BAL­ANC­ING ACT

India Today - - COVER STORY -

Kash­mir to Bei­jing, they only man­aged to get an au­di­ence with a ju­nior for­eign min­is­ter, and Bei­jing did not is­sue a state­ment in sup­port of Pak­istan’s stand. Even at the UNSC, China has re­buffed re­peated Pak­istani at­tempts to bring up Kash­mir, re­peat­ing its stand that it was an is­sue for In­dia and Pak­istan to re­solve. China’s new em­brace of Pak­istan— and its raised stakes in that coun­try— have com­pli­cated this bal­anc­ing act in re­cent weeks. Bei­jing has ap­peared un­usu­ally un­nerved by In­dia’s more ro­bust-than-ex­pected re­sponse to Uri and by the sur­gi­cal strikes as well as by Modi’s in­vok­ing of Balochis­tan.

In the re­cent past, In­dia’s ties with China have been largely in­su­lated from its trou­bles with Pak­istan. This was ev­i­dent dur­ing the Kargil war when Bei­jing largely stayed away, and also in the wake of the Mum­bai attacks of 2008 when China, as its of­fi­cials of­ten like to re­mind In­dian in­ter­locu­tors, qui­etly sent en­voys to Delhi and Is­lam­abad to calm ten­sions, and later sup­ported moves at the UNSC to sanc­tion LeT leader Zak­iur-Rehman Lakhvi and its af­fil­i­ate or­gan­i­sa­tion, the Ja­maat-ud-Dawa.

Yet the re­cent ten­sions with Pak­istan have been viewed some­what dif­fer­ently, and Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s re­marks on the sit­u­a­tion in Balochis­tan alarmed Bei­jing even if they were, in re­al­ity, not very dif­fer­ent from China’s un­ex­pected state­ment in July ex­press­ing “con­cern” over protests in Jammu & Kash­mir.

One rea­son is be­cause the postCPEC em­brace of Pak­istan is ef­fec­tively push­ing both coun­tries in a di­rec­tion where they “will be­come mu­tual stake­hold­ers of each other”, says Hu Shisheng, a strate­gic ex­pert at the China In­sti­tute of Con­tem­po­rary In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions, an in­flu­en­tial state se­cu­rity-af­fil­i­ated think­tank. “This means any dis­tur­bance in Pak­istan,” he says in a clear mes­sage to In­dia, “will get Chi­nese in­ter­ests dis­turbed.” It is hence un­avoid­able, says Hu, that Pak­istan will be­come “a big­ger fac­tor” in In­dia-China re­la­tions.

Hu prob­a­bly re­flects the pop­u­lar

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