Gil­git-Baltistan: Is In­dia los­ing the plot?

Deccan Chronicle - - OPED - Ab­hi­jit Bhat­tacharyya

It’s an old story, yet In­dia seems to be los­ing the plot. This coun­try seems to be un­able to match Chi­nese guile. De­spite the fact that China is fac­ing flak from Aus­tralia, the United States and the Eu­ro­pean Union on this is­sue, In­dia some­how seems very sure of China’s good­will in Kash­mir. One only won­ders why. All have wo­ken up ex­cept In­dia, which is act­ing as a be­nign Bud­dha. Can’t In­dia see the day­light rob­bery of its ter­ri­tory by the China-Pak­istan com­bine in J&K? The plot has thick­ened so much that it ap­pears to have be­come an “ir­re­versible forced oc­cu­pa­tion”. From postIn­de­pen­dence “ac­ces­sion of princely state (J&K) to In­dia”, to “In­dia-Pak­istan hos­tile bi­lat­eral”, to the present “mul­ti­lat­eral” ow­ing to the joint Si­noPak­istani il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion of In­dian ter­ri­tory, the map of J&K cer­tainly isn’t what In­dia de­picts it to be.

Pak­istan con­tin­ues with its old tricks for Kash­mir is in its jugu­lar veins. The in­ter­mit­tent In­dian re­ac­tion, in its own tra­di­tional style, is quite pre­dictable too — deep slum­ber fol­lowed by a sud­den re­al­i­sa­tion to raise its voice, re­it­er­at­ing its stand and then lodg­ing a strong diplo­matic protest, which more of­ten than not is in­ef­fec­tive. Why? Mainly be­cause In­dia’s own past ac­tions, or lack of it, turned its in­ter­nal af­fair (J&K) into an In­doPak­istani bi­lat­eral is­sue, and later deeply en­trenched a third party, China. The best or worst part in this be­wil­der­ing mul­ti­lat­eral game is the clas­sic Chi­nese “de­cep­tion diplo­macy” — “We don’t know what hap­pened”; “Has it re­ally hap­pened?” or “Even if it has hap­pened, don’t worry, we are not in the pic­ture”. There is no change in Beijing’s pol­icy re­lat­ing to “Kash­mir” — which is a bi­lat­eral af­fair be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan”. Mark Chi­nese diplo­mat Hua Chun­y­ing’s ref­er­ence to the word “bi­lat­eral” and pose the counter-query: “If you know that it is a bi­lat­eral is­sue, why are you there? Why this fake in­no­cence, cam­ou­flaged un­der the Sino-Pak­istan al­liance, to cap­ture In­dian soil on the sly?”

At a press brief­ing on May 29 (af­ter Pak­istan, through its May 21 Gil­git-Baltistan Or­der 2018, merged it with its fifth prov­ince Khy­berPakhtunkhwa), Ms Hua says: “Kash­mir is a his­tor­i­cal bag­gage be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan and, there­fore, shall be re­solved be­tween the two sides through di­a­logue and con­sul­ta­tion.” In­deed! Why then is China now a third party in this pub­licly-stated “his­tor­i­cal bag­gage” be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan? Doesn’t it now be­come an “over­loaded il­le­gal multi-lat­eral bag­gage”?

In real­ity, Ms Hua’s state­ment clearly ex­poses the long-term de­sign of China’s forced oc­cu­pa­tion of for­eign ter­ri­tory, spe­cially around Beijing’s “make-be­lief world bor­der/or­der/dis­or­der!” China is de­lib­er­ately do­ing some­thing ex­traor­di­nar­ily wrong in its neigh­bour­hood! If this isn’t a di­a­bol­i­cal act, what is? Is it an act of mul­ti­lat­eral co­ex­is­tence for health and har­mony? In­dian diplo­mats should have re­peat­edly ha­rangued and harped on this point to make China quit, or at least play lie low in an area that un­der no stretch of imag­i­na­tion be­longs to China!

