ALL of a sudden it has dawned upon the Trump administration that China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) project passes through ‘disputed territory’, and hence the US must oppose it. For quite some time, China phobia has paralyzed rational thinking in the US policy making circles, the malice is bipartisan. Earlier Obama had also opposed setting up of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) by China, but he was shocked to find close American allies making a bee line to join the AIIB as its founding members.
In his recent briefing to the US lawmakers on the Pak-Afghan region, US Defence Secretary James Mattis had commented that the US was opposed the One Belt, One Road policy in principle because in a globalized world there were many belts and many roads, and no one nation should put itself into a position of dictating One Belt, One Road: “The One Belt, One Road also goes through disputed territory, and I think that in itself shows the vulnerability of trying to establish that sort of a dictate.” Earlier, this claim had been made by India with the view to thwart the multi-billion dollar connectivity project that will link Gwadar to China’s Xinjiang.
Existence of this dirty nexus has been well known for quite some time, but Americans were publically maintaining obscurity. Now the US has emerged from the shadow and is standing rock firm behind India. Something better has happened in the form of Mad Dog’s confession, it will be easier to handle the unholy alliance. China and Pakistan have already issued the rebuttal. After facing s strategic fiasco in Doklam, India is all set to engage China in proxy war in Balochistan with the objective of disrupting implementation of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). On behest of India, separatist Baloch elements have widened the focus to jointly demonize China and Pakistan.
A fairly stable political process in Balochistan does not support the views of separatist elements, that is why these disgruntled dissidents are afraid to become part of political process, and they rely on staying abroad and remote controlling the handful supporters to carryout terrorist activities in Balochistan and beyond. A potent Indian intelligence network operates from neighbouring Iran and Afghanistan. Iran was caught unaware with the capture of Indian Naval Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was stationed at Chabahar port city of Iran. Iran was not aware that India was clandestinely using its soil for carrying out terrorist activities in Balochistan. Iran has assured Pakistan, at the highest level, that it won’t allow any third party to use its territory for illegitimate acts.
Earlier last month, India had spent huge amount in arranging display of Free Balochistan posters in Geneva, on the eve of 36th session of Human Rights Council. End result was embarrassing for India as a number of Indian organizations struggling for right of self-determination, autonomy and independence from India were quick to pick the cues and display similar banners for their respective cause.
On September 30, Harbyar Mari’s “Free Balochistan Movement” (FBM) organized a protest in Gottingen, Germany on the eve of “Chinese National Day”. This has been done on the line of Indian tune of obnoxious narrative about China’s neo-colonialism and human rights violations in Balochistan. Protest organizers stated that “China and Pakistan nexus is aimed to turn Baloch demography into a minority”. Baloch Student Organization-Azad (BSO) has also held a demonstration outside 10 Downing Street on October 01 to highlight Pakistan’s alleged “war crimes in Balochistan”.
As tide has been turned on India financed terrorism in Balochistan, and space has been squeezed on Indian proxies in Balochistan, India has hired dissidents to keep the issue stirring in European capitals. The core objective is to disrupt progress on CPEC. Nonetheless India is in a terrible lag, as most of the CPEC related projects are near completion. India faces critical strategic choices in Asia, and must contend with complex geopolitical uncertainties imposed by a powerful and assertive China, but India is not ready to reconcile with peaceful rise of China. India is doing whatever it could to impede peaceful rise of China.
In an article carried by Carnegie India, Rajesh Rajagopalan, a professor of international politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, has argued that partnership with the United States is the most effective approach to outpace China’s growth. In his article captioned: “India’s Strategic Choices: China and the Balance of Power in Asia”, Rajesh adds: “Though India has considerable military power, China’s forces are already stronger and better-funded…China’s alignment with Pakistan and deepening relations with other South Asian countries represents a significant challenge to India’s position in the region…”. He worries that “ Beijing’s ability to provide financial assistance and balance against New Delhi may tempt India’s smaller neighbours to play one power against the other, undermining India in its own backyard”.
Write conveniently turns blind eye on the Indian role of financing favourite parties during previous elections in some of the South Asian countries, more specifically Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Moreover India’s arm twisting of Nepal and Bhutan during Modi era has forced South Asian countries to look towards China as savior against Indian high handedness. India’s strategic failure to stand on its feet during Doklam crisis has sent across a strong message that India in no match to China.
Like the US, China phobia is overtaking rational Indian calculus as well. And with Modi in the driving seat, India is more likely to be less inclined towards a reality check. Tool readily available to India for fighting China is to impede execution of CPEC related projects through proxies. Now with big brother at its beck and call, India is likely to become more emboldened in its anti-CPEC spree.
—The writer is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad.