Now that China’s Foreign Ministry has crossed the red line by brazenly interfering in India’s internal affairs by terming abrogation of Article 370 “illegal and invalid,” it’s high time New Delhi reviewed its unduly magnanimous attitude in face of Beijing’s belligerence since such undue munificence has proved to be a humongous disaster. In fact, it won’t be a hyperbole to say that New Delhi’s historical over-solicitous diplomatic approach towards Beijing that is one of the major reasons for its uncouth behaviour towards India. That Beijing’s no friend of India is no secret- starting with its blocking moves to get Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) chief Masood Azhar declared a UN designated global terrorist by misusing the “technical hold” clause thrice since 2009. Just recently China violated four Sino-Indian border agreements (of 1993, 1996, 2005 and 2013) by trespassing into Indian territory in Ladakh.
In what clearly appears to be a pre-mediated act of extreme violence, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops not only attacked a small and unarmed group of Indian soldiers led by their Commanding Officer without any provocation, but even escalated the violence level by a murderous assault with spiked clubs and metal rods on unarmed Indian soldiers who came to rescue this small group. In this clash which occurred in the area of Galwan, the inordinately high Indian Army casualty figures (20 fatalities and more than 70 injuries) in itself leaves no room for doubts that the violence by PLA was pre-mediated. Not only this, Beijing even had the gall to blame India for this clash by saying “India’s border troops under the guise of darkness, trespassed into China’s territory and provoked the incident.”
But Beijing’s attempts to showcase Indian Army as ‘trespassers’ flopped miserably because it failed to answer a basic question that would have immediately struck even a person not conversant with matters military. This question is, which army in the world would be so puerile as to send unarmed soldiers to trespass into a neighbour’s territory? Furthermore, Beijing’s defence that “China’s troops had to take necessary measures to strengthen their response and their management of the border areas” too raises a question. If Indian Army had indeed trespassed into Chinese territory, then the PLA was well within its rights to use firepower to thwart this intrusion in order to safeguard the territorial integrity of their country. So, why did PLA use spiked clubs and rods instead?
There have been instances of scuffles between Indian and Chinese forces along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as well as incursions by PLA soldiers in the past, but while there was no loss of life in the affrays, incursions by PLA were temporary in nature. But the recent standoff and intrusions in Ladakh are unprecedented in that while the clashes ended in considerable casualties in terms of fatalities and injuries, Beijing is clearly dragging its feet to diffuse the prevailing tension by restoring status quo ante. So, it’s more than obvious that while China may not have officially reneged on the Sino-Indian border agreements, it has for all practical purposes, junked these agreements. This in turn rules out likelihood of an unconditional negotiated settlement in the near future and therefore to expect that dialogue could help in restoring status quo ante, may be a case of great expectations.
Beijing may be getting a bit too pushy these days, but it’s certainly not ham-headed when it comes to diplomacy. That’s why the illogical and laughable reasoning that “any unilateral change to the status quo is illegal and invalid,” put forth by Beijing in defence of its criticism regarding abrogation of Article 370 of Indian constitution by Government of India is intriguing. Article 370 was enacted by the Indian Parliament as a temporary provision, and so, its abrogation is purely an internal matter of India. So, even if we for a moment accept Beijing’s point of view that the Kashmir issue “is a dispute left over from history between Pakistan and India,” then how does abrogation of Article 370 “change the status quo”? When the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) didn’t entertain the plea made by Pakistan using this very logic, why is Beijing making a fool of itself by offering the same rationale is something that defies comprehension.
But now that Beijing has brought up the issue of Kashmir being ‘disputed territory’ and terming it an “objective fact established by the UN Charter, UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements between Pakistan and India,” it’s time New Delhi pays it back in the same coin. In fact this is opportune moment for some hard talk with Beijing and applying this very ‘disputed territory’ analogy to put China in the dock. The first issue pertains to ceding of Shaksgam Valley situated in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) to China by Pakistan in 1963. The fact that this act is illegal is clear from Article 6 of the Sino-Pakistan Agreement signed on March 2, 1963 which states that “the two Parties (China and Pakistan) have agreed that after the settlement of the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India, the sovereign authority concerned will re-open negotiations with the Government of the People’s Republic of China.”
Now, if China and Pakistan both agree that J&K is ‘disputed territory’, then Chinese occupation of Shaksgam Valley is illegal since it is part of this so-called ‘disputed territory’, then Pakistan has no legal right or locus standi to cede Shaksgam Valley to China, without seeking prior approval of the UN or India (which both China and Pakistan concede is a party to this dispute). Similarly, if Beijing considers abrogation of Article 370 “illegal and invalid” since it’s an “unilateral change to status quo,” then doesn’t the same analogy apply to the construction of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which runs through the so-called ‘disputed territory’ of J&K? While these objections may not result in China giving up its control of Shaksgam Valley or abandoning the CPEC project, it will at least dissuade Beijing from using red herrings to defend what’s indefensible!