An Alliance Or Nexus Against India: China-Pakistan Strategic Alliance And Kashmir Problem – Analysis



The Kashmir Problem/conflict is a territorial dispute between the Government of India, Kashmiri insurgent groups and the Government of Pakistan over control of the Kashmir region. While an inter-state dispute over Kashmir has existed between India and Pakistan since the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 an internal conflict between Kashmiri insurgents (some favouring Kashmiri accession to Pakistan, and some favouring Kashmir’s complete independence.)1 and the Government of India have constituted the main conflict and source of violence in the region since 2002.

India and Pakistan have fought at least three wars over Kashmir, including the Indo-Pakistani Wars of 1947, 1965 and 1999 and since 1984 the two countries have also been involved in several skirmishes over control of the Siachen Glacier. In 1965 and 1971, heavy fighting broke out again between India and Pakistan. The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 resulted in the defeat of Pakistan and the Pakistani military’s surrender in East Pakistan, leading to the creation of Bangladesh. The Shimla Agreement was signed in 1972 between India and Pakistan. By this treaty, both countries agreed to settle all issues by peaceful means using mutual discussion in the framework of the UN Charter.2

In 1962, troops from the People’s Republic of China and India clashed in territory claimed by both. China won a swift victory in the war, resulting in the Chinese annexation of the region called Aksai Chin, which has continued since then. Another smaller area, the Trans-Karakoram, was demarcated as the Line of Control (LOC) between China and Pakistan, although some of the territory on the Chinese side is claimed by India to be part of Kashmir. The line that separates India from China in this region is known as the “Line of Actual Control”.3

India claims the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir and as of 2010, administers approximately 43% of the region, including most of Jammu, the Kashmir Valley, Ladakh, and the Siachen Glacier. India’s claims are contested by Pakistan, which controls approximately 37% of Kashmir, namely Azad Kashmir and the northern areas of Gilgit Baltistan. The roots of the conflict between the Kashmiri insurgents and the Indian Government are tied to a dispute over local autonomy. Democratic development was limited in Kashmir until the late 1970s and by 1988 many of the democratic reforms provided by the Indian Government had been reversed and non-violent channels for expressing discontent were limited and caused a dramatic increase in support for insurgents advocating violent secession from India.

In 1987, a disputed State election created a catalyst for the insurgency when it resulted in some of the state’s legislative assembly members forming armed insurgent groups. In July 1988 a series of demonstrations, strikes and attacks on the Indian Government began the Kashmir Insurgency which during the 1990s escalated into the most important internal security issue in India. The turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir has resulted in thousands of deaths, but has become less deadly in recent years.

There have been protest movements in Indian Administered Kashmir since 1989. The movements were created to voice Kashmir’s disputes and grievances with the Indian government, specifically the Indian Military. Elections held in 2008 were generally regarded as fair by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, had a high voter turnout in spite of calls by militants for a boycott, and led to the pro-India Jammu & Kashmir National Conference forming the government in the state. According to Voice of America, many analysts have interpreted the high voter turnout in this election as a sign that the people of Kashmir have endorsed Indian rule in the state.4

China-Pakistan Relations

Pakistan was one of the earliest countries to recognize the People’s Republic of China, becoming only the third country and the first Muslim country to recognize the Communist state in 1950.

Diplomatic relations were established the following year in 1951, between Beijing and the then capital‐ Karachi. However, relations between the two countries were not entirely cordial, owing to numerous regional issues. These included Pakistan’s membership of Western backed alliances, including South East Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) as also of the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO). Significant movement on China‐Pakistan relations followed the China‐India border war of 1962.

The beginning of a perceivable shift in China’s policy towards India can be linked to the developments after the 1962 war and was clearly seen in Chinese support to Pakistan against India, during the 1965 India‐Pakistan war. According to US National Security Archives, George C. Denney, Deputy Director of Intelligence and Research, US Department of State, wrote a report to Secretary Rusk, titled “Pakistan and Communist China Strengthen Cooperation,” on 4 December 1968. The report alleged that the Pakistani military had given the Chinese access to US F‐104 supersonic fighter aircraft, in violation of the acceptance agreement with the Pentagon, and in exchange for which, the Chinese provided interest free loans to Pakistan.

