In what may be considered as a provocative gesture, a frontier defence regiment of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Pakistan’s border police force recently held joint patrols along the Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) border near the western Xinjiang region.
Soon after Chinese and Pakistani forces carried out joint patrols near the PoK-India border, the English-language website of ‘People’s Daily’ posted photographs of the joint activities. The Chinese daily intentionally described the region as the “China-Pakistan border”, although Xinjiang borders only PoK that is considered by India as an integral part of the Indian territory.
Usually, Beijing refers to the region as “Pakistan-administered Kashmir” and calls Jammu and Kashmir “Indian-administered Kashmir”. However, the People’s Daily referred only to “Pakistan” this time. In the past, China did not send forces to the sensitive PoK region. So, the sudden shift in China’s security policy has surprised the top political leadership in New Delhi.
Indian defence analysts have expressed serious concern over the Chinese activities near the Indian border, saying that it underlines Beijing’s plan to further deepen its footprint in PoK. Earlier, China had gone forward with an ambitious USD 46 billion corridor from Xinjiang through PoK to Pakistan’s Gwadar port, ignoring India’s protests. Beijing argued that the projects were “purely commercial” and “without prejudice” to the Kashmir issue that should be resolved by India and Pakistan bilaterally.
Experts believe that China is in no mood to resolve its outstanding issues with India. Renowned Indian political commentator Shishir Gupta urged both China and India to try to resolve outstanding bilateral issues through peaceful negotiation. In an article published recently in a national daily, he wrote that the regional and global aspirations of India and China could not be fulfilled without each other’s co-operation. According to Gupta, India’s NSG membership bid and the UN Tribunal’s rejection of China’s claims to the South China Sea have created a degree of bilateral turbulence. Now, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping should try to normalise relations between the two Asian neighbours diplomatically. At the same time, Beijing will have to understand that the Chinese notion of a weak India is not a reality in 2016.