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India-China ties: Modi govt hopes to gain in 2017 as Donald Trump presidency plays out its cards

There has been much noise about a Pakistan Lieutenant General Aamir Riaz asking India to become a part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Consider for a moment that India agrees, Pakistan itself will regret the invitation. As a much bigger economy, India will become a key player, and take some of the shine away from Pakistan. The strategic equation in Asia as we know it at present would go into a tailspin and could even finally hit the “all weather” China-Pakistan friendship as the entire region would be transformed. In an ideal world, this would be a game changer as countries become stake holders for peace.

But even a leader like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, given to thinking out of the box, cannot risk this bold initiative so long as anti-India terror groups continue to target Indian forces in Kashmir. Without bringing the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai terror strikes, the Uri and Pathankot kingpins to book, no Indian leader can risk making peace. Modi as the leader of a nationalist right-wing party, who had long decried the UPA’s soft approach to terror, cannot dream of it now with tension escalating and daily killings across the Line of Control (LoC).

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

India-China and India-Pakistan ties are unlikely to change dramatically in the next few months, with Pakistan especially, till such time as elections in UP, Punjab and other states are done and dusted. Modi’s greetings to Nawaz Sharif on his birthday is an indication that Modi wants to leave a door open to his counterpart. India-Pakistan ties are more emotive than its relationship with China, but with Pakistan becoming a key element of President Xi Jinping’s pet one-road-one-belt project, Beijing, much more than earlier is an integral element in the relationship.

Though India is a member of China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), it has never warmed up to the New Silk Road project. Beijing had earlier been keen for India to join its one-belt-one-road scheme but with the $46 billion investment in Pakistan, it is impossible. India has often protested that some of the CPEC infrastructure will be passing through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), which India claims as its own. China and Pakistan’s friendship has been further cemented by the $46 billion investment in the CPEC.

India-China ties have also taken a hit in the last one year. China has halted India’s entry to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), it is cool to Delhi’s ambitions of being a member of an expanded UN Security Council. It has also blocked Pakistan-based terror group leader Masood Azhar from being declared on the UN list of terror, though his organisation, the Jaish-e-Mohammed is a designated terror outfit. All this on “technical grounds” according to China. More acrimony in India-China ties lie ahead.

The visit of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh in February is likely to further hit India-China ties. Not that this will be his first visit. He was in the Tawang monastery in 2008 also. But now the Chinese are slightly more nervous. US President-elect Donald Trump’s phone call to Taiwan’s president has made China uneasy and Beijing will be watching closely whether Washington’s new incumbent will continue the long accepted one-China policy which the world seemed until now to have accepted. Taiwan and Tibet are key elements of the one China theory. The Dalai Lama’s visit to any country, remember Mongolia, leads to loud and angry protests by Beijing. The fact that most of its neighbours, aware of China’s economic and military power finally gave in, has emboldened Beijing.

The Tibetan leader’s meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee in Rashtrapati Bhavan has elicited similar noise from China. US ambassador Richard Verma was given rare permission to travel to Arunachal Pradesh. Now, when it is already vulnerable about Taiwan, a visit to the state, which China claims as an extension of South Tibet, will lead to more raucous protests from Beijing.

China usually is circumspect and has long-term policy visions, but over both Taiwan and Tibet it is ultra sensitive. With an unknown individual ready to shake up the Washington consensus China remains nervous. Moreover, it has been closely monitoring the growing warmth in India-China ties and believes the US is using New Delhi to balance China’s clout in the Asia-Pacific region.

All this does not bode well for relations between the two Asian giants. China is also aware that Modi is not the run of the mill Indian leader, and can take extraordinarily bold decisions and can even be adventurist if required.

China’s one-road-one-belt policy is hard to resist for most countries in the neighbourhood. Everyone needs funds for infrastructure, whether it is Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal or the Maldives. China’s footprints are writ large around India’s neighbourhood. This is of concern to India. But India’s frustration should not lead to arm-twisting of smaller neighbours. What it needs instead is a viable development alternative, something much more than the Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec). So long as China is flushed with funds, its influence in the region will remain intact. But as many economists predict, China is living in a bubble and chances of the bubble bursting in the next couple of years are high. Without the abundance of cash, Beijing’s competitiveness will dim for awhile. India needs to think of a viable option to carry its neighbours with it. 2017 is likely to be an interesting year as the Trump presidency plays out its cards. India is hoping it will gain in the process.

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 18:26 IST

China urges India to accept Pakistan’s ‘olive branch’, join CPEC

Beijing: China will strongly oppose any attempt to label Pakistan as “supporting terrorism”, Chinese official media said on Friday and suggested India to accept the “olive branch” extended by a top Pakistani military General to participate in the $46 billion economic corridor.

“Surprise aside (over General’s call), New Delhi should consider accepting the olive branch Pakistan has extended in a bid to participate in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor,” said an article in the state-run Global Times.

The comments came after Lt Gen Riaz, Commander of the Pakistan’s Southern Command which is based in Quetta, this week reportedly said India should “shun enmity” with Pakistan and “join the $46-billion CPEC along with Iran, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries and enjoy its benefits”.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“Such an opportunity could be transient. There is a possibility that the open attitude toward India joining the CPEC will quickly be overwhelmed by opposition voices from Pakistan if New Delhi does not respond in a timely manner to the General’s overture,” the article said.

“The best way to reduce hostilities is by establishing economic cooperation based on mutual benefits to put aside what cannot be reached by a consensus,” it said.

It said that India could boost its exports and slash its trade deficit with China via new trade routes that would be opened up by the CPEC. In addition, the northern part of India bordering Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir will gain more economic growth momentum if India joins the project, it said.

