Should China Be Involved In Kashmir Talks?
12 December 2004
The News International
Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema
Islamabad: Whenever this type of question is posed to an Indian, his answer, pet answer is that no outsider should be involved as Kashmir is a dispute between India and Pakistan and it should be resolved on bilateral basis. For years they did not acknowledge that Kashmir is a dispute between India and Pakistan. Instead they always accused that Pakistan has occupied part of Kashmir territory which they claim legitimately belongs to India. Curiously they never refer to Junagadh which they forcibly occupied after the rulers had decided to join Pakistan on the grounds that the state had predominant Hindu majority. In Indian perceptions, China is an outsider - a third party. If China is an outsider then why is it that every article written in India invariably accuses Pakistan for ceding territory to China under the 1963 treaty and also stresses that the entire Aksai Chin area is part of Kashmir and therefore it belongs to India. A simple glance on Indian claims clearly indicates that they (Indians) feel that China has occupied certain portion of Kashmir territory. In a recent article titled 'The Indian Response' that was published in an Indian magazine, Frontline (Nov 19, 2004) once again an Indian author while commenting upon President Musharraf's proposal on Kashmir, referred to what he called 'huge part of Kashmir conceded by Pakistan to China'. Such an allegation ostensibly seems to have become an integral part of Indian propaganda machine. Why such allegations are repeated? Is it ignorance or is it part of a well planned and systematic vilification campaign against Pakistan? If it is ignorance then it would not be out of order to state the facts regarding the 1963 Pakistan China Boundary Treaty. Soon after an official announcement on May 3, 1962 that Pakistan and China had agreed to conduct negotiations for the delimitation and demarcation of their common border and to sign a provisional agreement, the very next day the Indian government declared that Pakistan has no legal right to initiate border demarcation talks with China. Consequently strong protest notes were sent to the government of Pakistan on May 10. Similar kind of protest note was also sent to China, accusing China that she was 'seeking to exploit the troubled situation in Kashmir and India's difference with Pakistan' to her advantage. Both the Pakistani and Chinese government rejected Indian protest notes and conveyed to the Indian government that talks for a provisional boundary agreement did not at all involve the question of ownership of Kashmir. It was made clear to India that after the settlement of Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan, the sovereign authorities would reopen negotiations with the Chinese. Thus the protests were dismissed as 'unjustifiable protests'. Similar arguments were also advanced by the Pakistani authorities while rejecting the Indian protests. On Dec 26, it was announced that the two countries had reached an agreement in principle and two days later they announced their intensions of signing the agreement. The announcement added that the boundary agreement fully safeguards the rights and interests of both countries and demonstrates the efficiency of negotiation as a peaceful method of resolving international disputes on the basis of mutual respect and good will. Consequent the agreement was signed. What the Indian writers need to keep in mind is that Pakistan China Boundary agreement between Pakistan and China is provisional and temporary, similar to the conversion of United Nations ceasefire line into what is now called Line of Control (LoC). Just as the LoC is viewed as a temporary arrangement, the boundary between China and Pakistan is provisional. Once the ongoing Kashmir dispute is finally resolved, these lines would be finalised either as they are now or with some changes or new lines would be delimited and eventually demarcated. The other interpretation of repeated references to allegations that Pakistan ceded territory to China after signing the boundary accord revolves around a calculated systematic propaganda with a view to paint Pakistan black. Curiously the Pakistanis rarely dabble into such allegations. One purpose of such baseless allegations is to create false impressions with a view to project its own sanctimonious stance. Admittedly, many members of the international community fall easy prey to Indian propagandist pursuits not because they don't comprehend the Indian game but other considerations influence their policy pursuits and they generate the impression that the Indian version needs to be seriously considered. Both India and China fought a war in 1962 in which the Chinese badly mauled the Indian forces. Many versions later appeared either to justify the then existing weaknesses or covering the blunders they committed. Now both have normalised their relations and are well set on the path to reconciliation and complete normalisation. Currently one rarely comes across references reflecting drumming of allegations that China has occupied Indian territories whereas in case of Pakistan, the Indian writers never cease their efforts. What is the exact situation now? According to Indian sources, China has occupied Kashmir territory which was ceded to it by Pakistan under the 1963 Pakistan-China Agreement and China occupied a large chunk of Kashmiri territory in Aksai Chin area. All this means that China is already involved in Kashmir. Then why not ask the Chinese to be part of the negotiation process. May be the Chinese presence will have a soothing impact on Indian thinking. It needs to be stressed here that in my perceptions the Chinese would never agree to be a party to Kashmir talks. Being extremely pragmatic people, it would not be a very attractive option to exercise. In fact they have already opted for broad-based relationship with their southern neighbour. This of course does not mean that China would sacrifice its deep and extremely close relationships with Pakistan in order to earn Indian goodwill. Besides, the Americans, who enjoy considerable influence over the Indians, would not look at it favourably. As a matter of fact it is not too farfetched to assume that the Americans are investing in India for some future eventuality. Whether or not China should be invited to participate in Indo-Pak Kashmir talks is a question that the readers should decide themselves. However, one thing is certain that the Americans as well as the Chinese should continue encouraging both India and Pakistan to stay the path that they have adopted in recent times. The peace of the region is heavily dependent upon Indo-Pak normalisation. For China it is equally important that South Asia sheds its past hang-ups and focuses on the future.