Shi Jiangtao, a former diplomat writing in the South China Morning Post, says a fresh row between Beijing and New Delhi over India’s decision to split the hotly contested region of Kashmir into two territories could cast fresh uncertainty over bilateral ties amid signs of growing strategic competition.
Parts of Kashmir are claimed by the two regional giants as well as India’s arch-rival Pakistan, and the dispute is one of a number of border issues that have for decades dogged relations between Beijing and New Delhi, according to Shi Jiantao.
Chinese analysts challenged the Modi government’s stance that Kashmir was a domestic issue, Shi Jiangtao said and quoted Zhao Gancheng, a researcher with the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, as saying that while India’s move appeared to be a change to its domestic law, any attempt to alter the status of Kashmir had international implications, including for Pakistan, which condemned the move as an infringement of a United Nations resolution on the question of Kashmir’s sovereignty.
“Without consulting China or Pakistan in advance, Modi’s move, largely based on his domestic political needs, has further complicated the relations with China,” Zhao said.
“But their different stances on long-lasting border disputes are nothing new and it does not necessarily mean their relations would deteriorate inevitably if both sides manage their conflicting interests well,” said Zhao Gancheng.
Both Zhao and Wang Dehua, an expert on India at the Shanghai Municipal Centre for International Studies, said that with no solutions to their bitter, decades-old border issues in sight, the priority for both countries remained how to prevent their widening competition from spiralling out of control.
“I’m confident that bilateral ties will not be affected by lingering border disputes and other strategic differences, especially amid the escalating rivalry between China and the United States,” Wang said.
A series of high-level China-India exchanges are planned for the coming weeks, including a visit to China on Sunday by Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.
Observers say his trip is expected to pave the way for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s informal summit with Modi in his parliamentary constituency Varanasi on October 12.
Jammu & Kashmir is controlled by China, India and Pakistan
Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research, said China’s protest busted a widely disseminated fiction on the Kashmir dispute.
“The original princely state of Jammu and Kashmir is divided not just between India and Pakistan. China occupies one-fifth of the original Jammu and Kashmir state,” he said.
Chellaney said the Aksai Chin Plateau, a sparsely populated area about the size of Switzerland in China’s western Xinjiang region, was part of the new Ladakh federal territory.
“China not only holds Aksai Chin but also lays claim to several other areas in Ladakh. Chinese military incursions into Ladakh have increased in recent years,” he said.
Shi Jiangtao quoted Madhav Das Nalapat, director of the Department of Geopolitics at India’s Manipal University, as saying that Beijing should not treat his country as an inferior power to be “lectured to on matters that are wholly within its own purview and competence”.
“Beijing’s comments on India’s domestic decision to fulfil the long-pending demand of the people of Ladakh for administrative separation from Kashmir have harmed the trajectory of Sino-Indian relations,” he said.
On Tuesday, China’s foreign ministry voiced “serious concern” about a highly contentious move a day earlier by India’s parliament, controlled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party, to split the state of Jammu and Kashmir – which includes the Kashmir Valley and the Ladakh area – into two federal territories.
Jammu and Kashmir will have a state legislature, and Ladakh – which includes Aksai Chin, a Chinese-claimed and held disputed territory – will be ruled directly by New Delhi.
Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the decision to create a separate territory for Ladakh was unacceptable and undermined China’s territorial sovereignty.
China’s Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing, on Wednesday, reiterated China’s stance that Jammu and Kashmir was an “internationally recognized disputed territory”, and criticized the Indian government for unilaterally revoking its special status.
Yao, speaking to journalists, also stressed on the need for compliance with international laws and hoped that both Pakistan and India would “take a suitable decision for the betterment of the Kashmiri people”, Ary News reported.
Yao said that de-escalating tension between Islamabad and New Delhi would be beneficial for the entire region. He said that being a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China.
Protest Demonstration in Washington
Muslim rights activists, including members of Pakistani-American community, held demonstrations outside the Indian Embassy in Washington to protest against the scrapping of special status to Jammu & Kashmir, The First Post of India reported Wednesday.
Accusing India of human rights violations in Kashmir, protestors sought the intervention of US President Donald Trump and the UN to solve the vexed issue.
They raised slogans against India and PM Narendra Modi. People of Kashmir “deserve independence, deserve their rights and deserve justice, ”Nihad Awad, national executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said outside Indian Embassy in Washington.
“There is a humanitarian crisis brewing in the Kashmir valley. The State Department should urge the Indian Govt to immediately reinstate the protected status, lift the siege, and enter into peaceful negotiations,” said Awad.
CAIR is the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization in US.
The protest was organized by Chicago-based Sound Vision, which claims to be the pioneering Muslim-media organization of North America. Muslim activists also held demonstration outside the Indian Consulate in Chicago.
Members of other Muslim organizations, including the Islamic Leadership Institute of America, Burma Task Force which is working among Rohingya Muslims, and those representing Palestine groups, also participated in demonstration.
The US Council of Muslim Organizations expresses concern
The US council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), a conglomerate of more than two dozen American Muslim organizations, said in a statement Thursday It is beyond doubt that the longer the uncertainties continue and the longer the United Nations and world powers ignore Jammu & Kashmir, the more dangerous and intractable the crisis becomes in light of the fact that both Indian and Pakistan are nuclear powers. The crisis requires immediate diplomacy that recognizes the explosive situation on the ground in Jammu and Kashmir and takes immediate measures to avert it before it explodes.
The USCMO said Kashmir is under siege and silence is no longer an option. It called the Indian move to change Kashmir’s status as a crisis for the entire humanity.
The organization urged the 7-million strong Muslim American community to write letters and make phone calls to the White House and key members of Congress asking them to support peace in Kashmir and an end to the carnage.
It also advised the American Muslims to request one of the more than 200 World Affairs Councils (WAC) in the United States to arrange a program on Kashmir because of the nuclear danger there the greatest in the world-and unspeakable daily sufferings.
The USCMO statement pointed out that for more than five decades, the people of Indian Held Kashmir have been denied their inalienable right to self-determination. The people of Kashmir are helpless. The international community has abandoned them to the Indian repression.
More than 100,000 killed during the last decade, over 15,000 Kashmiri women violated, over 5,000 Kashmiri youths imprisoned in India, interrogation center and torture cells, more than 20,000 kids orphaned, 8,000 to 10,000 involuntarily disappeared, over 200 totally blinded with pellet guns.
The US council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO) members are:
The American Muslims for Palestine, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Muslim Alliance of North America (MANA), Muslim American Society (MAS), Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA), Muslim Ummah of Northern America (MUNA),The Mosque Cares (Ministry of W. Deen Mohammed), Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, Majlis Ash-Shura (Islamic Leadership Council of New York), The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC), Muslim Forum of the Pacific Northwest (MFPNW), The North American Imams Federation, United Muslim Relief, ICNA Relief, Baitulmaal, Helping Hands, Mercy Without Limits, United Hands Relief, The Mosque Foundation, Islamic Center of Wheaton (ICW) IL, Islamic Society of Boston, Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center Virginia, Islamic Community Center of Illinois, (ICCI), Islamic Center of Detroit (ICD), Together We Serve Inc, International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), Burmese Rohingya Association of North America, American Muslim Alliance, Islamic Association of North America (IANA) and Islamic Center of Naperville IL.