The fissures which such a revelation should have caused were mitigated by the fact that the new Nixon administration viewed Pakistan as important, owing precisely to its growing relations with China. Yahya Khan played a crucial role in progressing China‐US relations, pushing for US National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger’s visit to China in July 1971, when tensions in then East Pakistan were on the rise, which culminated in the famous visit of President Richard Nixon to China in 1972.

The appreciation for Pakistan’s situation was referenced in a letter by Chinese leader Zhou Enlai to Yahya Khan, who wrote that in response to any Indian aggression, “The Chinese government and people will, as always, firmly support the Pakistan government and people in their just struggle to safeguard state sovereignty and national independence.” Regional geopolitics, particularly the fear of involving the both the superpowers in a conflict in Asia, however, limited China’s response and resulted in Pakistan’s partition. This alliance was to take the form of nuclear cooperation, especially in the aftermath of the Indian nuclear test of 1974. This cooperation continued into the late 1990s, culminating with alleged assistance to Pakistan in its response to the Indian nuclear test of 1998.5

China-Pakistan Military, Economic, Trade and Nuclear Relations

China has come to the help of Pakistan whenever it was needed. Apart from several minor projects, the very prominent symbols of friendship in Pakistan are the Karakoram Highway, deep sea Gwadar Port, Chashma Nuclear power plants, Heavy Mechanical Complex at Taxila, subsidized construction of frigates, joint production of JF-17 Thunder aircraft, etc. At present, China is helping Pakistan in the most needed energy sector.

The Pakistan-China Joint Economic Working Group is an ideal platform to discuss energy related issues. Mutual trade is increasing slowly but steadily. Apart from the long-tested political friendship, the two nations share strong economic and military ties. China helped set up defence production facilities in Pakistan, and the two countries jointly produce military equipment, including aircraft.

China has also provided generous amounts of money to Pakistan in the form of aid and soft loans. Annual trade between the two countries is between six and seven billion dollars per annum, and is expected to reach $12 billion by the end of this year. After the U.S. imposition of military sanctions on Pakistan in 1990, China became Pakistan’s largest supplier of military hardware, including missiles. (The U.S. lifted its sanctions on Pakistan after September 2001, when Pakistan became a “front line ally” of the U.S. in its “war on terror”.)

China also provided sensitive missile and nuclear weapons technology and equipment to Islamabad, allowing it to test its nuclear weapons days after the Indian nuclear tests of May 1998. Furthermore, China’s People’s Liberation Army regularly trains and conducts joint exercises with Pakistani forces.

Sino-Pakistani ties in various spheres remain strong despite continuous political strife in Pakistan. Successive Pakistani military dictators and democratically-elected leaders have traditionally made Beijing their first official foreign port of call.

Following the devastating earthquake in China’s Sichuan province in May 2008, Pakistan pulled out all the stops to help, rushing medical teams, 30,000 tents, food, life-saving drugs and other essential supplies to China. A Chinese foreign office spokesman, while acknowledging foreign support generally, declared that the Chinese people found Pakistan as their “most trusted and reliable friend, coming to their help in the quickest and most generous manner.” This was a sign of true friendship, and it proved once again that Sino-Pakistani friendship was time-tested and mutually beneficial, he added.

The relationship has strong strategic underpinnings as well. China helped build the major port complex and naval base at Gwadar in the troubled Pakistani province of Baluchistan. Formally inaugurated in December 2008, the deep sea port with modern facilities caters to shipping from more than 30 countries. The port also gives the Chinese navy strategic access to the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, through which most of the world’s oil shipments are routed.

This is especially useful considering that China is one of the world’s largest importers of oil. The port also gives downstream access to China’s landlocked and restive Xinjiang autonomous region, and the resource-rich Central Asian nations. Gwadar is a critical “pearl” in the Chinese “string of pearls” – the term used to refer to friendly ports and airfields – with access to sea lanes stretching from Hong Kong to the Arabian Gulf. China insists that such ports which, apart from Hong Kong, include Sittwe, the Coco Islands and others in Myanmar, the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka (still under construction), and Gwadar, are aimed an ensuring that its energy supply is not disrupted.

