India blinded by "double confidence": Chinese scholar
India blinded by "double confidence"
by Wang Shida
Dr. Wang Shida is Deputy Director of the Institute of South Asian Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR)
India has, since last August, taken constant actions to unilaterally change the status quo of Kashmir and continued to exacerbate regional tensions.
A review of the region's history easily reveals that India has often emphasized its own interests and appeals concerning border issues, including that of Kashmir. The core of the conflict between India and Pakistan lies in the ownership of Kashmir, which originated due to the Partition of India in 1947. According to the "Mountbatten Plan" formulated by the British colonial authority in 1947, areas, where Hindus predominate, belong to India, and areas where Muslims predominate fall under Pakistan.
But as for which side Kashmir belongs to, it was stipulated in the Mountbatten Plan that the Princely States decided for themselves to join India or Pakistan or to remain independent. As a result, the ownership issue of Kashmir remained unresolved during the Partition of India.
Wars between India and Pakistan broke out quickly after the independence of the two countries. India controlled about two-thirds of the land and three-quarters of the population of Kashmir. Pakistan controlled the remaining one-third of the land and one-fourth of the population. This ceasefire laid the foundation for the subsequent control of Kashmir by both sides. Indian-administered Kashmir comprises three regions: the Hindu-dominated Jammu, the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley and the predominantly Tibetan Buddhist Ladakh.
However, since it was controlled by India, the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir has never been calm: Clashes have repeatedly broken out between Muslims who make up the majority of the local population and the Indian authorities; there has always been a separatist tendency, which has become increasingly fierce in recent years and posed a big worry to the Indian authorities.
The Indian authorities have resorted to constant high-handed policies on this issue and even "physically eliminated" the leading anti-Indian activists. For example, on July 8, 2016, Burhan Wani, a key leader of the so-called Jihadist organization working against the Indian authorities, was killed by the Indian army in Kashmir. This led to mass protests in Indian-administered Kashmir and fierce clashes erupted with the Indian security forces, resulting in serious casualties. The Pakistani authorities gave a flurry of reaction in return and the India-Pakistan relations tensed up once again.
On September 18, a military camp located in Indian-administered Kashmir's Uri region was attacked, leading to a death toll of 17 Indian soldiers and leaving more than 30 wounded. India identified Jaish-e-Mohammed as the culprit in this case and accused the Pakistani army of continuously using that group and others to fight India.
On September 29, the Indian army made a high-profile announcement that it launched a "surgical strike" against the Pakistani side across the Kashmir Line of Control. The Pakistani government denied India's crossing the border and strongly condemned India for this. The Pakistani army held large-scale air force exercises and stressed that all military preparations had been made. For a while, threats of all-out war between India and Pakistan were widely speculated, and there was concern that any conflagration could trigger nuclear war.
In a conflict in February 2019, the Pakistani army claimed to have shot down two Indian airplanes and captured one pilot. [Photo/CCTV News]
For another example, on February 14, 2019, a fleet operated by India's Central Reserve Police Force suffered a suicide attack in Pulwama in Indian-administered Kashmir, resulting in the deaths of 44 army men. In just half an hour after the incident, the Indian side blamed the Pakistani authorities for the attack.
On the morning of February 26, 12 Dassault Mirage-2000 jet fighters from the Indian Air Force, with the support of early warning aircraft and refueling planes, flew over the India-Pakistan Line of Control and launched airstrikes against Balakot and other places in Pakistan, in retaliation for the attack on 14th. On 27th, the Pakistani Air Force crossed the border and carried out airstrikes on Indian-administered Kashmir. Afterwards, the Pakistani Air Force fought an air battle with the Indian army's pursuit fighters, where Indian fighters that invaded Pakistan's airspace were shot down and one Indian pilot captured.
This round of India-Pakistan air battles was the first of its kind after the third India-Pakistan war of 1971 and also a formal confrontation of formation size between Indian and Pakistani air forces since the Kargil conflict in 1999, as well as the so-called cold-start strategy implemented by India against Pakistan for the first time. Based on this precedent, India's frequent military actions against Pakistan become more likely in the future, while Pakistan, under great pressures, might be forced to use tactical nuclear weapons as a return. The possibility of an all-out war or nuclear war between India and Pakistan has thus increased instead of decreasing.
On August 5, 2019, the Indian government announced the abolition of Article 370 of the Constitution which granted special status to Indian-administered Kashmir, the former state of Jammu and Kashmir, and the establishment of two union territories, "Jammu and Kashmir" and "Ladakh." India's unilateral move to change the status quo of Kashmir constitutes a serious threat to regional peace and stability.
First, this has posed a challenge to the sovereignty of Pakistan and China and made the India-Pakistan relations and China-India relations more complex.
For Pakistan, the ownership of Kashmir is a matter of the very foundation for building Pakistan. Pakistan was founded as "the home of Muslims in South Asia" and Kashmir is an area with a majority Muslim population, so the Pakistan side believes Kashmir is supposed to be one part of its territory. The whole of Pakistan was seething with anger over India's unilateral move to change the status quo of Indian-administered Kashmir. The Indian and Pakistani troops made separate platoon deployment near the Kashmir Line of Control, with the high-intensity confrontation lasting until now.
