The highly critical opinion-piece “Fragile peace barely holds in tense Kashmir”, featured by the Chinese Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily and its sister publication Global Times over the situation in Jammu & Kashmir, merits attention for several reasons.
For one thing, such criticism is unwarranted in terms of the prevailing ground situation in J&K — even while taking into account the recent disturbances over the destruction of the Sufi shrine of Peer Dastageer Sahib in Srinagar. Second, the criticism is patently unfriendly and it makes no bones about it.
Third, it contradicts Beijing’s own stance with regard to the Kashmir problem. To be sure, there is an itch the Chinese feel somewhere, and they are scratching India because they need to scratch somewhere.
The salients of the Chinese opinion-piece (attributed in good old style to an obscure name) are the following: a) The fire incident at the Sufi shrine was orchestrated by some “hidden hand… to make Kashmir boil again.” (The reference cannot be to Pakistan’s ISI). b) The popular alienation in J&K is overwhelming. c) The Kashmiri people want “azadi” or freedom. d) The Indian army deployed in J&K is an occupying force. e) The calm in J&K is unreal, the situation remains turbulent. f) The root cause of the problem is that India has retracted from the commitment to hold a plebiscite as demanded under the United Nations resolutions. g) Geopolitics is hindering a resolution of the problem. h) Kashmir is a “global flashpoint” and a “nuclear flashpoint”. i) Without an international intervention to hasten a Kashmir settlement, the situation in J&K may “descend into chaos once again.”
The Chinese official position for the past decade and more has been that Kashmir issue is: a) a leftover from colonial history; and, b) a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, which they should resolve in an atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence.
The commentary has resurrected the UN resolutions and the issue of plebiscite. It calls for international intervention. Why is China raking up Kashmir issue ?
It can’t be that Beijing is calculating that Kashmir is ripe for US (or UN) intervention. Plainly put, Beijing hopes to irritate New Delhi. What explains this itch to irritate the Indians?
Arguably, the itch is to be traced to the isolation that China is facing following the US’ pivot to Asia. What is particularly galling is that while not joining hands with the US’ containment strategy, India is nonetheless creating synergy out of the US-China rivalry — somewhat emulating the way China tapped into the cold war rivalry between the US and the USSR.
Also, everyone wants India as a “balancer” — not only the US, but many others including possibly Russia — whereas China, which thought trade and treasury bonds can buy everything on the planet, realizes that its “soft power” is rather miniscule.
Did the CCP consult Islamabad before raking up the Kashmir issue? No, this commentary smacks of a solo act. The point is, China also feels aghast that the Pakistani political elites opted for the partnership with the US. A certain bitterness comes out in the Chinese commentaries on the US-Pakistani deal to reopen NATO’s transit routes.
The deal underscores that Islamabad has its own priorities while navigating the country through a highly dangerous regional environment, the prerequisite of which is a predictable relationship with the US. In sum, if the recent positive trends continue in the India-Pakistan dialogue, an altogether new power dynamic may develop within which China’s capacity to leverage India-Pakistan differences may diminish.
India-Pakistan normalization would consolidate the US’ strategic thrust in South Asia and make it effective in the arc of the “Greater Middle East” bordering China’s restive regions of Xinjiang and Tibet. Which in turn would only add to the raison d’etre of the US’ pivot to Asia.
The commentary is an expression of the growing frustration in Beijing that Washington is gradually outflanking it not only in the Asia-Pacific but also to the west of Karakorum. No doubt, it is an invitation to the “hardliners” in Islamabad to get into one last waltz with China. The PD commentary is here.
– July 17, 2012