India’s Absence at OBOR Meet  Makes China Third Party to Kashmir:Analyst

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Srinagar: India’s arguments with China on the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative have helped bring the triangular dynamic between India, Pakistan, and China in  Kashmir into sharp focus, says the academic, journalist and the strategic affairs expert C Raja Mohan.

“While it has been generally accepted by the global community, including India and Pakistan, that the dispute over Kashmir is a bilateral issue between the two countries, Chinese involvement in the regional matter between Delhi and Islamabad has always been apparent,” writes Raja Mohan in his weekly column in The Indian Express.

“Now, with India’s refusal to participate in the first Belt and Road Forum (BRF), which concluded in Beijing on Monday, over Chinese involvement in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir with the CPEC project, China’s stake in the long-standing dispute has come to the fore like never before”.

Mohan says that although the popular discourse in India sees Kashmir as a bilateral issue with Pakistan, China has always looked  it a three-body problem. “Unlike the Anglo-Americans who fancied mediation between India and Pakistan in the past, and the Hurriyat separatists who now pretend to be the third party, it is China that is the real third force in Kashmir,” Mohan says. “Thanks to Xi’s huge political investment in the BRI, the special importance that Beijing attaches to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and the intensity of India’s opposition to the CPEC, the triangular nature of the Kashmir question can no longer be masked”

Beijing, Mohan says, seemed eager to address India’s sovereignty concerns about CPEC. “Delhi was not impressed though, for the pickings seemed meagre,” he says. “Nevertheless, the effort by the two countries to address the tricky issue of territorial sovereignty in Kashmir are welcome and must continue. While it may be prepared to talk, Beijing is unlikely to suspend work on its economic and strategic projects in Pakistan occupied Kashmir”.

Mohan suggests five ways in which India can deal with the growing Chinese threat in Kashmir.

One, India should make more efforts to modernise and deepen the connectivity of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country. Second, Raja Mohan says that India should “test the sincerity of the Pakistani and Chinese statements that CPEC is open for Indian participation.”

Third, Raja Mohan says the argument between India and China in Kashmir is deeply connected to the Arunachal Pradesh question. He suggests India to “raise its game on accelerating the state’s economic development and its connectivity to the rest of India.”

Fourth, India should give “high-level political attention” to Andaman and Nicobar islands which sit across China’s planned silk routes in the eastern part of Indian Ocean. Fifth, India should quickly complete connectivity projects with neighbours in the Indian sub-continent, South-East Asia and the Gulf.

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