Post the Uri terror attack, India has been able to meet its diplomatic goal of isolating and exposing Pakistan before the global community for its overt and covert support to terror groups operating from its soil.
Despite its best efforts to counter India’s diplomatic offensive at the UN, Pakistan found few takers for its position on Kashmir. The world has recognized Pakistan, and specifically the ISI and military, for providing finance, training, equipment and logistic support, to various terror groups located in Pakistan.
But contrary to all logic, China remains steadfast in its support for Pakistan, which is in line with its officially stated position of remaining committed to its ‘all-weather friend’, at all times.
In the aftermath of the Uri attack, when countries like United States, EU, Japan, Australia, most Arab states, along with all SAARC countries, have all taken a stand in support of India’s position, why is China still continuing to remain cussed in its support of Pakistan? Is this loyal friendship or is there more at stake? There is more, much more at stake than we realize.
Before we begin understanding China’s long term play, it’s important to note that India and Pakistan are mere components in China’s long term goal that may be used or discarded based on necessity, as China aggressively continues on its path in realizing its long term goals.
Today, China is competing with the United States for economic, diplomatic and military domination but it is clear that it wants to ultimately emerge as a sole power globally, a position that the US once nurtured and still does.
It is in this context that one must view China’s support for Pakistan post – Uri, despite recognizing that China contradicts its own position on fighting global terror. So let’s try and unravel China’s gameplan for the future and the reasons for its consistent support for its ‘all-weather’ friend.
China plays the long game
China is the only country that looks far ahead while making its moves today. India, on the other hand, can barely hold a consistent vision beyond five years that a political party is in power before seeking re-election.
Unlike China, which is an authoritarian state, India is a successfully functioning democracy where the will of the people is paramount. That should be a good thing except that ‘people’s will’ keeps changing every five years as the next political party comes to power. India’s bureaucracy can at best influence but not determine the country’s long term vision and that is India’s biggest problem.
China has set its long term goal to emerge as the dominant global power that will be driven by economics and backed by aggressive diplomacy and military, to ensure its goals are not only met but remain in play.
Controlling economic resources
The countries in future that will dominate geo-politics are the ones that have a large population and land mass. China, India, Russia, Brazil, Australia and Canada, along with the US, are all countries that fulfill this criteria and will emerge as dominant nations over the next 50 years.
But to emerge as the clear power, each of these nations will require control and consistent access to additional natural resources, as they relentlessly pursue their long terms goals.
The only nation to not only plan but also implement this vision is China, which began the process a decade ago, as it quietly went about signing up long term mining and processing contracts with cash-starved African and Latin American nations. These will ensure perennial supply of natural resources to China, an advantage that will show more prominently over time, as other nations try to play catch up.
Unfortunately, India has been adopting a reactive policy to Chinese moves rather than pursue its own long term agenda and remains a victim of its own politics.
Beyond natural resources, Logistics – the key
China has been and still is going about funding unpopular regimes in the African continent and other parts of the world by signing up long term contracts since it requires a stable and consistent logistic supply channel that will remain open to it, at all times.
Towards this goal, it is furiously investing in connecting China, through rail and road, with Europe and Central Asia. To further strengthen this, it aims to open up access to the Middle East and South Asia via the proposed Gwadar port in Balochistan province of Pakistan and ultimately connect it to China’s ‘New Silk Road’.
China understands Pakistan’s strategic position and recognizes the fact that it will get access to the Arabian Sea which will significantly cut transit time for cargo movement and oil, between China and the Middle East. That is why China is ready to spend $46 billion on the proposed China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
So, despite Pakistan being a military dictatorship behaving like a rogue nation, China can never give up on Pakistan, and therefore, will continue to support Pakistan against India.
China also understands that its dream of round-the-year access to the Arabian Sea (read CPEC) will never be realized without India’s support and a stable situation in Pakistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
China has already drawn peace with its arch enemy, Russia as the latter continues to struggle for remaining relevant in geo-politics. China will no doubt do the same with India at some point but it will never come at the cost of Pakistan.
The Uri attack and the situation in Kashmir may be of prime importance to India but for China, it is only an impediment to its larger plan and therefore, its muted stand.
The prospect of a military confrontation between the two nuclear states of Pakistan and India, is something that China abhors, as it will severely impact its own plans in the long term.
So where does that leave India?
The only option before India is to continue to isolate Pakistan in international forums and hope that international pressure on Pakistan will force it to fall in line. At the same time, India must keep up the military pressure on Pakistan by extending short interventions across the LOC in J&K and also try and extend the same across the Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat borders, without escalating the situation to a full-scale war.
As far as China is concerned, India will continue to hold dialogue to resolve its border differences with China, as it continues to narrow the economic and military gap with that nation.
For now, Round One goes to India but it will require many more such ‘Rounds’ before a belligerent Pakistan begins to step down from its existing position.
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