Some Indian analysts worry, however, that this is part of a Chinese plan to “encircle” and contain a rising India. The New York-based Council for Foreign Relations quoted Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S., as saying in 2006: “For China, Pakistan is a low-cost secondary deterrent to India,” while “for Pakistan, China is a high-value guarantor of security against India.”6

Pakistan and China have enjoyed a generally close and mutually beneficial relationship over several decades. Pakistan served as a link between Beijing and Washington in 1971, as well as a bridge to the Muslim world for China during the 1980s. China’s continuing role as a major arms supplier for Pakistan began in the 1960s and included helping to build a number of arms factories in Pakistan, as well as supplying complete weapons systems.

After the 1990 imposition of U.S. sanctions on Pakistan, the Islamabad-Beijing arms relationship was further strengthened.7 In 2005, China’s Prime Minister visited Islamabad, where Pakistan and China signed 22 accords meant to boost bilateral cooperation.

President Musharraf’s five-day visit to Beijing in early 2006 saw bilateral discussions on counterterrorism, trade, and technical assistance. Chinese President Hu’s late 2006 travel to Islamabad was the first such visit by a Chinese president in ten years; another 18 new bilateral pacts were inked, including a bilateral Free Trade Agreement. In mid- 2007, Prime Minister Aziz visited Beijing, where Pakistan and China signed 27 new agreements and memoranda of understanding to “re-energize” bilateral cooperation in numerous areas, including defense, space technology, and trade. No public mention was made regarding civil nuclear cooperation. President Musharraf’s April 2008 travel to Beijing produced ten new memoranda of understanding and a reiteration of the two countries “special relations.”8

In the month after he took office, President Zardari paid a visit to Beijing. Speculation on his central motive focused on Pakistan’s urgent need for aid to correct its growing balance of payments deficit; China’s huge foreign-exchange reserves are a potential source of a major cash infusion. Yet Zardari left Beijing without having secured any Chinese commitment in this area, although reports did suggest that the Chinese had agreed to build two new nuclear power reactors in Pakistan.9 U.S. congressional opponents of such a development confirmed with the Bush State Department that China’s provision of new nuclear reactors to Pakistan would represent a clear violation of its international obligations as members of the NSG.10 Late 2008 visits to Beijing by senior Pakistani military officers reviewed progress on multiple military hardware deals, including Pakistan’s purchase of four new Chinese guided-missile frigates and a fleet of coproduced JF-17 fighter aircraft.11

China’s growing influence and Kashmir

In 1962, following a short but brutal border war with India, China took full control of Aksai Chin. This disputed region has been claimed by India and is located in the far western part of China adjacent to Xinjiang province, home to the Uygur Muslim minority that has been prone to social unrest.

Following this Sino-Indo border war, China developed an all weather friendship with Pakistan. China supported Pakistan in the wars against India in 1965 and 1971 and staunchly supported Pakistan in its stance over Kashmir. However, after Deng Xiaoping’s policies of opening up and political reform in 1978, during which period China was in the process to normalize relations with India – and other countries – after almost three decades of revolutionary diplomacy, China has increasingly been balancing its relations with both India and Pakistan, and has gradually been adapting its stance over Kashmir.

Following the end of the Cold War, China chose to adopt a neutral stance on the dispute and still maintains today that the dispute should be resolved peacefully and bilaterally through negotiations.

Although China solved many of its land border disputes with neighboring countries, the boundary issues with India remain unresolved. During the latest visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to China in October 2013, the two most populous nations and neighbors, signed the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement to maintaining peace and tranquility on the border and to make preliminary progress toward the settlement of their boundary issues. This border agreement, however, only preserves today’s status quo. Resolving the boundary issues between the two Asian giants has remained a difficult task to achieve. This does not mean, however, that one cannot move forward towards negotiations and seeking the possibilities to improve the overall living conditions of the people in disputed regions that are a breeding ground for a disillusioned youth that often finds no hope for a better, alternative future.

China has also been dealing with terrorist related issues in its far western Xinjiang province bordering with the disputed Kashmir region. As recent as October 2013 the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) launched a suicide attack in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that killed two people and injured another 40. Ma Pinyan, a senior anti-terrorism researcher and deputy director of the ethnic and religious study center at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences in Urumqi, has stated that border areas with China in neighboring countries have become hotbeds for its activities, aims to provide continuous training for people in Xinjiang and masterminding attacks.12

China’s presence in Pakistan occupied Kashmir

China’s presence in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) is yet another matter of concern to India. As far as physical occupation of Jammu & Kashmir is concerned, it may be mentioned that while India holds 45 per cent and Pakistan controls 35 per cent, China occupies about 20 per cent of the Jammu & Kashmir territory. China seized about 38000 sq. km. (14,670 sq. miles) of Indian Territory in Aksi Chin as well as another 5,180 sq. km. (2000 sq. miles) of Northern Kashmir that Pakistan ceded to Beijing in 1963.