Another article in the same daily said “Riaz’s invitation, which came as a surprise to New Delhi, is mainly intended as a gesture. While he hinted at India’s intervention in the CPEC, he welcomed India’s participation in the project, demonstrating Pakistan does not want to exclude India.”

At the same time, it said, “if any country wants to label Pakistan as ‘supporting terrorism’ and discredit the country, then China and other countries who uphold justice will oppose such behaviour strongly”.

The article said that since President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan in April, 2015, the CPEC has advanced considerably.

“However, some international forces, and India in particular, are accustomed to look at the CPEC and the One Belt and One Road initiative from a geopolitical perspective.

On one side, this is relevant to the geopolitical competition mindset they insist on, on the other, this is because of their excessive speculation on the strategic implications of the CPEC and the Belt and Road,” it said.

“To ensure the smooth advancement of the CPEC, it is necessary for Pakistan to have a stable and peaceful domestic and periphery environment and a favourable profile,” it said.

On anti-terrorism, the Afghanistan peace process, and the peace and stability of Kashmir, Pakistan is making efforts to show international society its wish to pursue peace, it said.

“The CPEC is not only a bilateral cooperation, but also a multilateral project in the long-run, which aims at regional economic integration. So it’s open and inclusive, and China and Pakistan hope India, Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asian countries can participate and become stakeholders,” it added.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 13:32 IST

Don’t mistake patience for weakness: Ex-Pak army chief sends warning to India over Kashmir

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>General Qamar Javed Bajwa, an expert in PoK affairs, on Tuesday took over as Pakistan’s new army chief succeeding Gen Raheel Sharif, who warned India against adopting an “aggressive stance” in Kashmir.Gen Raheel handed over the command of world’s sixth-largest army by troop numbers to 57-year-old Bajwa at a ceremony held in the Army Hockey Stadium, close to the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday appointed Bajwa as Chief of Army Staff (COAS) by elevating him to the rank of four-star general. Raheel in January had declared that he would not seek extension. There were speculation that the PML-N government would give him extension at the eleventh hour citing reasons that he was needed by the country to lead war on terror. The post of Army chief is the most powerful in Pakistan.In his final speech as the army chief, 60-year-old Gen Raheel cautioned India against adopting an aggressive stance in the region. He said that in recent months “India’s increasing terrorism and aggressive stance” in Kashmir have “endangered” the region. “India should know that mistaking our policy of patience for weakness would be dangerous,” he said. “This is reality, that in South Asia, lasting peace and progress is impossible without solution of the Kashmir issue. For that, international community’s special attention is necessary,” he said.He also stressed the need for institutions to work together for the nation’s progress. “It is important that all institutions work together against external threats and internal threats. For this, we will need to follow the National Action Plan in letter and spirit,” Gen Raheel said. “The army will remain alert to threats, whether external or internal,” he said.For regional peace, he said, issues should be resolved politically. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a major factor in ensuring regional peace, he said. “The departure of the first cargo from Gwadar port has shown this journey cannot be halted now,” he warned. “The time is here now that the enemies of CPEC stop working against it and become a part of it.” Bajwa was eariler serving as Inspector General of the Training and Evaluation and also commanded the famed 10 Corps, the army`s largest, which is responsible for the area along the Line of Control (LoC).(

Will kill 3 Indian soldiers for every Pakistani soldier killed: Pak Defence Minister

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Assuring severe retribution, Pakistan Defense Minister Khawaja Asif has asserted that they will kill three Indian soldiers for every Pakistani soldier they neutralise.Speaking in the National Assembly on Friday, Asif said that dire consequences would be faced by India if it went to war against Pakistan.Asserting that the situation at the LoC was intentionally being intensified by the Indian government to win people’s support in the upcoming general elections, the Defense Minister alleged that India was behind terrorism in Pakistan and they have credible evidence against it.”We have sent dossiers and video films to the UN and other countries showing Indian involvement in terrorism in Pakistan,” Asif said.He also accused India of creating hurdles in the way of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as they were scared that the project would prove a game changer for Pakistan.Acknowledging that Pakistan might be economically weaker than India, Asif said that India knows that once the CPEC is complete, Islamabad will rise stronger. However, he said that Pakistan would try to maintain a balance of power in the region and would not respond to India in any kind.

Pakistan eyes Chinese J-20: It’s time for India to trot in fifth-generation fighter race

Pakistan has evinced interest in acquiring the export variant of China’s first fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA). China recently showcased two of its advanced J-20 stealth fighters in a fly-over at an air show in Zhuhai, Guangdong province of China on 1 November 2016. This was the first, public show of the J-20 warplane which is regarded as a major breakthrough for China. The country otherwise mostly relies on Russian aircraft including advanced versions of Sukhois. The Pakistani Air Force also took part in the air show in Zhuhai flying its J-17 Thunder jets which are jointly manufactured by China. Pakistan reportedly is already in talks with China to buy the FC-31 – an export variant of the same aircraft. The FC-31 too was briefly flown in the 2014 Zhuhai air show.

China unveils its J-20 stealth fighter during an air show in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, China, 1 November  2016. ReutersChina unveils its J-20 stealth fighter during an air show in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, China, 1 November  2016. Reuters

China unveils its J-20 stealth fighter during an air show in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, China, 1 November 2016. Reuters

The Zhuhai air show was a weeklong affair and the J-20 flew for the weeklong show every day, taking off from an airfield in nearby Foshan. The J-20 is a long-range radar-evading fighter jet equipped with air-to-air missiles, resembling Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor. China has reportedly built six prototypes of this FGFA. China is also developing the J-31 which is supposed to sequel American F-35 Lightning II. A People’s Liberation Air Force (PLAF) official told the media that the J-20 was not being showcased on ground as public display as visitors could not be permitted to come close because of secrecy, stating, “J-20 contains many of China’s top technologies in stealth aircraft plus other military secrets that include the J-20’s body shape, the proportion of its wing and body and other secrets as aircraft experts can easily calculate its stealth parameters from its exterior.”

India is going in for the development of its own FGFA jointly with Russia. In February this year, India and Russia revived talks on the delayed FGFA project after Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar approved the deal. The fifth-generation fighter jet will be on par with the capabilities of Russia’s PAK-FA T-50 aircraft, a fifth-generation fighter, but since the jet will be designed over the next few years, it is likely to exceed in some specifics, in that it may be more advanced than the present version of Russia’s PAK-FA T-50.

“The agreement has been completed on our end; we are ready to sign it. It is now down to the Indian side. There are some formalities to figure out, but I think it will be signed by the end of this year,” Sergi Chemezov, CEO of Russia’s Rostech State Corporation told The Economic Times. “The FGFA project will produce a state of the art fighter jet, and it will be the result of the work on Russia’s most modern technology done by both Russian and Indian engineers. As Fifth Generation, it means fifth generation speed, ballistics and military equipment, avionics and stealth capabilities among other qualities,” he said.

India and Russia have already inked military deals worth Rs 60,000 crore during the Brics summit held in Goa. Now, Russia is hoping to get another order on FGFA by end of the current year. Under the new offer, India will need to contribute $3.7 billion instead of $6 billion towards technological know-how and some three prototypes of the fighters. During the recent India-Russia Intergovernmental Commission on Military and Technical Cooperation co-chaired by Parrikar and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu the FGFA project and upgrades of SU-31 aircraft in service with the IAF were discussed.

China’s J-20 had earlier made news when its picture covered under a tarpaulin at Daocheng Yading airport in Tibet appeared during September 2016. This raised speculations that this FGFA may be deployed on the India-China border. However, the China Military Online then stated, “it is said that J-20 will be put into service soon but the China-India border is apparently not the ideal place for its deployment”, adding, “In addition, the world’s highest airport there does not have a complete set of supporting facilities and such shortage will impede the function of J-20.” But then the aircraft parked there obviously had come for trials and necessary support and maintenance facilities at high altitude airbases in Tibet can be created concurrent to fielding of the J-20 albeit the China Military Online also commented, “If India is to deploy the BrahMos missile on the China-India border, then the Daocheng Yading airport will likely become its target.”

It is apparent that the FGFA race will be speeding up in the sub-continent over the next few years. The China-Pakistan nexus has shown exponential growth since the PLA has made its strategic lodgment in Gilgit-Baltistan under the pretext of developing hydel projects. This has been further reinforced through the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in which China is investing $46 billion; $11 billion by the Chinese government and balance $35 billion by private companies of China. The CPEC is actually the strategic highway of China for land access to the Indian Ocean that is emerging as the centre of gravity of future conflict. Gwadar is coming as a Chinese naval base under the pretext of a trade base or ‘Strategic Support Base’ as China would like to portray.

The IMF and economists have warned that the CPEC may be a debt trap for Pakistan as repayment obligations that come with this investment will be serious. But there should be no doubt that China will see it through because of her own strategic interests, especially given that the Pakistani military hierarchy has more or less acquiesced to let Pakistan become a satellite state of China. That is why China is developing Gwadar port and its infrastructure including airfield through Chinese companies on a gratis basis. Gwadar, together with Pakistani naval bases at Omari and Karachi would give China extended reach and dominance over the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf. Purchase of export version of the Chinese J-20 may draw Pakistan more into the debt trap but then China can always extend soft long-term repayment plan, even lease some of these aircraft for long periods. At the same time, basing of these aircraft flown by PLAF is also very much possible under the pretext of training, exercises etc. India needs to accelerate its proposed FGFA development jointly with Russia.

The author is a veteran Lieutenant General of the Indian Army.

First Published On : Nov 12, 2016 21:46 IST

Pak-China ‘all weather’ ties based on shared interests: Nawaz Sharif

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan and China’s “all weather” relationship is based upon shared principles and interests that form the foundation of cooperation in diverse fields, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Wednesday. Sharif stated this when he met Bank of China chairman Tian Guoli who called on him here. “Highlighting China’s great support to Pakistan in security, trade and infrastructure development, the Prime Minister said that Pakistan and China have a shared future and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the largest comprehensive project with any foreign country,” according to an official statement.”CPEC is a fusion of multiple development projects, aimed at the prosperity and well-being of the citizens of the country and the region at large,” it quoted Sharif saying. The prime minister said that Pakistan has a vibrant banking system that has achieved high level of profitability, improved liquidity and strong solvency position.Sharif said sound capital base, remarkable growth in assets and profitability and compliance with international standards has poised Pakistan’s banking sector in a very competitive position in the region for investors.He said foreign ownership in Pakistan’s banking sector has consistently and considerably increased and the government has recently concluded USD 700 million financing agreement with China Development Bank which is the first such interaction with the Chinese banking industry.Tian lauded the vision of Sharif for putting the country on development path and turning around the economy. Tian said that CPEC has huge economic benefits for the people of Pakistan and the region.

Brics summit in Goa: After isolating Pakistan, India must call China’s bluff

Having isolated Pakistan in the international community reasonably effectively, India will come face to face with China, Pakistan’s mentor and accomplice, at the two-day Brics summit in Goa this weekend. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to at least politely confront Chinese President Xi Jinping over China’s own duplicitous role in the India-Pakistan tension.

Modi must refuse to succumb to the latest carrot that China has dangled before India: that it is “willing” to continue the talks on India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). This means nothing, unless China makes a substantial promise with a modicum of honesty, but honesty has never been a virtue of Chinese foreign policy.

Besides Modi and President Xi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Brazilian President Michel Temer and South African President Jacob Zuma will attend the 15-16 October Brics summit.

It would be naive to pretend that Uri will not cast a dark shadow over the five-nation summit of Brics and the “retreat” of the seven-nation Bimstec that will follow it in Goa. Modi couldn’t have hoped for a better venue to continue his diplomatic offensive against Pakistan. The leaders descending on Goa together represent nearly half the world’s population and a quarter of the world’s GDP.

Formed in 2009, Bric, as it was first called, consisted of Brazil, Russia, India and China. With the entry of South Africa the next year, it became Brics. The eighth summit in Goa will be the second that India is hosting after the one in 2012 in New Delhi.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Bimstec (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) includes Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.

But it’s China that India is most wary of.

India has been a victim of Chinese foreign policy, always marked by intricate trickery, confounding mystery, devious mischief and diabolical doublespeak—all with an element of nasty surprise. China’s incursions into Indian territory, its recent pointless talk about stopping the Brahmaputra water, its continued resistance to India’s entry into the NSG and its refusal to back India’s move for a UN ban on Pakistan-based terrorist Masood Azhar have, among other things, surprised and upset India.

India must say enough is enough, but cautiously, because trade is irrevocably linked to the hypocritical bilateral relations that the two countries have.

And when he meets President Putin, Modi must also express India’s concern over its old friend Russia increasingly warming up to Pakistan. Brics is primarily an economic grouping and so the agenda of its summit is dominated by business. But the indications are that India will insist that the “Goa declaration” that will come at the summit’s end must include a categorical condemnation of cross-border terrorism.

Whatever will be the final contents of this declaration, Modi will have enough opportunity to do some plain-speaking about Pakistan during his one-on-one meetings with the various Presidents and Prime Ministers on the sidelines of the two events.

Clearly, it’s Modi’s meeting with President Xi that will be most watched.

China’s biggest problem—though it’s not any of India’s business what problems China has in the region—is that it is caught between its geopolitical interest in Pakistan and its desperate dependence on the Indian market for its exports. In trying to balance between the two, the Chinese are cutting themselves sorry figures in the eyes of international community. On its part, India has a lot to suffer from China’s military backing for Pakistan, and yet the country badly needs Chinese imports and investments.

Look at this Chinese duplicity, a clumsy effort to fool India:

On 15 September, China set up a so-called China-India Business Council (CIBC) to “promote and coordinate” Chinese investments in and business with India with an office at Changsha, the capital of Hunan province. This was in response to India’s demand that China must promote investments in view of India’s growing trade deficit with that country.

Three days after this came Pakistan’s perpetration of horror at Uri. China made some tentative noises by telling both India and Pakistan to have a dialogue and “de-escalate” tension. But in the days that followed, China sent out two strong messages to remind India who its real friend is.

One was China’s announcement that it was building a “huge” dam on the Xiabuqu tributary of the Brahmaputra. The idea of building that damned dam is not new. Nor is the amount of water that it can possibly divert from flowing into India and Bangladesh significant. But it was China’s way of making a retaliatory noise against India’s move to review the Indus Waters Treaty that threatens to reduce water flows into Pakistan.

The other, stronger, message from China came when it once again blocked India’s move at the United Nations to ban Masood Azhar, the dreaded Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist, who roams freely in Pakistan.

And then came a joke as Brics summit neared. China said that the dam on Brahmaputra would do no harm to India and that the question of Masood Azhar was an open one.

And China, of course, continues to be unrelenting in its opposition to India’s entry into the NSG and is going full steam ahead with the $-50-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through Pakistan.

So it’s CPEC for Pakistan and CIBC for India. And Masood Azhar can plan his terror attacks on India at will.

The Chinese leaders have been probably congratulating themselves on how smart they are with their carrot-and-sticks policy for India. The fact that the world in general and India in particular sees through their chicanery hasn’t stopped them from pursuing the game. Each carrot that China continues to dangle in India’s face is accompanied by ten sticks.

But now, even the Chinese are finding that things are changing a little. They are increasingly becoming aware that the bursting of its economic bubble has led to a significant reduction in their clout — and that the world is getting more and more wary of its dishonesty.

The author tweets @sprasadindia

Urgent need for new neighbourhood policy for India after collapse of Saarc

By Ashok Malik

With the crippling of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (Saarc), India’s quest for a new architecture for its neighbourhood policy has taken on a certain urgency. Other than expanding political, trading and connectivity arrangements with immediate neighbours independent of the Pakistan veto within the Saarc, two other factors have also played a role:

  1. The logical and geographical extension of neighbourhood policy into broader regional arrangements
  2. The arrival of China as a factor in almost every country in South Asia – a product of the past decade and of China’s rapid, post-2008 aggressiveness – that is causing New Delhi to rethink and reimagine its neighbourhood approach
File image of leaders of Saarc countries. PTI

File image of leaders of Saarc countries. PTI

To India’s east, this new policy has been more obvious. As the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit begins in Goa, India has spun off its invitation to outreach countries into a conference of the BIMSTEC. The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, to use the full form, is made up of Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal, besides India. Five of the BIMSTEC’s seven members are also founders of the Saarc. Four of them comprise the BBIN: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal.

Promoted by India as the fast track within the Saarc, the BBIN is the embryo of a more vigorous Indian bolstering of the BIMSTEC. Meaningful outcomes within the BIMSTEC will also strengthen India in its negotiations within the China-incubated BCIM (Bangladesh-China–India–Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation). The BCIM is the one segment of President Xi Jinping’s “One Belt, One Road” programme where India and China have scope for cooperation and intersection, provided political suspicions are sorted out.

