China and Pakistan: Towards Increasing Dissonance?

Presentation titled, “Sino-Pak Partnership: Changing Strategically” at International Workshop on Recent Security Challenges in the Asia Pacific and India-China Relations, Institute of Chinese Communist Studies, Taipei, Taiwan, 31 July 2013.

A. an important objective of the Sino-Pak relationship is to keep India off-balance.

a. Sino-Pak military cooperation is the primary method                                 i.      this involves the Chinese sale of conventional weapons  as well as earlier transfers of nuclear weapons

ii.      today, there is also transfer of civilian nuclear technology that can no doubt be put to dual use by Pakistan

iii.      cooperation with the Chinese military further strengthens the Pak military and helps to undermine still further the Pak civilian government’s attempts at putting down deep roots.

iv.      however, could there also be Chinese concerns about Pakistani military capabilities, if not Pakistani reliability in general, given the Abbottabad attack on Osama bin Laden’s hide-out by US special forces?

b. Sino-Pak political cooperation is secondary Read More »

Advertisements

Arunachal: One Step Back, Two Steps Forward?

In July 2011, China issued stapled visas to Arunachali members of an Indian karate team to China, who were later duly stopped from proceeding by Indian immigration authorities. This Chinese action is the latest in a long list of moves designed to highlight their claim over Arunachal Pradesh.

Yet, it would be a mistake to call this a provocation. There is a difference between stapled visas being issued for Kashmiris and those for Arunachalis. Read More »

China’s ‘Forward Policy’ on Kashmir

Presentation: Jabin T. Jacob, “Interpreting China’s ‘Forward Policy’ on Kashmir,” Conference on Pakistan Occupied Kashmir: Internal Dynamics and Externalities, Department of Strategic and Regional Studies, University of Jammu, Jammu and Kashmir, 28 March 2011.

Summary: While Pakistan remains a vital cog of China’s South Asia policy it is important to note that the superlative is not applicable in Sino-Pak relations; rather, a range of factors influence Chinese policy including India, the United States and now the progress and consequences of the American drawdown in Afghanistan. Kashmir is but one factor in the larger Chinese calculus.

Further, as important as China’s geopolitical interests in the region are, it has other wider interests globally on which India, more than Pakistan, is an important actor. Thus, whether on climate change or global trade negotiations and in a variety of multilateral organizations ranging from the Kunming Initiative to the Russia-India-China trilateral and the BRICS grouping, India is a key player that China has to engage with. Against such a backdrop, China tries both to prevent India from truly rising to challenge China as well as to ensure that it can work together with India when necessary. Given Indian sensitivities over Kashmir, China’s Kashmir policy forms a useful leverage with India. But there is a fine balance that China needs to achieve which will be increasingly difficult as India grows more powerful on the world stage and if Pakistan continues to remain unstable. China will therefore, have to make some important choices in this regard, in the future.

Meanwhile, India too can contribute to modifying China’s Kashmir policy in its interests. On the positive side of things, showing greater interest in border trade across the LAC with both Tibet and Xinjiang and through them with the rest of China is one way. But most measures will have to be non-Kashmir-specific in nature including greater openness of the Indian economy as a whole to Chinese investments and trade with China. In the more negative set of actions are of course, classic geopolitical games such as balancing with the US or a host of China’s smaller, neighbours fearful of its rise.

What methods China or India will adopt, however, remain to be seen.

Chinese Strategic Interests in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir

Originally published: 2008

Extract: 

When the Northern Frontier of Kashmir was partitioned in 1947, the two routes connecting India with Xinjiang in China were distributed between the successors to British India. The Ladakh route connecting Leh via the Karakoram Pass and via routes east of it to Kashgar (Kashi), Yarkand (Shache) and Khotan (Hotan) went to India while the western route from Gilgit to Kashgar via Hunza, the Mintaka Pass and the Khunjerab Pass went to Pakistan. India’s portion is now a part of its dispute with China, while the Pakistani portion is now part of a cooperative arrangement with China in the form of the Karakoram Highway (KKH). Other than the events preceding the conflict with India in 1962 and the consequent occupation of Aksai Chin, the Chinese are only in the news on the Indian side for occasional border intrusions and clashes along the LAC. In Pakistan, meanwhile the Chinese have managed to engage in a substantial military and strategic partnership as well as a small but significant economic relationship.