The Karakoram highway, which connects China’s Xinjiang region with Gilgit-Baltistan region, under Pakistan occupation, was constructed by both, Chinese and Pakistani engineers and was completed in1986. China is currently involved in several infrastructures in the disputed region. China and Pakistan signed a deal in 2006 to upgrade the Karakorom highway. Once the projects are completed, the transport capacity of this strategically significant region will increase significantly. The Karakorom highway will facilitate unfettered Chinese access to the oil-rich Gulf through the Pakistani port of Gwadar in Balochistan. During the visit of the Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to China in August 2010 to Beijing, he declared Kashgar as a Special Economic Zone like the Shenzhen. The announcement makes Kashgar in the north-west China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, the sixth Special Economic Zone of China. Pakistan never misses an opportunity to play the China card against India. For example, when the two-day Siachen talks between India and Pakistan was held in New Delhi on May 30 and 31, 2011, Pakistan pushed for China to be represented during the negotiation on the ground that Beijing controls the Shakshan Valley in the Siachen.

Recent reports note that China has deployed troops in Gilgit Baltistan territory, in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. While Chinese officials ascribe this to the economic and infrastructure development in the region, this obtrusive presence is a cause for concern in New Delhi. Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir – Pakistan occupied parts of Kashmir – have been conspicuously absent in the media as well as in the scholarly literature.

Occupied by Pakistan since 1948, the region has been kept under wraps and outside the ambit of the Kashmir Conflict by Islamabad, which has been relentless in diverting attention to the issue of human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan has been using the territory, resources and people of the region to further its national objectives. Militarily, this territory has served as a launching pad for all ventures of the Pakistan army to create unrest in Jammu and Kashmir including offering a permanent sanctuary for radical extremist and terrorist organisations that threaten regional security.

In recent years, China has been able to change the geopolitical and geostrategic equations in this region that borders China, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan. China’s upgrading of the Karakoram Highway, its development of road and rail access as well as other constructions including dams and tunnels, enable it to extend its strategic reach to the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf through Pakistan. As far as China is concerned, the Karakoram Highway is integral to keep Pakistan’s military sustained against India. Hence, the presence of Chinese troops in the contested region constitutes Beijing’s direct involvement in the Kashmir dispute.

Consequentially, this could, in principle, transform a bilateral dispute into a trilateral dispute, with China being the third stakeholder. That apart, the roads and bridges being constructed with Chinese assistance facilitate Pakistan army operations against India in the region. This involvement further signals that “Pakistan is a frontline state of China’s Grand Strategy” to strengthen the

Chinese presence in South Asia.

Another issue of political relevance is that China’s ‘Kashmir is a disputed territory’ stance could harden, marking a shift from the earlier view that ‘it is a de facto part of India’. This coupled with Beijing’s issue of stapled visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir and its refusal of a visa to India’s northern army commander on the grounds that he commanded a ‘disputed territory’, is causing India to suspect whether China is taking unilateral steps to change the dynamics of the dispute.

Related to this is China’s direct involvement in India’s domestic politics – specifically the secessionist movement in Kashmir valley, which is evident in the invitation extended to separatist leader Mirwaiz Farooq. This development could also be a signal to India to abstain from interfering in matters related to Tibet in future. These developments are posing fresh military challenges to India not only along the India-China border but also along the Line of Control.

Unlike earlier, when China had logistic limitations on India’s western front (read Ladakh) in terms of fuel supply for troops, the Karakoram Highway and ongoing infrastructure development will facilitate military operations against India. China’s intensified engagement in the region, encompassing reconstruction and development, suggests a subtle move to alter the security situation in the region.

