have fought four wars in the past. The threat of a full-scale fighting between the two nuclear powers in return withdraws international attention to the dispute as well as offers of ‘third party’ mediation. To pin the whole blame on Pakistan (which no doubt shares some responsibility), India portrays the issue as cross-border intervention and terrorism.

CPEC the Fastest and Most Effective Project of BRI: China

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China’s acting ambassador to Islamabad, Lijian Zhao, revealed that 19 CPEC projects worth about $19 billion were either completed or in progress.[v] He said that “CPEC, as a pilot and major project of BRI, is now the fastest and most effective project among all the projects under the BRI”. Mr. Lijian said that “[D]espite (the fact) there is critics and noises here and there, after this four years of hard work and joint efforts of both countries, the CPEC has not been affected by those noises.”

CPEC is one of the six corridors of China’s OBOR project and is projected to be constructed with around $56 billion by 2030. Energy projects, roads and rail tracks, Gwadar port and economic zones are the key components of the CPEC.

Although the two governments have represented an all-is-well image of the CPEC, some serious limitations can be identified. Some analysts and even state institutions have argued that the deals of the project are not transparent enough. Only a limited coterie of the government officials seems to be deciding everything without proper feedback from public and other institutions. For example, the government has dithered on sharing the details of the Master Plan of the CPEC. If the Chinese side has procured a preferential position in deals, Pakistani government is obsessed with hasty implementation of the projects for the purpose of electoral gains in the coming national elections. Then there are some other critical questions. The image of the incumbent government is seriously undermined by the corruption charges under Panama Case inquiry. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s trade deficit has declined to historic low of $30 billion.

The potential economic gains of the CPEC can not be denied but the two governments share the responsibility of coming clean on all the details of the CPEC projects. Similarly, Pakistan needs to go on with these project after the required fieldwork of economic feasibility and institutional reforms.

Miscellaneous:

A Chinese delegation of entrepreneurs led by Chinese Ministry of Commerce visited Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and showed interest to make investment in Pakistan’s agriculture sector.[vi] Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal has said that “CPEC means Pakistan’s entry into global supply chain.”[vii]

This report is compiled and written by Abdur Rehman Shah, Research Associate at the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), Islamabad. He tweets @abdur_shah

[i] Times of India. (2017, July 21). ‘Approach US, China to mediate in Kashmir’: Farooq Abdullah’s remarks met with reproof. Retrieved on July 23, 2017, from http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/approach-us-china-to-mediate-in-kashmir-issue-farooq-abdullahs-remarks-meet-with-reproof/articleshow/59696877.cms

[ii] Times of India. (2017, July 22). China, US should mind their own business: Mehbooba Mufti on third-party intervention in Kashmir. Retrieved on July 23, 2017, from http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/china-america-should-mind-their-own-business-mehbooba-mufti-on-third-party-intervention-in-kashmir/articleshow/59712752.cms

[iii] AP. (2017, July 24). China reiterates demand for India to pull back troops amid border standoff. Retrieved on July 24, 2017, from https://www.dawn.com/news/1347343/china-reiterates-demand-for-india-to-pull-back-troops-amid-border-standoff

[iv] Mohan, Geeta. (2017, July 21). Pakistani envoy Basit meets Chinese, Bhutanese Ambassadors to India: Doklam discussed. Retrieved on July 24, 2017, from http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/doklam-standoff-india-china-face-off-abdul-basit-luo-zhaohui-vetsop-namgyel/1/1007424.html

[v] Gul, Ayaz. (2017, July 20). China calls Pakistan’s CPEC Fastest and Most Effective of BRI Projects. Retrieved on July 24, 2017, from https://www.voanews.com/a/china-calls-pakistan-cpec-fastest-and-most-effective-of-bri-projects/3951874.html

[vi] The Nation. (2017, July 17). Chinese delegation interested to invest in Pakistan’s agriculture sector. Retrieved on July 17, 2017, from http://nation.com.pk/national/17-Jul-2017/chinese-delegation-interested-to-invest-in-pakistan-s-agriculture-sector

[vii] Arshad, Muhammad. (2017, July 23). CPEC means Pakistan’s entry into global supply chain: Ahsan Iqbal. Retrieved on July 24, 2017, from http://pakobserver.net/cpec-means-pakistans-entry-global-supply-chain-ahsan-iqbal/

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