The elements of the new architecture to the east are becoming apparent. But what of the west? Afghanistan is a Saarc country and an important friend and ally for India. Yet, the country in between – the massive land mass of Pakistan – is unavailable for mutually beneficial projects and has to be in a sense leapfrogged. There is also the issue of China’s presence in Pakistan through the China-Pakistan Economic Project (CPEC), which India sees as a strategic threat.

The CPEC promises Pakistan a Chinese investment amounting to $46 billion. Of this, a third, about $14 billion, has already been put into projects, including those for energy and road construction. Prima facie there is nothing wrong with Pakistan receiving economic support and an infrastructure increment, but the fact is that many of the projects listed under CPEC are simply not commercially viable.

At two points, in Gilgit-Baltistan – part of the former kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir and territory on which India has legal claim – and in Gwadar, the port town on Balochistan’s Makran coast, New Delhi is alarmed by the nature of the CPEC. In Gilgit-Baltistan, infrastructure and roads that cannot reasonably have anything but a military purpose – and could serve to unify Chinese and Pakistani troops on a common front – is becoming visible. In Gwadar, a Chinese naval base in the Arabian Sea, at India’s doorstep, could trigger a tectonic reshaping of India’s strategic geography.

How is India responding to regional angularities to its west? Before attempting to answer that, it is important to understand the context in which Pakistan is operating and the gaps it is both covering and leaving vacant, for these offer a clue to what India can realistically achieve and what it cannot. Having moved away from the United States, Pakistan now sees China as its major benefactor on the international stage. India’s proximity to the US and Russia’s increasing dependence on China is also allowing Islamabad opportunities – but limited opportunities – to reach out to Moscow.

Simultaneously, as it moves away from its South Asian moorings, Pakistan finds itself trapped between a conservative society that is looking to West Asia as an anchor of identity, and a military and strategic elite that sees benefit in becoming an understudy to China – even if the process holds the longer term risk of a Finlandisation of Pakistan.

The spaces Pakistan is leaving open to its west offer some opportunities for India. Like in the Indo-Pacific, where India is juggling relationships with a variety of competing powers – and managing some of those relationships with dexterity but others with discomfort – India has room for manoeuvre with major Sunni kingdoms (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar), the major Shia power (Iran) and smaller powers as well.

It needs to be understood that this room for manoeuvre is far from limitless. There is little chance of a collective grouping or call to action. There are too many contradictions between the countries themselves and not one of them would want to directly confront China. Nobody is going to oppose the CPEC directly, not for India’s sake.

Yet, to what degree can the CPEC and to what degree can Pakistan’s monopolistic denial of Indian physical access to Afghanistan be overridden, contested, bypassed, made problematic (even controversial) and rendered that much harder to defend, implement and persist with? These remain imponderables. For example, Indian diplomatic endeavour in highlighting Pakistan’s human-rights violations against its Baloch minorities will need to be sustained over several years and several governments – and will probably need to be complemented by other instrumentalities and mechanisms within Balochistan – for there to be tangible impact.

The Chabahar port (on the Gulf of Oman, in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan province) is not quite an alternative or a rival to Gwadar but offers the hope of allowing India easier access to and opportunities in Afghanistan and the region. It is pertinent that the Iranian authorities have urged India to invite Oman as a partner in the project and thereby add to the strategic weight and viability of Chabahar.

The prospect of a Chinese-run facility in Gwadar also concerns the UAE. If India worries about the port’s military implications, the Emirates realises that given Chabahar’s maritime location, a full-fledged commercial port could cannibalise Dubai port’s market share. As for the wider consequences of the CPEC, how the Iranians will ultimately take to the arrival and settling of a new imperial power – the Chinese – in their neighbourhood cannot be thought through just yet.

Across the Gulf region, there are fears about Pakistani terror infrastructure and religious radicalisation capacities. There are questions of direct linkages with terrorist groups and of propaganda spreading among or through expatriate worker communities that can be traced back to Pakistan. In parallel, there is interest in infrastructure, energy, military production and other such investment avenues in India where sovereign wealth funds from the Arab countries can be deployed. Over two years, the Modi government has leveraged this assiduously to enhance India’s visibility in Gulf region capitals.

One of the milestones in this effort is the invitation to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi – and the next ruler of the UAE – to be the chief guest on the Republic Day next year. Given that the Modi government’s first two Republic Day invitations went out to President Barack Obama (2015) and President Francois Hollande (2016), the symbolic message will not be missed. It would be fair to suggest that the UAE and Abu Dhabi in particular have become the centrepiece of India’s “Think West” policy just as Singapore was the cockpit for the “Look East” policy 25 years ago.

Gradually then, the structural design of a post-Saarc neighbourhood-regional strategy is emerging. There is no doubt though that those being targeted will respond, as will their “iron friends”. The coming three months, from the moment President Xi leaves Goa to the moment the Crown Prince lands in Delhi, will inevitably challenge Modi and India with “surprises”.

This article first appeared on ORF and is being reproduced with permission

How India can use economic ties as tactical weapon to disturb China-Pakistan bonhomie

Why does Pakistan resort to asymmetric war against India?
It’s more cost-effective than conventional warfare.

Why would India be reluctant to launch headlong into a conventional war against Pakistan?
Again, it’s about costs.

File image of Chinese president Xi Jinping and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

File image of Chinese president Xi Jinping and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

The gains for India would not be worth the investment in such a war. In modern wars, the consideration of collateral damage is critical. This is particularly true of countries that are focussed on the well-being — economic and otherwise — of their people and nurture the vision of greatness. That is the reason India’s war against Pakistan, a rogue country by many descriptions, has to be war by other means; low-cost means, that is.

