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FROM JAMMU & KASHMIR
Third Party
Further pushing India into a corner, China plays ‘the Kashmir card’
By Mohan Malik
Even as the Chinese Navy signals its intent to enforce sea denial in the ‘first island chain’ in the east (comprising the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea of the Pacific Ocean), the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is reportedly on the move in the west in Pakistani-held Kashmir. In late August, media accounts reported the presence of thousands of Chinese troops in the strategic northern areas of Pakistani-held Kashmir (renamed in 2009 by Pakistan as Gilgit-Baltistan) bordering Xinjiang province. One report suggested that Islamabad had ceded control of the area to Beijing. Chinese foreign office spokesperson, Jiang Yu, denied the story, saying “the troops are there to help Pakistan with flood relief work.” Nonetheless, credible sources confirm the presence of the PLA’s logistics and engineering corps to provide flood relief and to build large infrastructure projects worth USD20 billion (railways, dams, pipelines and extension of the Karakoram Highway) to assure unfettered Chinese access to the oil-rich Gulf through the Pakistani port of Gwadar. As China’s external energy dependency has deepened in the past decade so has its sense of insecurity and urgency.

This region has long attracted the attention of rising powers. It was the site of the 19th century Anglo-Russian territorial grab famously christened the ‘Great Game’ by Rudyard Kipling. The ‘New Great Game’ from Afghanistan to Burma is as much a struggle for resources (oil, gas and water) as a playground for geopolitical rivalries between the US, China, India and Russia. Historically, rising powers move in a slow and cautious manner so as not to arouse the ire of rivals. And China, of all the powers, has a penchant for doing things in small steps and piecemeal; quietly, patiently and eventually bringing the jigsaw pieces together ‘when the conditions are ripe.’
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