The Dragon’s Leap
by Sandhya Jain on 14 Sep 2010 18 Comments

Catching a somnolent Indian political and security establishment unawares, the Chinese dragon has taken virtual charge of the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan in the northwest corner of the undivided kingdom of Kashmir. This – like the 38,000 sq. km. in Ladakh connecting Tibet and Xinjiang, and 5000 sq. km. in Shaksgam Valley given by Pakistan in 1963 – is Indian territory, acceded on 26 October 1947 by Maharaja Hari Singh, but lost to Pakistani invaders by a prime minister who allowed himself to be manipulated by Governor General Louis Mountbatten.   


India’s loss was sealed by the US-dominated United Nations that froze the status quo via Australian jurist Owen Dixon and Czech-American Josef Korbel, who was supposed to represent India. For Mountbatten, who had urged Hari Singh to join Pakistan, this was no mean feat; he breezed off to England with India partitioned on three frontiers, its elites none the wiser.  


Korbel’s daughter, Madeleine Albright, became Secretary of State to President Bill Clinton; I mention this to show fellow citizens how the imperial west protects its geo-political-strategic interests through generations of committed ‘mandarins’ while spouting the rhetoric of democracy and open society. Indians nursing the Clinton-sold dream of ‘emerging superpower’ must realise that greatness comes from a national understanding of power, not mindless adherence to a pretended friendly superpower.  


Indian analysts fell into frenzy after former journalist Selig Harrison revealed the new geo-political reality in the New York Times (Aug. 26, 2010). The article, which said 7000 to 11,000 Chinese soldiers have moved into Gilgit-Baltistan, is interesting on several counts.


Beijing, says Harrison, wants secure access to the Gulf via Pakistan. Currently, it takes 16 to 25 days for Chinese oil tankers to reach the Gulf. Once the high-speed rail and road links through Gilgit-Baltistan are done, cargo from China will reach Pakistani naval bases at Gwadar, and Pasni and Ormara on the Makran coast, within 48 hours.


People’s Liberation Army (PLA) engineers and soldiers are working on the railroad and also extending the Karakoram Highway that links Xinjiang province with Pakistan. Other projects include dams, expressways, and 22 secret tunnels. These could house the projected gas pipeline from Iran to China (excluding India because of our self-destructive loyalty to USA); they could equally store missiles and hence challenge American designs on the Yellow Sea, South China Sea and Indian Ocean. Washington is worried because Islamabad’s support for the Taliban and offer of passage to the Gulf to China proves it is not an “ally.” Perhaps it is just a major non-NATO mercenary.


New Delhi must ponder Harrison’s advocacy of a “settlement” of Kashmiri demands for autonomy on both sides of the ceasefire line. Harrison knows the state legally ceded to India in 1947. He knows the Shias of Occupied Kashmir hate Pakistan; he avoids assessing their possible reaction to the Han Chinese soldiers if they stay too long.


But Harrison does not make even polite noises about the return of Indian territory to India. Instead, he brazenly asks New Delhi to join hands with Washington to ensure that Beijing is denied a foothold in Gilgit-Baltistan and does not take it over like Tibet. Islamabad has been asked to cooperate, a polite way of telling the generals to boot out the PLA, an unlikely scenario.


So what’s the score for New Delhi? First, by getting into northern Pakistan, China is adjacent to the strategic Siachin Glacier, where the Pakistani army is deployed on one side. Peaceniks, Track II and assorted jholawallahs who advocate demilitarisation of the glacier – as a prelude to a Pakistani, and now Chinese walkover – must be made to hold their tongues, or tried as foreign agents.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must cease all talk about porous borders. All our frontiers are open – land and sea. We must upgrade the border infrastructure on a war footing (think what we could have done with the money looted for the Commonwealth Games fiasco), and fix our neighbourhood diplomacy with Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Iran, Iraq, and resist the temptation to needle China.  


Of course, India cannot ignore provocations like Beijing’s refusal of a visa to Northern Command chief Lt. Gen. B.S. Jaswal, and rightly cancelled all military exchanges with China until the issue is resolved. We need some reciprocal action for the stapled visas granted to Indians from Kashmir; so far we have penalized our own citizens by not letting them travel on such documents, a correct move in itself, but one which does not redress the issue.


Above all, India must recognise that Pakistan is the fulcrum of the Gulf-Central Asia strategy of America (whom it mistakenly views as a friend) and China (whose enmity it exaggerates). If New Delhi is touchy about Beijing giving Islamabad two nuclear reactors (breaching Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines), it cannot overlook the covert American aid to Dr A.Q. Khan.  


China has emerged as a serious challenger to American hegemony on the Eurasian landmass, the first real threat since the smashing of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, and one whose elites will be less easy to manipulate and out-manoeuvre, unless Christian missionaries succeed in penetrating the upper echelons of the Communist Party. Undeterred by American hostility, China is helping Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and has reportedly sold long-range solid-fuel missiles to Saudi Arabia, which can hold nuclear warheads. The gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China, bypassing Russia, is another power statement.


China has suffered tremendously at the hands of Western and Japanese imperialism, and has worked hard to rise again in the comity of nations. It has studied the Anglo-American geopolitical strategies that caused the two World Wars, and, unlike India, has realised that Islam is the best buffer against the West and Asia, and can also help achieve Chinese geo-political and security interests. Hence the cultivation of Pakistan from the time of President Ayub Khan, the Saudi dynasty, and so on. The chink in Beijing’s armour is the CIA-trained mercenary jihadis of Pakistan, who can be moved from the Northern Areas into Xinjiang…  


For India, a collateral benefit of Chinese presence in Gilgit-Baltistan is that it has nixed plans to delink Kashmir from India by creating an East Timor-like situation in Srinagar Valley prior to President Barack Obama’s visit to Delhi, thereby forcing UN intervention and plebiscite.  


The author is Editor,

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