Diplomatic isolation and the international shaming of Pakistan is one way to go about it. But it is not likely to make much of a difference to a country that already has a poor reputation. Sanctions have not been of much consequence earlier. Perhaps a better option is to target its biggest source of strength — China, which has been Pakistan’s all-weather friend. This friendship gives the latter the delusion of strength, and invincibility when it comes to India. It would help us if we analyse the nature of the relationship between the two and leverage our economic equations with China to make Pakistan irrelevant.

China’s interest in Pakistan is as much about its geostrategic requirements as its economic objectives.

The control over the deep sea port in Gwadar in Balochistan will allow it a strategic presence in the world’s most important oil trade and shipping routes besides connecting it to West Asia and South and Central Asian countries. Moreover, it brings in close proximity to the world’s biggest oil reserve. The Xinjiang-Gwadar economic corridor through Pakistan is more critical to China’s economic interests than those of the former. That explains why it announced a massive investment of $46 billion in projects in Pakistan not long ago. The cost-benefit analysis works overwhelmingly in its favour.

China’s economic involvement with India is not small either. The latter is among India’s biggest bilateral trade partners, the volume of transactions being worth more than $70 billion. In the case of Pakistan, it is a meagre $12 billion or thereabouts. However, the balance of trade is massively against India. According to information provided in Parliament, it stood at close to $45 billion in 2015-16 with India’s exports amounting to only around $8 billion.

The unequal trade means India provides a healthy market for China to export its goods while the reciprocation from the latter’s side has not been healthy. With the Chinese economy already on slow growth mode, India can hurt it more by limiting the market for it by setting up barriers to its exports. In any case, India has a valid reason to do so. Cheap Chinese goods such as toys, mobile phones, other electronic gadgets and clothes, produced at very low labour costs in China, make it difficult for Indian companies to compete. The government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative won’t be a success in these commodities if there’s no restraint on Chinese goods.

Can India make it look like a punitive measure to China for its total support to Pakistan? It can. It can make it plain to China: “Don’t expect us to be charitable to your business if you keep hobnobbing with our enemy. Don’t take access to our markets for granted.” However, it’s difficult to gauge what the reaction would be like, given the ties between the two countries have been tenuous over the decades.

China’s interest in Pakistan is as much about its geostrategic requirements as its economic objectives

A better option for India would be to deepen economic engagement with China. A lot of Chinese firms have invested big in India over the last decade. The latter can invite investments from China for its projects. The more the country stays invested in us, the lesser the possibility of it extending blanket support to Pakistan in case of a situation of war. It’s more likely to play a neutral role to protect its interests in both countries. That would virtually mean Pakistan standing alone or on a much weaker footing than before vis-à-vis India.

In the final analysis, it’s the consideration of economy that could separate allies China and Pakistan just as it could bring them closer. Mature countries seek to maximise their economic self-interest, not get involved in wasteful engagements such as war.

India should give it a thought while dealing with China.

India aims to improve road connectivity to border areas in Ladakh

New Delhi: India is working on better road accessibility up to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, often snapped due to hostile terrain and bad weather.

India’s move to upgrade the road infrastructure in the “strategically crucial” link comes against the backdrop of construction of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through the Karakoram ranges in the region.

The Border Roads Organisation, which takes care of roads construction in strategic locations, had approached the Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), asking it to suggest possible solution for a patch on the 55-odd km road, especially from Sasoma to Saser Brangsa that leads to LAC.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

India is keeping a close watch on CPEC that will connect China and Pakistan through one of the toughest terrains in the world. It is preparing itself by upgrading the road infrastructure in the “strategically crucial” link.

“Of the 55 km, 10 km patch is affected due to hostile terrain and tough weather conditions.

“The road is supposed to be shortest, but toughest as it is also shut for more than six months due to frequent landslides, harsh winters, and snow blocking the path,” said a senior government official, adding that project is being monitored at the PMO level.

The road is also considered as an alternative route to the LAC.

The CRRI works under the aegis of Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), an arm of the Ministry of Science and Technology (S&T).

It specialises in road research and several state governments and local bodies approach the institution for rectifying the roads in their jurisdiction.

After the BRO had approached it, the CRRI undertook topographical survey of the area using radar and other technologies.

“We have advised both short and long-term measures for the road, but it is up to the BRO to take a call on it,” said Satish Chandra, Director CRRI.

He added one of the short-term recommendations made by the CRRI is to make snow sheds that can save the road.

Additionally, as a long term measure, it has also suggested some realignment, as the landslides damage the road every season.

Uri attack: ‘Shocked’ China voices concern over escalating tension in Kashmir

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Skirting direct reference to Pakistan and JeM, China on Monday voiced concern over “escalation” of tensions and “rising temperatures” in Kashmir after the Uri terror attack and called on India and Pakistan to resolve their differences through dialogue. “We have noted relevant reports. We are shocked by this attack,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told media briefing when asked about Beijing’s reaction to Sunday’s Uri attack and India’s charge that Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) is behind it.JeM has special significance as Beijing has put a technical hold over India’s efforts to bring about a UN ban on the outfit’s leader Masood Azhar for his involvement in Pathankot attack.Referring to the Uri attack in which 18 soldiers were killed and several injured, Lu said “we want to express our deep sympathies and condolences to the affected families and the injured”. “China opposes and strongly condemns all forms of terrorism. We are concerned about this escalation and rising temperatures surrounding Kashmir situation,” he said.”We hope relevant parties will have dialogue and consultation to resolve their differences and enhance counter terrorism cooperation,” Lu said, without directly referring to India and Pakistan.”Only this way can they safeguard peace and security in their region,” he said.Lu also voiced concern over the fallout of the Uri attack on the USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) being laid through the PoK and said the project, in which China is investing considerable amount of resources, needs concerted efforts from all countries for its success.Asked how China sees the impact of the escalation of violence on the CPEC, Lu said: “The building of the corridor is to drive the development of the regional countries. It needs the concerted efforts of all countries concerned to ensure the smooth running of this corridor…At the same time I need to stress that recently in this region, especially in Kashmir region, there has been some escalation of tensions,” he said.”Our position is that we hope all relevant parties can work together and remain committed to resolving these disputes through peaceful consultations and jointly maintain the peace and stability of the region. This in final analysis is conducive and will bring benefits to China, India, Pakistan and all the regional countries,” he said.China’s concerns over the fall out of the recurring violence in the region was highlighted by state-run Global Times which on September 13 said, “China may not want to put too much focus on the region. At the very least, it would be unwise to put all its eggs in one basket”.”The CPEC has long been seen as symbolic of Sino-Pakistan economic cooperation. It is unlikely that China will change its supportive attitude on the CPEC in the short term, but the increasing cost of security is becoming a big problem in efficiently pushing forward the projects,” the article said.

