CHINA’S OBTRUSIVE PRESENCE IN PAKISTAN OCCUPIED KASHMIR: IMPLICATIONS FOR INDIA AND UNITED STATES
China is once again in focus in challenging the status-quo in South Asia in collusive strategic facilitation by Pakistan. This time China has shifted the strategic focus from India’s borders with China- Occupied Tibet in Arunachal Pradesh in the North East to Ladakh and to India’s Line of Actual Control with Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). Reports emanating from unimpeachable sources in the United States indicate that China has positioned nearly 12,000 Chinese Army troops in the Gilgit-Baltistan Region of the Northern Areas presently in illegal occupation of Pakistan. China in one quiet but swift stroke has changed the geopolitical and geostrategic equations in this critical region which borders China, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan. The deployment of Chinese troops in this region even though for the ostensible purposes of infrastructural improvements of the ‘Karakoram Corridor’ heralds a new phase of China flexing its muscles not only against India but more significantly against United States in the wider global context. Ominously, China’s upgradation of the Karakoram Corridor on Pakistan’s behalf enables China’s strategic outreach to the North Arabian Sea and the Gulf. Building oil and gas pipelines through this Corridor significantly improve China’s military postures in Western Tibet and Xingjiang both against India and countering the NATO’s Eastward creep towards China’s peripheries. Notwithstanding that the Karakoram Corridor initially passes through disputed territory, China has gone ahead with this major project as the major portion traversing Pakistan gives a strategic advantage to China in not only in outflanking US embedment in Afghanistan but also places a strong ‘strategic pressure point’ in China’s hand against the United States when coupled with Chinese naval presence at Gwadur Port in proximity of the Hormuz Straits. 2.
Pakistan’s overall strategy in ceding de facto control of Gilgit and Baltistan to China is to involve China as a stakeholder in the Jammu and Kashmir issue which Pakistan so obsessively pursues. Pakistan thereby hopes to transform Kashmir as a bilateral India-Pakistan issue to one of a trilateral India-Pakistan-China issue. China additionally acquires crucial stakes in this disputed territory by virtue of its involvement in upgradation of Karakoram Corridor which enables it a strategic outreach by land to the North Arabian Sea and the Gulf. As a quid pro quo to Pakistan, China is also engaged in building feeder roads and bridges having a bearing on Pakistan Army’s operations against India in Ladakh. China’s focused involvement in construction of a number of dams in this region for Pakistan enables China to reinforce its strategic signature and footprints in this disputed region and sending clear messages to India that China is sitting tightly in the region as a stakeholder courtesy Pakistan and buttressing Pakistan.The United States needs to note that what we are witnessing today is the transformation of “ Pakistan as a frontline state of United States strategy” to a newer incarnation as “ Pakistan as a frontline state of China’s Grand Strategy”. 3.
India has no other option but to take a serious note of these developments. But a greater call devolves on the United States to meet the evolving China challenge via Pakistan to US embedment in the Middle East. China in terms of political and strategic signaling to its adversaries does not act impulsively and therefore the Chinese challenge of changing the strategic status-quo in South Asia has to be viewed as a well thought out and calibrated Chinese strategy to counteract what it perceives as growing reinforcing of the US-India Strategic Partnership. These combined moves by China and Pakistan seemed to have been coincidently timed with the United States wavering commitments in Afghanistan and an...
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