The Chinese can be blunt when it comes to diplomatic language, leaving no room for ambiguity. Thus it is that we should not be surprised that China has been critical of the Indian decision to seal the western border with Pakistan, using the very un-diplomatic phrase ‘very irrational.’ A Chinese think-tank is the origin of this gem of disambiguity and as it is circulated widely it may be inferred that this is not out of line with Chinese government thinking on the matter. Compounding the point India is described as having ‘a Cold War mentality’ and that the decision was only going to exacerbate tensions in Kashmir.
Given that China has a rapidly evolving regional role and is making huge investments in support of its own trade and economic goals, both India and Pakistan are going to be windfall beneficiaries. China is in a hurry, and the difficulties created by Partition are in the way. The irony and the paradox may be that the Kashmir issue gets addressed as a by-product of Chinese ambition rather than by the good offices of the UN or any other international agency. The pressures of realpolitik may be more persuasive than the honeyed tones of slothful negotiators who have little investment in real change, preferring a status quo of managed instability. Homeland security in its western regions is a pressing concern for China, and the Kabuki-theatre posturing of India and Pakistan does nothing to make them feel any safer.
China and India are shortly to hold joint military exercises and the BRICS Summit in Goa will bring their leaders together. A re-boot of the Cold War by India is at the very least inopportune and doubtless this will be intimated on the sidelines. It is looking for Chinese support in its bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group as well as boosting Indo-Chinese trade. Paradigms are beginning to shift regionally and China is the motive power. Change is still below the Kashmiri horizon but perhaps a little less impossible than it was five years ago.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2016.
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