 

The Karakoram Highway (KKH) is today a strategic and commercial asset for both China and Pakistan but it has also been responsible for transporting terrorism, drugs and disease. Indeed, for Pakistan, the resultant Chinese concerns are no small matter. Its policy towards the Northern Areas invariably invokes the link that the region provides with China and the importance of the trade with that country. Pakistani Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz for example, did precisely this while speaking to newly elected members of Northern Areas Legislative Council (NALC) in late 2004 saying that their region was significant for the KKH that provided a vital link to China and asking them, therefore, to promote unity and maintain sectarian harmony to ensure the development of the area.[1] Another important detail in the Sino-Pakistan relationship that is embodied by the KKH is the fact that there have been extensive historical contacts between the Northern Areas and Xinjiang, formerly known as Eastern Turkestan and that while Xinjiang is increasingly coming into its own as a substantial economic entity, the same cannot be said of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK).


[1] “Government paying attention to Northern Areas uplift: PM,” Business Recorder, 1 November 2004, accessed at http://www.northernareas.org.pk/ndetail.cfm?ID=374.

 

China’s Strategic Interests in POK

 

The shift in the strategic nature of POK that the construction of a highway between China and Pakistan through the Northern Areas would entail was apparent to India which in June 1969 accused Pakistan of making it easier for Chinese troops to access occupied territory in Aksai Chin and from Tibet to the Gilgit area which lay immediately to the north of the ceasefire line in Kashmir. It stated that the road posed a threat to the peace and tranquility in the region.[1] Years later, on the completion of the KKH, China’s deputy Premier Li Xiannian would publicly declare that the Highway “allows us to give military aid to Pakistan.”[2] The KKH has also increased China and Pakistan’s control over their frontiers and ability to deal with security threats emanating from India and elsewhere.

 

The KKH, it is believed has been used for the transfer of nuclear and missile equipment to Pakistan.[3] Meanwhile, Chinese and Pakistani plans to link the KKH to the southern port of Gwadar in Balochistan through the Chinese-aided Gwadar-Dalbandin railway, which extends up to Rawalpindi are being carried out with the intention would be that in the case of hostilities between India and China, the PLA Navy would find Gwadar the most convenient logistic location on the Indian Ocean. Prior to hostilities actually breaking out, it would be supported by material transported over the 1300km long Highway and stockpiled at the port. Once conflict had started however, the highway would in many stretches, especially in Gilgit and Hunza be vulnerable to disruption by air attacks.[4] In addition, no traffic occurs from January to June because of the winter snowfall.

 

The link between the KKH and Gwadar however, has constantly been reinforced. In August 2004, a message on the renaming of a bridge on the KKH in honour of the Pakistani and Chinese workers involved in the construction of the highway, Pakistani Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain referred to Gwadar and in particular the killing of three Chinese engineers engaged in that project.[5]

 

It also needs to be noted that there were reports that China was upset with Pakistan for allowing the US to establish listening posts in Pakistan’s Northern Areas and was unwilling to provide financing for the Gwadar port as a result.[6] Among China’s overall strategic aims could be access to the air base in Gilgit and listening posts for itself. In a competitive game of acquiring bases and listening posts that has been underway between the major powers in Central Asia, Gilgit and Skardu airfields provide ideal locations for expansion and upgradation and China must fancy its chances. Indian strategic thinkers have long worried about China’s string of pearls in the Indian Ocean. An arch of land bases from Pakistan through Tibet to Myanmar should be just as big a worry.

