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China's Supportive Stance on Kargil

Diplomatic Correspondent

By virtue of their size, power, aspirations and geostrategic importance India and China are bound to play adversorial role. Since late forties they have history of bitter relationship. Despite supporting China’s membership for UN and its annexation of Tibet, China has harmed Indian interests time and again. It has consistently backed Pakistan against India on all issues including Kashmir. China has grabbed our territory in the north-east and Ladakh, totalling nearly 40,000 square milies. It has also been backing the diferent secessionist groups  questioning the sovereignity of India. China has sown distrust among India’s neighbour states.

China’s supportance stance,even if not a shift on, Kargil has surprised many. The impact of Chinese neutrality played a decisive role in facilitating Clinton-Sharif deal. China emphatically maintained that there should be no outside intervention in bilateral affairs or internal disputes.

It refused to lend support to Pak move to activate UN and its Security Council for discussion on Kargil.  Chinese cautioned Nawaz Shrif against US intervention and laid stress on resolving conflicts through bilateral discussions. They feel India and Pakistan tensions would draw US into regional power play along its borders. President Jiang’s reference to “increase in unstable elements” threatening world peace is of particular significance in this context. Though China did not pass value judgements on branding Pakistan as an aggressor or asking for respect for  LoC, yet they conveyed their non-approval of Pakistan’s Kargil action by executing Pak gang leader in Sinkiang, just before Sharif’s visit.

Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan told the visiting Pakistan Foreign Minister, Sartaj Aziz, “the Kashmir issue is a complicated affair with a long history and should be, and could only be solved through peaceful means .. China hopes Pakisan and India will find an effective approach to bringing about a political solution to the Kashmir issue through negotiations and consutations.” Chinese leaders stress in general was “to exercise patience and resolve the crisis through peaceful and candid dialogue” and “seek a political solution by  reviving Lahore process.” There was also a new semantic shift in China’s stand on Kashmir. Mr Zhu Rongi, the Chinese Prime Minister called Kashmir, “a historical problem involving territorial, religious, ethnic and other elements.” Earlier Chinese stand was that Kashmir was a problem left over by history. New stance could indicate recognition of the dangers of religious fundamentalism and ethenic separatism flowing out of the Kashmir dispute.

The recent visit of Mr Jaswant Singh of China was also significant from India’s view. Both countreis reiterated statements that they were not threat to each other. Mr Jaswant Singh disowned statements of Mr Fernandes and Mr Vajpayee in 1998 which were not liked by the Chinese. To reassure Chinese he told them that the different voices emanating from India about China were “transitory occurances” and said “Pokhran chapter is behind us”. Later speaking to an elite gathering of Chinese ... and ex-diplomats Mr Jaswant Singh stressed the need for opposing “dollar imperialism”. Expressing concern at the developing countries, Mr Jaswant Singh said “India and China should cooperate in facing  the difficult Urisation  in the name of globalisation”.

Chinese reciprocated by telling Mr Jaswant Singh that India and China must stand up with equal might against hegemonism and unipolority. The message was that in these circumstances China and India cannot afford to be mutual threats. China and India also agreed for a security dialogue and a Joint Working Group was formed to settled boundary differences.

China’s role in Kargil has to be seen in the context of growing misturst in Sino-US relations, its concern over role of Pakistan and India’s emergence as a nuclear power in the neighbourhood.

Sino-US discord:

Chinese policymakers feel strategic partnership with US is over. They have apprehensions of US led containment of China, particularly with Republicans ground.The Clinton administration’s decision to widen its security umbrella in Asia by providing Taiwan and Japan with Theatre Missile Defence Systems has made Chinese to have a second look at their security. This system is primarily directed against China and will give US the capability to intervene militarily anywhere in this region. Washington’s new policy is to gain access to places in South-East Asia in order to upgrade US Naval security and Air superriority without having to set up and operate new military bases per se.

Chinese are also worried about growing US military presence and its interventionist role in Central Asia. A full elite US division, 82nd will be paradropped in Uzbek’s Ferghana valley in September, 1999 as part of NATO sponsored “partnership for peace” exercise. This division is part of US’s Rapid Deployment Force for immediate trouble shooting in any global hot spot. China feels that this initiative can turn Central Asia into yet another bridgehead for its containment.

US’s action in Kosovo has demonstrted Washington as an aggressive and hegemonic superpower. Many senior Chinese officials fear that in the post Kosovo scenario, internationalisation of Kashmir could set a dangerous precendent for Tibet as well.

Cox report on the Chinese stealing of classified US defence technology has affected credibility of China in US. Cox report tries to inculcate in the American mind the suspician that every Chinese student who comes to the American University Campus is a virtual spy, Chinese argue.

Chinese have reacted very strongly to the bombing of its embassy in Belgrade. China immediately suspended all military cooperation, and stopped dialogue on non-proliferation, disarmament, international security and human rights with US. It banned US warships visiting Hongkong. Chinese policymakers believe US bombing was prelude to an atempt to trample Chinese sovereignity and an exercise to test China’s resolve. Chinese feel that US is likely to remain a superpower for the next seventy years. They believe that strategic partnership between India and Russia and China can checkmate US hegemonism in the Asia and the process towards multipolarity can be hastened.

Concern over Pakistan’s role:

For China Sinkiang region is of great economic and strategic importance. It occupies a large proportion of Chinese land mass. China’s nuclear test site is in Lop Nor and there is also considerable mineral wealth including Uranium in this province. Pakistan has been patronising Islamic fundamentalists to create trouble in Sinkiang. The Front organisation of Snikiang Muslims “Asian Muslims Human Rights Bureau” operates from Islamabad. Pakistan press reports regularly highlight how Sinkiang Muslims pursue their objectives of achieving separate homeland. Chinese are also not happy over Pakistan’s role in destablisaton of Central Asia. China has strong apprehensions that Pakistan is turning into an irresponsible nuclear state and giving undue leverage to US in this region. Chinese, reports say, had advised Pakistan not go for Chagai blasts in 1998. It wanted  Pakistan to have its nuclear umbrella.

Engaging India:

After India became a nuclear state, Chinese were convinced that balance of power has changed asymmetry. With increased emphasis by BJP leaders that Indian nuclear programme was Chinese specific, Chinese decided to engage India to curb arms race. China has ambitions to become a super power in next two decades, so it wants to buy peace with India for concentrating on economic developments.

China has fears that US may be goading India into a strategic alliance and striking a nuclear deal. M Albright on her visit to China has repeatedly queried about a secret deal over India’s signing of CTBT. Sha Zhukang, a top Chinese expert, speaking to an audience in Washington even advised US not to engage itself in discussions with India on what constituted a minimal nuclear deterrence and to stand by the tough Security Council resolution No.

1172, which demands complete nuclear and missle disarmament from India and Pakistan.

Chinese even while remaining stridently critical of India’s nuclear and missile weaponisation programme have come to the conclusion that reverting to a hostile relationship with India would not serve their strategic and economic interests in Asia.

India has to tread cautiously in its relations with China. In view of the growing ecnomic stakes, relations between US and China are not going to slide down much. Secondly China is not going to sacrifice its strategic ties with Pakistan, even while being critical of its role. China’s stand on Kashmir is not supportive of India but only “detached” and “nuanced”.

Relations with India are not a priority for China. Normal relations with India is an incremental foreign policy aim, particularly in the context of India’s nuclear and missile weaponisation. It is imperative for India not to neglect strategic aspects of security vis-a-vis China, despite supportive Chinese gestures on Kargil.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

Pakistan's Role

Kargil 1999

 

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