The Pakistani authorities, meanwhile, made frequent requests for the international community to keep a close watch and intervene on the Kashmir issue. More specifically, it accused the Indian authorities of massive human-rights violations in Indian-administered Kashmir, which seriously affected India's image globally.
On the Chinese side, India "opened up new territory on the map," incorporated part of the areas under the local jurisdiction of Xinjiang and Tibet into its Ladakh union territory, and placed Pakistani-administered Kashmir within its so-called union territories of Jammu and Kashmir. This forced China into the Kashmir dispute, stimulated China and Pakistan to take counter-actions on the Kashmir issue, and dramatically increased the difficulty in resolving the border issue between China and India.
Just as what Mr. Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister, mentioned in his meeting with Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India's moves challenged China's sovereign rights and interests and violated the agreement on maintaining peace and tranquility in the border areas between the two countries. The Chinese side was seriously concerned about this. India's moves will have no effect on the Chinese side, nor will they change the fact that China exercises sovereignty over relevant territories and the status quo that China exercises effective jurisdiction.
Secondly, India used domestic legislation to deny the U.N.'s designation of Kashmir as a disputed region. The U.N. initiated active mediation over the war between India and Pakistan due to the ownership of Kashmir in 1947 and adopted resolutions 38, 39, 47 and 51 in the year 1948 alone, followed by several other resolutions.
The above resolutions suggest that the U.N. recognizes Kashmir as a region with undetermined status and that Kashmir is a disputed territory recognized by the international community. India substantially changed the status of Indian-administered Kashmir with domestic legislation and treated it as a general domestic provincial state unit. Such a unilateral move obviously violated the U.N. resolutions, but also altered Kashmir's status quo.
Thus, the U.N. Security Council held an informal closed-door consultation on the Kashmir issue on August 16, 2019, and heard a briefing by the U.N. Secretariat on the situation in Kashmir and the work of the U.N. Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan. It was the first special meeting on Kashmir held by the U.N. Security Council in 50 years. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said the status of Jammu and Kashmir would ultimately be settled through peaceful means in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and therefore called upon all parties to refrain from taking steps that could affect the status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan's permanent U.N. representative stated that this meeting fundamentally refuted India's argument that the affairs in Jammu and Kashmir were India's responsibility. China's permanent representative to the U.N. stated that the Kashmir issue was an issue rooted in the history between India and Pakistan and that the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions identified the status of Kashmir as undetermined and Kashmir was internationally recognized as a disputed region. The Kashmir issue shall be settled properly in a peaceful manner in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, the relevant Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements. This is the consensus of the international community. India's constitutional amendment changed the status quo of Kashmir and triggered regional tensions. The Chinese side was seriously concerned about Kashmir's situation, and therefore it was opposed to any unilateral action that would complicate matters.
India's attempt to seize territory by force will be in vain
The arbitrary manner in which the Indian authorities have coped with a serious of major issues including territorial disputes in recent years reveals that Hindu nationalism is prevalent in India and that the Indian authorities and the strategic community have been blinded by so-called double confidence.
On one hand, from 2014 to 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party ("BJP") won a parliamentary majority twice in a row, which ended the hung parliament situation of "minority parliament" in the Indian politics for decades, made its domestic political position unprecedentedly consolidated and caused the traditional party, the Indian National Congress, to lose its cohesion and rallying point. The left-wing political party, once a third political force outside the BJ Party and the Indian National Congress, was in a slump throughout the period leading up to the election. Only the local political parties with in-depth development in the locality can hold a candle to the Bharatiya Janata Party, but it's nearly impossible for them to catch up on a national scale. Consequently, the Bharatiya Janata Party adhering to radical Hindu nationalism gained unprecedented political confidence.
On the other hand, in order to hedge against China's remarkable socioeconomic development results, the United States and some other Western countries puffed India up from an ideological point of view, as if to say, "A man's position determines his thinking." Those countries disregard facts and instead sing India's praises. Since 2017, the Trump administration of the United States has substantially adjusted its national security strategy, in the process issuing the "Indo-Pacific Strategy" to suppress China's development momentum. To this end, India was seen as a favorite by the US, which not only drew India over to its side and praised India but also turned a blind eye to the excessive use of force and other misdeeds of the Indian authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir. This once again stimulated India's strategic confidence and gave India a feeling that "India's status as a great power is determined by destiny, and other countries should only recognize it."
Regardless of how "confident" India is and no matter how good it feels about itself, its attempts to forcibly seize territory are doomed to fail. For example, in the First Kashmir War of 1947 India seized that Indian-administered territory, but that action led to a prolonged period of military confrontations between India and Pakistan along the Kashmir Line of Control. It consumed military, economic and diplomatic resources, and as a result the processes of domestic economic development and modernization were set back. Moreover, the war pitted India and Pakistan against each other since their separation into independent dominion states. It is unlikely to integrate Pakistan and Afghanistan, the western region of South Asia, into its own development strategy. It is also unlikely to use South Asia as a whole as strategic support on its way toward the attainment of status as a great power.
It is hoped that the Indian government and the strategic community can take the following measures to create a good surrounding environment for its "colorful dream of Becoming a Great Power" and "Indian Dream," such as drawing lessons from history, capitalizing on precious opportunities for peaceful development, working in concert with other regional countries, and settling the territorial disputes with China, Pakistan and Nepal through negotiations.
The author Dr. Wang Shida is Deputy Director of the Institute of South Asian Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR).