War or Peace?

The recent surgical strike by Bharat is the first ever offensive defense step initiated by Bharat so far. However as a sequel to this, full fledged war is not likely to take place between Bharat and Pakistan.Bharat’s priority should be –

  1. Restoring normalcy in Kashmir.
  2. Initiate economic sanctions and withdrawing the MFN status to Pakistan.
  3. Renegotiation of the Indus river waters pact with Pakistan.
  4. Bringing all the nations together to alienate Pakistan as a terrorist country. This will be a very difficult move considering the global geo political and economic equations.

Similarly we can’t unilaterally stop supply of waters to Pakistan nor step up additional water usage of Indus river waters in Bharatiya soil as we have a treaty which is guided by the UN norms.  Neither Pakistan will succeed in internationalizing Kashmir issue, nor can we launch a full fledged war on Pakistan.

While China may or may not fully back Pakistan, U.S. may not be inclined to support Bharat for a war for the reason Obama is almost hanging his boots and may not like to pass an uncomfortable legacy to his incumbent. (US must have certainly become wiser after the useless wars with Afghanistan and Iraq.)

We cannot compare the current situation with 1971 Bangladesh war because of the following factors- China was not a super power in 1971 and Bharat had already braced two wars with Pakistan and China in the preceding decade, which perhaps gave psychological confidence to Indira Gandhi to launch the war to secure freedom for Bangladesh.

Now China is a super power to be reckoned with and Pakistan is capable of playing mischief (they have supplied nukes to North Korea) though it cannot defeat us in war but it can cause damage to our economy through its front end mask- terrorist attacks. Also, today’s wars are more influenced by trade and economic factors rather than the strength of the country’s army.

Including China, nobody wants war. But Pakistan can thrive and survive only on terrorism. Their military is a breeding ground for terrorism. In turn the terrorists and army are controlling and running the Pak Government.

Countries like US, China and Russia will not indulge in direct wars. Nevertheless they will tacitly encourage war to promote their trade of arms and ammunition. In the total scheme of things Kashmir issue is only a pretext or the mask and the big picture is actually POK and Baluchisthan. China has committed an investment of around 50 bn dollars to develop infrastructure in CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) mainly to promote their global trade and penetrate into Gulf, Europe and African countries through a shorter road cum sea route.

With this strategy they can circumvent the hurdles in Indian Ocean, where Bharat has greater control. Gilgit and Baltistan come under POK, which we meekly surrendered to Pak in the past. This can be the main bone of contention because the CPEC passes through the POK region. Pakistan occupied this portion of Kashmir on 27th October, 1947 which subsequently came to be known as POK. The official stand of Bharat till today is that POK is a part of Bharat.

This writer believes our Government is now fully prepared with all options and consciously shifting the gears from defensive strategy to offensive defense. The third and last option is fully offensive (These three measures were articulated by our NSA Chief Ajit Doval in the past).

In this context the support of SAARC countries to Bharat, though it may appear to be a small step, will certainly prove to be the Achilles heel to Pakistan in a war scenario. Bharat has already scored a psychological victory over Pakistan by forcing Pakistan to cancel the SAARC meet scheduled to be held in November, 2016 in Pakistan, and surprised Pakistan through its offensive surgical strike yesterday.

Kashmir is only a tip of the iceberg. The main issue is POK. If Bharat takes a consistent stand on POK, then the China Pakistan Economic Corridor which will pass through POK will put Pakistan on the defensive because that is the last thing China would like to face since this will disturb their apple cart.

Why is CPEC China’s apple cart?

This corridor consists of almost 51 projects of Roads, Rail Link, Fiber Optic Communication, Energy, Infrastructure, Mass Transit Transportation. Presently, China’s sea trade happens through Shanghai to Strait of Malacca that has a distance of around 16,000 KMs, whereas the proposed CPEC will cut short this distance to almost 3,000 Kms! Gwadar port is also close to Strait of Hormuz, hub of oil shipping lane (China is a leading importer of oil).

There are two main routes of Pakistan-China Economic Corridor. One is eastern link and other is western link. Eastern Road and Railway Link will connect China’s province Kashghar with Pakistan’s seaport Gwadar. Eastern Route passes through Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Islamabad, Punjab, and Sindh and will link to Gwadar.

The Western route originating from Gwadar will pass through Turbat, Panjgur, Nag, Basima, Sorab, Qalat, Quetta, Qilla Saifullah and Zhob and reach Dera Ismail Khan finally connecting to Islamabad. The Central route will originate from Gwadar and reach Dera Ismail Khan via Basima, Khuzdar, Sukkur, Rajanpur, Layyah, Muzaffargarh and Bhakkar. China has also signed an MoU with Pakistan to build Lahore’s Orange Line Metro Train System with a cost of $1.6 billion.

This CPEC Corridor amounting to 50 bn dollars investment also includes – $ 33.8 bn energy projects and $ 11.8 bn towards infrastructure. (Break up of investment in infrastructure is- $ 15.5 bn in power, $ 5.9 bn road projects, $ 3.7 bn railway projects and also a $ 44 million optical fibre cable network between China and Pakistan)  This mega project is expected to generate 700,000 jobs up to 2030, apart from easing the burden of power shortage in Pakistan as this venture is expected to add 16,000 MW power by 2021.

The CPEC is part of China’s transnational One Belt One Road (OBOR) that consists of land based new silk road and maritime silk road that covers many countries in Asia and Eastern Europe.

About a 100 mile west of Gwadar, the Iranian port of Chahbahar was built by Bharat to bypass Pakistan and protect its (Bharat’s) passage of trade route.   In May 2016, Bharat, Iran and Afghanistan signed a trilateral agreement  that facilitates movement of goods from Bharat to Afghanistan through Iran .This covers the sea link between Bharat and Iran (Chahbahar port) as well as the road cum rail link between Iran and Afghanistan, in addition to providing entry to Bharat up to Europe via Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan.

Bharat’s bilateral trade with Iran was around $ 9 bn during 2015-16, major portion going towards oil imports by Bharat from Iran. Bharat’s imports of oil from Iran peaked in August, 2016 – about 576,000 barrels per day (bpd).

China has been expanding its reach in the Indian Ocean with its ‘String of Pearls’ by its recent addition of the island nation of Seychelles under this sea route. To counter China, U.S. is supporting Bharat to assume a lead role in the Indian Ocean, which is not palatable to both China and Pakistan. China already received a setback in its South China Sea dispute as the ruling by UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) went in favour of Phillipines.  It is a different matter that China pretends to ignore the ruling of the tribunal claiming it does not have a legal enforcement.

Therefore the last thing that China would like is any irritant or speed breaker in its proposed CPEC corridor.  The surgical strike by Bharat targeted at terrorist camps in POK can certainly disturb China’s game plan in CPEC. In the aftermath of this surgical strike, if Bharat takes a consistent stand firmly that POK is an integral part of Bharat, more than Pakistan it will be China which will have problems.

The official stand of China is that it does not want to interfere in Kashmir dispute as it is a bilateral issue between Bharat and Pakistan. The subtle message which China perhaps wants to convey to Bharat is that please do not raise the POK issue. As the drama unfolds in the near future, if Pakistan persists with its terrorist attacks on Bharatiya soil, the day is probably not far off when Bharat will be shifting gears from Kashmir issue and become more assertive on POK. Then China will face a catch 22 situation since it can neither fully support Pakistan nor reject Bharat’s claims on POK.

Your view, my view and our view

Kashghar to Gwadar port distance is 2042 KMs, whereas the distance between Kashghar to Mumbai port is 2286 KMs, just 244 KMs extra distance. The icing on the cake is connectivity between Mumbai to Chahbahar port and beyond to Europe via Afghanistan without hassles!  In the art of negotiation when there are two parties there is not only either your view or my view but also a third option –our view. If Bharat and China look at this third option then not only Kashmir problem will be resolved but POK can become part of Bharat and Pakistan will be left high and dry.

Current wars are like chess games. The strategy and even execution to a great extent are done in board rooms, not on the battlefields. And in both war and politics there are no permanent enemies but only permanent interests. Bharat and China both have ambitions to become super powers and they have a choice – either compete with each other or collaborate together. When such collaboration leads to permanent peace in the sub continent by ignoring Pakistan from their game plan, it will set a good example to the rest of the world on how to combat terrorism.

Featured image credit: www.india.com

(Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the Author, and the Author is responsible for ensuring the factual veracity of the content. HinduPost will not be responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information, contained herein.)

About the Author

B.N.V. Parthasarathi
Ex Senior Banker, Management and Financial Consultant, Visiting faculty at premier B Schools and Universities. E mail- [email protected]