Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s action to annul Articles 370 and 35(A) of the Indian Constitution predictably triggered anger, outrage and breast-beating across Pakistan, and shock in Beijing. Pakistan’s feudal, land-owning, political elite and military were caught by surprise.
They never imagined such an action being taken by India. Successive governments in New Delhi had never indicated that they were dissatisfied with the present constitutional provisions on Jammu and Kashmir.
The mandarins in Beijing never imagined that India would directly challenge a growingly powerful and arrogant China.
India did so, reiterating and reviving its earlier claims on Aksai Chin in Ladakh, through which the only road linking China’s Tibet Autonomous Region with its Xinjiang Province traverses.
China obviously regarded India’s historical claims on Aksai Chin as a closed chapter. Beijing now realises that India could well use this in future negotiations.
India’s new posture on its differences on the border issue with China also signals New Delhi’s readiness to challenge China’s control over territory ceded to it illegally by Pakistan, in J&K.
This territory — the Shaksgam Valley — links the Shia-dominated Gilgit and Baltistan in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir with Xinjiang, China’s only Muslim majority region. Pakistan illegally ceded it to China in 1963.
The 1963 agreement also laid the foundation for commencing work on building the strategic Karakoram highway, linking Pakistan to Xinjiang Province.
This highway provides China access to the Arabian Sea, at the Gwadar Port in Balochistan, which was built by China as part of its much-touted China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
By making Ladakh a Union Territory, New Delhi now directly overlooks the areas connecting Tibet and the Shaksgam Valley to China’s troubled Xinjiang Province, where Beijing has treated its Muslim population brutally.
Over one million Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang are now virtually under detention. China has no moral authority to profess concern about the welfare of Kashmiris given the repression of its Muslim population. Pakistan, the self-proclaimed champion of the rights of Muslims worldwide, is tongue-tied on the persecution of Muslims by China.
These are realities that National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi will face when they next meet to discuss peace along the Sino-Indian border.
The initiative taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping when they met last year in Wuhan, has led to the adoption of measures to avoid tensions along their common borders.
One naturally looks forward to seeing new initiatives to build on the progress made after the Doklam Summit.
China’s ever-growing security ties with Pakistan have now assumed new dimensions, by its support to Pakistan on the issue of J&K, which was evident in the “informal” meeting of the UN Security Council in New York, on August 16.
This was certainly not one of the more glorious moments for Chinese diplomacy.
Despite all its bluff and bluster, China found that only the Brexit-afflicted UK and Northern Ireland were prepared to support the ambitions of terrorist-infested Pakistan, in the UN Security Council.