The China factor in Kashmir

January 9, 2017
By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
Former Director General of Information Systems, Indian Army


That China is the central actor behind the problems in J&K is still not fully acknowledged by our policy makers. Not that it is a new development but the understanding remained coloured with the advice of our intelligence agencies who refused to get out of the time wrap. One example was their persistent advice to the government that the Hurriyat separatists are irrelevant. It is because of this the Hurriyat separatists were given not only a free hand to meet the Pakistani High Commissioner inside the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi, but they were lavished with money and crores were spent on their security, travel and stay in five star hotels. All this while Pakistan’s ISI used them effectively to radicalize the youth of Kashmir Valley, the true impact of which only became apparent post the killing of Burhan Wani. At the same time China also decided to entrench herself within the Devil’s establishment; projects in POK-Pakistan, CPEC and Gwadar. Pakistani proxies and radical mullah-terrorists are benefited from Chinese veto at the UN and in return Pakistan puts a lid on Chinese genocide in Xinjiang. China also needed to divert Uighur youth from Xinjinag, and who better than Pakistan to provide terrorist training and send them off for jihad. For some time now intelligence inputs were indicating LeT (covert arm of ISI) was providing terrorist training to Uighurs. Concurrently, reports and photographs appeared of Uighurs fighting in far away Syria.

NASA has recently released a photograph of a Chinese nuclear attack submarine that was docked at Karachi in May 2016. Pakistan’s Gwadar Port has been operationalized by the Chinese, who have also announced that Gwadar will be guarded by Chinese vessels and submarines. The China-Pakistan Corridor (CPEC) includes a road connection to Pakistani naval port at Omari. India’s call to UN for branding Masood Azhar, JeM chief as terrorist was until now were being frustrated by China terming it “technical hold”. However, China has now said that she is doing so on “professional” grounds. This is abetment of terrorism - and China has no compunctions of doing this openly. LeT training Uighurs on China’s behest is catching up although our intelligence agencies fail to acknowledge such development. Uighurs are believed to be involved in terrorist attacks in Turkey.

In May 2016, 98 Uighurs were caught passing through the Ataturk International Airport with fake Kyrgz passports. It is matter of time before Uighur terrorists are infiltrated into J&K. After all, terrorism is mode of employment provided by China and Pakistan. We have had Afghan terrorists operating in J&K in the past, so why not Uighur? The BSF has already found a diary written in Chinese on the body of a terrorist killed along the LoC last December. Intelligence agencies have reported that Chinese funds are coming into J&K for terrorism. This is a significant development, much more than the recovery of Chinese flags in Baramula during search operations last year and sighting of PLA soldiers on Pakistani posts along the LoC. China has dug some 22 tunnels in Gilgit-Baltistan under the garb of hydel projects where locals are not permitted to approach anywhere in the vicinity. These tunnels are reportedly being used to deploy strategic weapons and house missiles. Most significantly, even when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited China, the Chinese TV was showing maps of India without J&K and Arunachal Pradesh. This was a deliberate act of the Chinese government, which shows China’s true intentions. Pakistan’s export of terrorism both in India and Afghanistan has gone up with China’s entry into POK and Pakistan. China has always been obsessed with creating ‘depth’ to what it considers vital in strategic terms.

On ousting the Kuomintang regime, Mao Tse Tung announced, “Tibet is the palm of China and Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and North East Frontier Agency are its fingers”. Tibet was annexed while Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia were captured to provide a buffer to the mainland. China captured 38,000 sq kms of Aksai China to give adequate depth to its Western Highway. By the same analogy, what would be the Chinese strategy for providing ‘depth’ to the CPEC that is running through Gilgit-Baltistan afflicted with public dissatisfaction and Balochistan where insurgency simmers because of Pakistani genocide? If CPEC is to become target of terror attacks, what better strategy to provide depth to the CPEC but through sub-conventional operations in outward directions. This appears to have been operationalised, Pakistani proxies being common to China. That is why ceasefire violations, terror attacks, infiltration and violence in J&K have shot up exponentially. The China factor in Kashmir must always remain in focus of Indian policy makers.