CPEC AND KASHMIR

Niloofar Qureshi

 

Pakistan must be feeling satisfaction in deafly handing the situation that silenced New Delhi’s strong objections to CPEC, writes Niloofar Qureshi on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). According to her, it seems New Delhi’s initial clamour and subsequent silence must be a well –planned move to further isolate Pakistan on Kashmir issue. UN resolutions on resolving Kashmir are applicable to the entire territory of J&K and not only to Indian Kashmir. Thus Pakistan’s Kashmir strategy is flawed. By permitting construction of CPEC through PoK despite protests of India, Islamabad has exercised its ownership right, and by doing so weakened its case. That World Bank as well as Asian  Development Bank refused to finance Daimer – Bhasa project in Gilgit Baltistan, shows that Pakistan’s claim of J&K being disputed refers to POK as well!

Excerpts:

The CPEC Project:

“The CPEC project is progressing well and Islamabad must be extremely happy that New Delhi’s massive efforts to sabotage it have been effectively thwarted by its Foreign Office and the ISI. However, the greatest satisfaction for Islamabad is obviously what it considers as deft handling of the situation that completely silenced New Delhi’s strong objections to the CPEC and even Washington’s support for India on this issue didn’t help. Yet it seems quite odd that the otherwise obdurate New Delhi which lays full claim on Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) has given up its ‘fight’ over the construction of CPEC through this territory so meekly. Thus, instead of celebrating what it considers being a great ‘victory’, Islamabad needs to be a bit more wary. Though I’ve no expertise in unraveling murky mysteries of diplomacy but then it doesn’t require a specialist to decipher how New Delhi is using the CPEC to strengthen its own case on Kashmir. It may appear that New Delhi decided to stop raising objections to CPEC after realising that its protests were of no avail as both Beijing and Islamabad were determined to go-ahead with this project at all costs. However, I’m not inclined to believe that New Delhi’s opposition to CPEC was an emotional decision and neither am I convinced that its subsequent silence on this issue was after realizing that it had failed. There’s always the possibility that New Delhi’s initial clamour and subsequent silence on this issue may be a well planned move to further isolate Islamabad on the Kashmir issue!”

Pakistan’s Faulty Logic:

“Citing UN resolutions, Pakistan claims that Kashmir is ‘disputed’ territory and that Indian administered Kashmir (IaK) is under the ‘forced occupation’ of New Delhi.  Accordingly, it is demanding that people of IaK must be given the opportunity of exercising their ‘right to self determination’ through a plebiscite as stipulated in UN resolutions to decide whether they wish to stay with India or merge with Pakistan. While Pakistan’s interpretation of the UN resolutions on Kashmir isn’t completely wrong, it isn’t entirely accurate either. UN resolution 48 which outlines the process of resolving the Kashmir issue is applicable to the entire territory of J&K and not only to IaK. Thus, while the people of IaK need to be given the chance to exercise their ‘right of self determination’ as Islamabad demands, the people of PaK too require to be given the same opportunity. Therefore, Islamabad terming Indian presence in IaK as ‘forced occupation’ and demanding plebiscite here is nothing but sheer rhetoric as going by its logic, Pakistan too becomes ‘forced occupier’ of PaK. Unfortunately, declarations of Pakistan’s full support to ‘right of self determination’ in IaK make our leaders so happy and overcome with emotions that they fail to notice this huge fundamental imperfection in Islamabad’s Kashmir strategy. And the fact that even after seven decades of intense lobbying it has still not been able to galvanise international consensus for pressuring New Delhi to implement UN resolutions on Kashmir is irrefutable proof that Pakistan’s Kashmir strategy is flawed! However, despite Islamabad’s poor report card on the Kashmir issue the Hurriyat doesn’t seem to have either the heart or courage to confront Islamabad! Pakistan claims that constructing a road through PaK with the help of a third country (China) won’t  adversely impact the ‘disputed’ nature of J&K. However, is this really so? Though I’m not a legal expert but thanks to detailed inputs that friends and relatives fighting court cases insist on sharing, I too like many others have acquired basic knowledge about land disputes. And since territorial disputes are just large scale land disputes, what holds good for the former is equally applicable to the latter. A ‘dispute’ arises whenever there is a difference of opinion on any issue and in the case of Kashmir this is in the form of the controversy generated by the ‘atoot angh’ (inseparable part) versus ‘shah ragh’ (jugular vein) claims of India and Pakistan respectively”

Weakening the Case:

“The first and foremost canon concerning territorial disputes is that the moment legal cognisance is taken of the same, then parties to the dispute lose all ownership rights over the disputed territory till the case is resolved. Since the UN has taken cognisance of the Kashmir dispute and passed resolutions, neither India nor Pakistan has the legal sanction to alter the status quo except after seeking consent of the other party. Thus by permitting construction of CPEC through PaK despite protests by India, Islamabad has exercised its ‘ownership rights’ and by doing so, weakened its own ‘disputed territory’ case over Kashmir and there is definite evidence of this. During a US Senate Armed Services Committee hearing US Defence Secretary James Mattis said that the CPEC “goes through disputed territory and I think that in itself shows the vulnerability of trying to establish that sort of dictate.” Though Beijing has clarified that the CPEC has nothing to do “with territorial sovereignty disputes and does not affect China’s principled stance on the Kashmir issue,” but since it is not an ‘effected party’ to the Kashmir dispute, Beijing’s clarification has no legal value. And while both Islamabad and the Hurriyat are telling people of Kashmir that the CPEC will not have any adverse implications on the Kashmir issue, many noted analysts feel otherwise and they have good reasons for the same.

 

Global Response:

The case of Daimer-Bhasa Dam project in PaK’s Gilgit-Baltistan district is an example that precisely illustrates how the world views foreign funded projects in PaK. Readers would recall that both the World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) have refused to finance this $ 14 billion project since it is located in PaK which is disputed territory. While the ADB has been diplomatic while declining financial assistance, the WB was more forthright in refusing to fund this project when Islamabad declined to fulfill its demand of obtaining a ‘No Objection Certificate’ from New Delhi. Though Beijing ultimately agreed to fund this project but Islamabad has turned down the offer saying that the Chinese funding conditions “were against Pakistan’s interests.” With the bonhomie that exists between Islamabad and Beijing, it is surprising that the two couldn’t sort out their differences on funding conditions for the Daimer-Bhasa Dam project. So is it possible that knowing how the CPEC will weaken its position on Kashmir, Islamabad wants to avoid any further damage and that’s why it has used the excuse of national interests for refusing Chinese aid for this project as it is in PaK which is disputed territory! There is no doubt that New Delhi has played its cards extremely well. New Delhi has made its disapproval of the CPEC official by lodging formal protests with Islamabad and Beijing and by thereafter keeping silent even as work on this project goes on full steam it has cunningly goaded Pakistan into upsetting the status quo in Kashmir. So the next time Islamabad attempts to internationalise the Kashmir issue by claiming it to be ‘disputed territory’, New Delhi could well embarrass Pakistan by citing its unilateral decision to go ahead with the CPEC as proof that it has no respect for UN resolutions or international laws on territorial disputes”!

 

“Tailpiece: Pakistan may be doing its best for the people of IaK but no country can be expected to compromise its own national interests for the sake of someone else. And it’s evident that Islamabad’s own interests in CPEC have pushed the aspirations of Kashmiris into the backburner. That’s why the Hurriyat needs to start asserting itself as the apex body steering the Kashmir movement instead of handing over reins of this struggle to Islamabad”!

 

[Courtesy: Daily Kashmir Images, Srinagar; November 27, 2017]

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