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Sino-India Trade

 

Editorial. Cecil Victor.March.III.XIV

 

BREAK THE STEEL COLLAR



Cecil Victor-fnbworld  By Cecil Victor

 

Right Impact Media Inc-fnbworld

 

India-China-map-fnbworld


To test China’s proclaimed intentions of promoting regional bonhomie India should take up the Chinese offer of an economic  corridor connecting its Kunming province to Kolkota via Myanmar and Bangladesh with a caveat that China helps facilitate an economic corridor connecting Leh in Jammu and Kashmir to Kabul in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan in the Central Asian Republic of the former Soviet Union.

 

The alignment of the proposed Indian road should be over the Ladakh range which runs on an east northeast axis through Skardu and Gilgit. From there it should merge with the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir then travel northeastward through Shakshgam currently under Chinese occupation. From there it should enter the Wakhan panhandle and the Panjshir  valley (which was the original boundary of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir  with Afghanistan) thence  travel south to Kabul. The road should then turn north and head across the Amu Darya (Oxus) to Uzbekistan from where, after skirting the Caspian Sea, it could head for Moscow. An east-west highway connecting Tajikistan and Turkmenistan on either flank will ensure that all landlocked nation-states in central and south Asia would be interconnected with two of the fastest growing economies –China and India.

 

PoK-Cecil Victor-fnbworld

 This proposal will be a reasonable response to China’s unctuous assertion that “our (Sino-Pak) cooperation in the relevant areas is to improve well being… Our cooperation is not directed at a third party”. And “The Kashmir should be resolved through dialogue and consultation between the two countries”. That the land in question is not a part of the ‘traditional friendship’ referred to by the Chinese spokesman has been obfuscated. The handing over of Shakshgam by Pakistan to China in 1963  was intended to facilitate the construction of the Karakoram Highway which is now being sought to be broadened and modernised . Its alignment will be used to lay oil and gas pipelines and a railway link connecting the Gwadar port on the Balochistan coastline with the Chinese western province of Xianjiang. When that happens India will be left out of the regional scheme of things.

 

In failing to object strenuously enough to the construction of the Karakoram Highway India has had to pay a heavy price for failing to retrieve the territory annexed by Pakistan using its regular troops disguised as tribals. It should not accept the looming fait accompli without an assertion of its own national interests. If military action to retrieve the lost territory is not under consideration the peaceful approach as embedded in the abovementioned proposal for a road linking India to Afghanistan and the Commonwealth of Independent States (the successor to the the former Soviet Central Asian Republics) could be a good gambit.

 

If, as the Chinese have propagated, the intention of laying down the economic corridor through Jammu and Kashmir is not aimed against India, Beijing should be able to incorporate the proposal for an economic corridor connecting both India and China to Afghanistan which offers good economic prospects for all countries in the region. In some respects it is an embodiment of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s concept of ‘making borders irrelevant’.


 Karakoram Highway-fnbworldThe fait accompli in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir has been building up steadily since 1984 when Pakistan very nearly added the large chunk of the Siachen Glacier to the large portion it had already gobbled in 1947. But for Indira Gandhi’s dramatic and swift action to induct Indian troops onto the Soltoro ridge the Sino-Pak bandwagon would have been knocking on the doorstep of Leh. How important is the trans-Himalayan route for the Sino-Pak combine can be seen from the decades of trying to dislodge the Indian troops from the glacier by both military and diplomatic manoeuvre. Unable to make a breakthrough Pakistan handed over the defence of the Karakoram Highway from the Kunjherab Pass down to the Gilgit salient to China. By one estimate there are 9,000 Chinese troops operating under the guise of engineers, technicians and workers.

 

Pakistan has not lost an opportunity to raise barriers against transborder trade. It has succumbed to the jihadi diktat of the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Toiba which vetoed the extension of the Most Favoured Nation treatment to India. The blatant manner in which the trade route into Jammu and Kashmir was misused to smuggle drugs to finance the insurgency on this side of the Line of Control underscores the extremely tenuous nature of every such contact between the two countries.

 

India needs to find a different route rather than the one through Pakistan to Afghanistan. While the abovementioned alignment of the proposed road link to Kabul traverses a portion of territory under the control of Pakistan it would be less amenable to disruption than is the traditional Attari-Wagah transit route. If China is not willing to accommodate India’s peaceful proposition because of Pakistani pressure; an alternative route can be easily found in the Aksai Chin road which connects Tibet with the Xianjiang province. It can be extended to reach the Afghan border on the Pamirs.

 

These proposals need to be put to the Chinese to assess their inclination to accommodate India and create a tripartite zone of cooperation and co-prosperity. It will test the sincerity of the Chinese assertion that the Sino-Pak cooperation is “not directed at a third party”.

 

It is unlikely that the Chinese would want to facilitate a passage for India to Afghanistan because the aim and intention of their economic corridor through Jammu and Kashmir is to create an steel collar around India’s neck.

 

If India does nothing to break out of that encirclement it will have only itself to blame. 

 

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