Pakistan Army chief targets India, says ‘foreign forces’ are trying to destabilise Pak-China ties

Karachi: Apparently targeting India, Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharif on Tuesday said “foreign forces” are trying to destabilise this country and its crucial economic corridor with China.

Pakistan Army chief Raheel Sharif. Reuters

Pakistan Army chief Raheel Sharif. Reuters

Speaking at a seminar on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the coastal town of Gwadar, he said India had openly opposed the USD 46 billion project.

“The CPEC is a deep manifestation of the time-tested relations between China and Pakistan. But there are foreign forces who, realizing the potential of CPEC and wanting an influential role in the region, are working to destabilise Pakistan and the project,” he said.

The Army Chief said hostile intelligence agencies are averse to the CPEC but “we will not allow anyone to create impediments and turbulence in any part of Pakistan”.

Describing the project as “a corridor of peace and prosperity”, he said that CPEC is a lifetime opportunity for Pakistan to improve the socio-economic equation of its underprivileged areas and populace.

However, there were “external intelligence agencies who are involved in facilitating terrorists, their abettors and financiers in Pakistan in a bid to subvert the economic corridor project,” he said.

He said he had told the international community to not just acknowledge the contribution of Pakistan in the fight against terrorism but to stop external forces from helping facilitators and abettors of terrorism in Pakistan.

He said work on the CPEC was progressing at a fast pace and already 675 kilometres of roads had been completed in just two years’ time.

“Transparency and good management is important for sustainability of the CPEC which will eventually benefit the people of Baluchistan and Pakistan,” he said.

Talking about operation Zarb-e-Azab, General Sharif said it was not only an operation but an ideology, ideology against terrorists, extremists and corruption.

“Zarb-e-Azab is in the final stages in the tribal areas. Zarb-e-Azab is not just an operation but a wholesome ideology,” he said.

Pakistan army chief Raheel Sharif accuses India of undermining China investment corridor

Pakistan’s army chief on Tuesday accused longtime regional rival India of seeking to undermine his country’s $46 billion project to build an economic corridor to transport goods from China’s western regions through the Pakistani deepwater port of Gwadar.Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, speaking at a development conference on the impact of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), said the significance of a Pakistan-China economic alliance had “raised eyebrows” in the region.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”In this context, I must highlight that India, our immediate neighbour, has openly challenged this development initiative,” Sharif told the conference in Gwadar.”I would like to make a special reference to Indian intelligence agency RAW that is blatantly involved in destabilising Pakistan. Let me make it clear that we will not allow anyone to create impediments and turbulence in anypart of Pakistan. Therefore, it is important for all to leave behind confrontation and focus on cooperation.”Indian officials could not be reached for comment late on Tuesday night.RAW is India’s Research and Analysis Wing, its main external intelligence agency.Last month, Pakistan said it had detained a suspected Indian spy for RAW in Baluchistan, the southwestern Pakistani province where most of the CPEC is taking shape.India has confirmed that the man is a former Indian navy official but denied that he is a spy.Majority Hindu India and mostly Muslim Pakistan, once part of a vast British colonial holding, have fought three wars since they were partitioned upon independence in 1947, leading to a violent separation that has fed decades of mutual suspicion.Pakistan believes India is supporting a separatist insurgency in resource-rich Baluchistan. It also accuses India of fuelling strife in the city of Karachi. India denies any such meddling.India has long accused Pakistan of backing militants fighting Indian security forces in its part of the divided Kashmir region, of helping militants launch attacks elsewhere in India and backing the Taliban in Afghanistan.Pakistan says it only offers diplomatic support to the Muslim people of Kashmir living under what Pakistan says is heavy-handed Indian rule. It denies backing militant attacks in India.

Reports about presence of PLA troops in PoK groundless: China

China’s military on Thursday dismissed as “groundless” the reports of presence of its troops at a forward post in PoK as India and China prepared for Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s first visit to Beijing to enhance defence ties.LIVE INDIA vs WEST INDIES 2nd semi final T20, ICC World T20″Chinese position on Kashmir is consistent and (the) reports you mentioned are groundless,” Chinese Defence spokesman Col. Yang Yujun told a media briefing here in a brief reply to a question on reports of presence of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops at a forward post opposite Nowgam sector in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He did not react to a question whether any of its personnel were present in connection with the USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) connecting Xinjiang province with Pakistan’s Gwadar port which is being laid through the PoK. This is the first time China’s military reacted to the reports of presence of its troops in PoK.Earlier, the Chinese Foreign Ministry parried questions on the reports, saying that Kashmir is an issue between India and Pakistan left over from history and should be properly handled by the two sides through dialogue and consultation.India had earlier protested to China over the CPEC. About reports of Parrikar’s visit, Yang said the two countries are coordinating but declined to give the dates. Officials on both sides were tight-lipped about the visit which was expected to take place in the third week of April.During the visit, both sides will exchange ideas including bilateral military cooperation, Yang said. Parrikar’s visit will be the first after his predecessor A K Antony travelled here in 2013 which led to improvement of relations between the two militaries. The exchanges, which were earlier confined to the two armies, were extended to navy and airforces.After that, several high-level military officials have exchanged visits in a calibrated move to improve relations between the two major militaries. Both the sides have established Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to discuss the issue of incursions and aggressive border patrols by PLA troops along the 3,488-km long disputed border.

PLA troops’ presence across LoC sparks security fears

China has pressed India’s raw nerve once again after People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops were spotted stationed at the forward posts on the other side of the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).The development comes five days after Chinese made fresh incursion, entering six kilometres deep into Indian territory near Pangong Lake in Leh district. However, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) immediately swung into action and forced foreign troops to retreat.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>What has created an alarm in the security establishment now is the presence of PLA troops at the forward posts on the side of Nowgam sector in North Kashmir’s Kupwara district, and intercepts of communication suggesting the PLA was there to help Pakistani army build infrastructure along the LoC.Also, there are credible reports that PLA would be drilling tunnels in the Leepa Valley in PoK to build an all-weather road that will serve as an alternate road link to Karakoram highway.PLA officials’ presence is also seen as part of Beijing’s 46 billion dollar China-Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC), under which Gwadar port in Balochistan will be linked to Chinese Xinjiang province through Karakoram highway.Indian Army, however, officially denied any such movement of Chinese troops on the other side of LoC. “There are no such inputs (about Chinese army presence on the LoC in PoK),” Colonel NN Joshi, defence spokesman at Srinagar, told dna.This is not the first time that Chinese troops or engineers have been spotted in PoK. In 2011 Pakistan stationed Chinese troops on the LoC in PoK, sending alarm bells ringing among the Indian army guarding the porous border line which is often used by Pakistani army to push militants into Kashmir. Indian troops had spotted Chinese troops in the Neelam valley of the northern Kashmir.China is involved in construction and up-gradation of numerous roads, bridges and hydro power projects. The Chinese links with Pakistan through PoK lend credence to the Sino-Islamabad nexus.In 2012 Indian Army spotted Chinese engineers, technical staff and other people in civvies on the other side of LoC in PoK amid reports that Pakistan was allowing China to use some of its occupied areas for military purposes. The issue had then rocked the state Assembly after reports suggested that the PoK had “leased out” land to China for military purposes besides allowing them to keep watch on India.The PLA troops were also spotted in 2015 opposite Tangdhar sector of Kupwara district. Government-owned China Gezhouba Group Company Ltd has been building a Jhelum-Neelum 970 MW hydel power project in PoK.Pakistan is also raising a special division to protect the CPEC and Chinese engineers working on the project. However, reports said PLA camouflaging under a local name will establish a security wing in the PoK to hoodwink India. More than 30,000 men are expected to be deployed for security of vital installations in PoK.

Chinese Army spotted along LoC in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir

Srinagar: After frequent incursions in Ladakh area, Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops have been spotted at forward posts along the Line of Control (LoC) on the Pakistani side of Kashmir, ringing alarm bells in the security grid.

Representational image. Firstpost

Representational image. Firstpost

The Army has spotted presence of senior PLA officials at the forward posts opposite Nowgam sector in North Kashmir after which some intercepts of Pakistani army officers suggested that the Chinese troops have come to create some infrastructure along the LoC, sources in the know of developments said on Sunday.

Army has officially maintained complete silence on the issue but have been constantly updating various intelligence agencies about the presence of PLA troops along the Line of Control, the sources said.

The PLA troops were first spotted in the later part of the last year and ever since their presence was witnessed opposite Tangdhar sector as well. In this area, Chinese government-owned China Gezhouba Group Company Limited has been building a Jhelum-Neelum 970 MW Hydel power project.

The hydel project is being built in response to India’s Kishanganga power project being built in Bandipore of North Kashmir. The Indian project is designed to divert water from the Kishanganga River to a power plant in the Jhelum River basin and will have an installed capacity of 330 MW. Construction on the project began in 2007 and is expected to be complete this year.

The intercepts also suggested that Chinese PLA would be digging some tunnels in Leepa Valley, located in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), to build an all-weather road which will serve as an alternate route to reach Karakoram Highway.

The visit by PLA officials is seen by experts as part of Beijing’s 46 billion dollar China-Pakistan-Economic Corridor (CPEC) under which Gwadar port in Karachi is linked to Chinese Xinjiang province through Karakoram highway, an area under illegal occupation of China.

As the CPEC project was given final shape, India had last year registered its protest against the presence of Chinese troops in Gilgit and Baltistan, an area in PoK, saying that it was unacceptable to India.

In the meantime, some of the experts in the nation’s security grid have been giving serious thoughts to the presence of PLA in close proximity with Pakistani army officials. Chinese officials have maintained that CPEC was an economical package to link Asia with Eurasia.

Srikanth Kondapalli, Professor in Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, who has been part of think-tank on Indian policy towards China, feels that the over growing presence of Chinese PLA was a cause of worry for India.

“What we know is that China is going to raise three divisions of its PLA under a local name in PoK that will guard the Chinese interests in occupied Kashmir. One needs to understand the game plan of Beijing,” he said.

Reports emerging from PoK were suggesting that PLA under a local name will establish a security wing in the PoK so that India does not protest. The new three divisions, around 30,000 men, will be deployed in and around the installations built by the Chinese firms, the sources said, adding this way Beijing can also justify its presence along the LoC in northern part of Kashmir.

PTI

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