 

From this brief outline of Chinese strategic interests in POK, three implications might be considered. One, while the Chinese claims to Hunza appear to have been settled by the treaty of 1963, the region is of increasing importance to China for the reasons stated above. Here, considering the Indian experience vis-à-vis the Sino-Indian boundary dispute might be instructive. The Chinese position on the issue has changed over the years with the mid-1980s witnessing a hardening of the Chinese position on the eastern sector. The western sector is no longer considered as the main area of dispute owing perhaps to the fact that the road through Aksai Chin is no longer as critical to China as it had been in the 1950s. The eastern sector meanwhile with its rich natural resources is now considered too valuable to give away in addition to significant political and strategic reasons. Given, the fact that the 1963 treaty is subject to revision depending on the eventual resolution of the dispute over Kashmir and given the recent improvement in Indo-Pak relations, the possibility of Chinese revising their position or strengthening their interests in POK must be considered. Moreover, the current status or the lack thereof, of the Northern Areas within the Pakistani constitutional framework could complicate the situation still further.

 

Two, access to the Northern Areas also provides another route by which the Chinese might approach Afghanistan. Besides military goals, western intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq also has nation-building goals military operations, and it is therefore, not unrealistic to expect that China will have an interest in getting its own say in such projects where possible. And, in the case of Afghanistan, POK is as close as it gets. As mentioned above it has already once used the KKH to supply arms against the Soviets. Today, perhaps it is taking a longer-term perspective combining strategic aims, historical links and modern infrastructure.

 

Three, China is also discovering that expansion beyond its boundaries is a two-way street. China not only exports influence, but is influenced in turn and not always for the best – Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism and separatism are problems that China has begun to contend with increasingly following the opening of its overland links to Pakistan and other Central Asian countries. China will, therefore, be increasingly interested in how Pakistan and by extension, Afghanistan deal with rising Islamic sectarianism and fundamentalism, in order to safeguard its own domestic interests.

 


[1] Alastair Lamb, Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy, 1846-1990 (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 275 and John Garver, Protracted Contest: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Twentieth Century (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 207.

[2] Ziad Haider, “Clearing clouds over Karakoram,” Daily Times, 4 April 2004, http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_4-4-2004_pg3_3.

[3] B. Raman, “Gilgit & Baltistan, China & North Korea,” SAAG Paper, No. 289, South Asia Analysis Group , 7 August 2001, http://www.saag.org/papers3/paper289.html.

[4] John Garver, Protracted Contest: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Twentieth Century (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 289-91.

[5] “Bridge on Karakoram Highway renamed,” Dawn, 18 August 2004, http://www.dawn.com/2004/08/18/nat18.htm.

[6] Tarique Niazi, “Gwadar: China’s Naval Outpost on the Indian Ocean,” China Brief, The Jamestown Foundation, Volume 5, Issue 4, 15 February 2005, http://www.jamestown.org/publications_details.php?volume_id=408&issue_id=3232&article_id=2369262.

Original Article:  “Chinese Strategic Interests in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir,” in P Stobdan and D Suba Chandran (eds.), The Last Colony: Muzaffarabad-Gilgit-Baltistan (Jammu: Center for Strategic and Regional Studies (CSRS), University of Jammu, 2008), pp. 125-56.

The Future of Kashmir: China and Kashmir

Originally published: Winter 2007-08

Extract: Perceptions about the People’s Republic of China’s position on Kashmir have long been associated with its “all-weather” friendship with Pakistan. However, the PRC’s positions on Kashmir have never been consistently pro-Pakistan, changing instead from disinterest in the 1950s to open support for the Pakistani position in the subsequent decades to greater neutrality in the 1980s and since. While China has continued military support to Pakistan even during military conflicts and near-conflicts between India and Pakistan, its stance on Kashmir has shifted gradually in response to the prevailing domestic, regional, and international situations.

Original Article: “The Future of Kashmir: China and Kashmir,” Swords and Ploughshares, ACDIS (University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign), Vol. XVI, No. 1, Winter 2007-8, pp. 19-21.