Did In­dia ever get into an act of phys­i­cal pres­ence as a third party/player in the “his­tor­i­cal bag­gage” be­tween Ti­bet and China? Again, when Ms Hua says “we have stressed many times that CPEC is an ini­tia­tive for eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion, and that this is a co­op­er­a­tion frame­work which serves the pur­pose of eco­nomic development and peo­ple’s liveli­hood, and does not af­fect our po­si­tion on J&K is­sue”; the mes­sage con­sti­tutes loud and jar­ring du­plic­ity, akin to say­ing: “We are here (in J&K) to stay. Come what may. Just get away. Let us make our own way even if it’s your own ter­ri­to­rial high­way. We are on a big­ger can­vas and we don’t wish to get bogged down in your petty squab­bling in J&K. If you can­not fight us, join us. Ter­ri­tory may be sacro­sanct to you, but trade, money, profit and sub­ju­ga­tion of the weak are more sanc­ti­mo­nious to us. We guard our ter­ri­tory wherein no out­sider dare en­ter. How­ever, we re­serve the right to en­ter any ex­ter­nal ter­ri­tory in ac­cor­dance with our na­tional cal­cu­la­tion, wherein your prob­lem can be re­duced or re­solved only by our en­try and phys­i­cal pres­ence, like that of Western pow­ers of the last cen­tury. Try, if you can, to stop us.”

My con­cern is that the 21st cen­tury chap­ter of J&K has al­ready started to be writ­ten, not by le­gal and bona fide owner In­dia but by two na­tions linked through an “un­holy al­liance” to fix In­dia. My other re­gret is that suc­ces­sive In­dian govern­ments have not only failed to up­hold their claimed ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity, but also failed to up­hold the Con­sti­tu­tion, which em­pow­ers the State to pro­tect its sovereignty. Un­for­tu­nately, In­dia got car­ried away by the slo­gans of glob­al­i­sa­tion, lib­er­al­i­sa­tion and pri­vati­sa­tion and did ir­repara­ble dam­age to its in­dige­nous in­dus­try, econ­omy, polity, so­ci­ety, safety, se­cu­rity and sovereignty. The slo­gan “21st cen­tury is the cen­tury of Asia” will not take In­dia very far be­cause if a coun­try can’t tackle chronic vi­o­la­tion of its sovereignty by mala fide ac­tions of two neighbours, there is lit­tle to go for­ward. China’s OBOR, BRI, CPEC is to cut and tran­scend all bar­ri­ers of other sovereign na­tions, with the sole aim of ex­pand­ing its own mil­i­tary and econ­omy, en­hance its fire­power and ex­tend its in­flu­ence by di­vid­ing the polity and de­stroy­ing the econ­omy of non-Chi­nese states.

In this murky back­ground, how­ever, my con­grat­u­la­tions to the ex­ter­nal af­fairs min­istry for mak­ing some ef­fort in re­it­er­at­ing, and tak­ing a pub­lic stand on its own ter­ri­tory with­out minc­ing words. By sum­mon­ing Pak­istan’s deputy high com­mis­sioner and lodg­ing a strong protest over “Gil­git­Baltistan”, In­dia rightly tough­ened its stand, though af­ter a long de­lay. But bet­ter late than never!

How­ever, dan­gers are lurk­ing to in­flict a fur­ther loss on In­dia on its pos­ses­sion and oc­cu­pa­tion. The for­mer means “con­trol or use of real prop­erty; seizure and con­trol of a ter­ri­tory by mil­i­tary force”. For rather too long, Gil­git-Baltistan has re­mained be­yond In­dia’s pos­ses­sion. Al­though Pak­istan’s ac­tion falls un­der “pos­ses­sion mala fide” (pos­ses­sion in bad faith), as by a thief, the fact re­mains that a long, wrong and de facto pos­ses­sion can turn de jure ow­ing to in­vo­ca­tion of the act of lim­i­ta­tions, de­spite it be­ing a mu­nic­i­pal law.

To­day’s the mala fide Si­noPak­istani pres­ence in Gil­git­Baltistan re­minds me of the fa­mous 1840 def­i­ni­tion of prop­erty by French thinker Proud­hon. It says “while prop­erty is not theft, a good amount of theft be­comes prop­erty” — like the day­light Sino-Pak­istani rob­bery of Gil­git-Baltistan, which forms a part of In­dia’s J&K.

In­dia is clearly trapped by Pak­istani ter­ror and tram­pled upon its own ter­ri­tory by Beijing, and is thus los­ing its sovereignty for trade with China. The moral of the story? For Chi­nese trade and Pak­istani ter­ror, In­dia is help­lessly los­ing its own ter­ri­tory at the ex­pense of its sovereignty.

Dan­gers are lurk­ing to in­flict a fur­ther loss on In­dia on its pos­ses­sion and oc­cu­pa­tion. The for­mer means ‘con­trol or use of real prop­erty; seizure and con­trol of a ter­ri­tory by mil­i­tary force’. For rather too long, Gil­git-Baltistan has re­mained be­yond In­dia’s pos­ses­sion.

The writer is an alum­nus of the Na­tional De­fence Col­lege. The views ex­pressed are per­sonal.

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