Finally, in the context of a combined China-Pakistan military threat to India, China’s development activities in the area is likely to facilitate speedy and enhanced deployment of Pakistan army to complement China’s military and thus outflank India. Another reason for the heightened concern about India’s strategic environment is China’s putting in place a “string of pearls” around India in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) through the development of ports and other infrastructure. This implies that the noose around India can be tightened if necessity, both on land and water. Beijing’s geostrategic ambitions over time are translating into a grand strategy of regional dominance, which has serious security implications for India.13

Chinese Support to Kashmiri Separatists and the Stapled Visa Issue

Besides supplying arms and ammunitions, missiles, nuclear technology and developing infrastructure in the PoK, Beijing has been extending open support to Pakistan and the Kashmiri separatists through its opposition to the UN Security Council ban on the Jihadi organizations targeting India. Listing of terrorists and terrorist’s organization under UNSC 126777 obliges countries to impose sanctions against them. China, which wields veto power in the UNSC, is empowered to block listings.

India has been urging to impose sanctions against Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e- Mohammad. China, however, has placed technical hold on the Indian request ostensibly on the ground that India did not provide sufficient information.

According to a Wiki-leak revelation carried in The Hindu on June 7, 2011, the US State Department views China acting at the behest of Pakistan. There is also a perception that both China and Pakistan are cooperating in preventing India’s bid for a permanent seat in the United Nations’ Security Council. The practice of issuing stapled visa to Indian citizens from Jammu and Kashmir travelling to China, which the Chinese embassy in Delhi started from 2008 was yet another major irritant in the bilateral relationship between the two countries. In September 2010, China denied a visa to Lt Gen B.S. Jaswal, the GOC of the Indian Army’s Northern Command for official talks in Beijing on the grounds that he was commanding troops in disputed area. The issue of the stapled visa was later discussed between the two countries at the highest level and the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi issued proper visas to Indian journalists from Jammu and Kashmir, who accompanied the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh when he visited China in April 2011 to participate in the BRICS Summit in Sanya. In recent times, there is no report of stapled visas being given to Indian nationals from Jammu & Kashmir.

This is suggestive of China’s shifting of attitude. But there has been no official statement regarding this purposefully. The reason being such an official statement will annoy Pakistan and secondly, it forecloses China’s option of issuing stapled visas to Indian citizens of Jammu & Kashmir.14

Future Implications for India from the Strategic China-Pakistan Nexus

For Pakistan, China’s support remains crucial for countervailing India’s regional predominance and protecting its long-term security interests. Kashmir remains the bone of contention between India and Pakistan, and is often seen as a barometer for measuring China’s relations with India and/or Pakistan.

The Chinese endorsement of Pakistan’s position on Kashmir following the outbreak of hostilities between India and China in 1962 gave Pakistan a decisive edge over India. However, a steady improvement in Sino-Indian relations in the 1980s and 1990s saw Beijing move from its extreme position of supporting a plebiscite in Kashmir to adopting a more nuanced stance on the issue. This was interpreted by some as China moving to a pro-India position on Kashmir. However, events in the last two years suggest that China is diluting its position on Kashmir and inching back to supporting the Pakistan line. A significant move was China’s decision to grant visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir on a separate sheet stapled to the passport rather than on the passport itself.

China has also been increasingly involved in road and infrastructural projects in Pakistani-administered Kashmir. China is reportedly assisting Pakistan with the construction of the Bunji Hydroelectric project in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, and is also planning a rail line that connects the Khunjerab pass with the Chinese city of Kashgar. In 2010, there were reports of 11,000 Chinese troops stationed in Gilgit in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. This was denied by both China and Pakistan, who insisted that it was a Chinese humanitarian team that was in Gilgit to assist the flood victims, but India remained concerned.

Such activities reinforce the fact that China, which occupies one-fifth of the original State of Jammu and Kashmir, is an important third party in the Kashmir dispute. Moreover, the reported presence of Chinese troops in the Pakistani part of Kashmir, even if in the form of construction battalions, means there are Chinese troops on both flanks (east and west) of Indian Kashmir.

The Sino-Pakistan nexus, extending far beyond the increasing Chinese footprint in Pakistani Kashmir, actually presents India with a two-front theater in the event of a war with either country. From India’s perspective, Chinese presence in Kashmir brings China closer to its borders, with long-term implications for India.

In the ultimate analysis, it needs to be understood that unlike both Pakistan and India, China is operating from a position of strength and its support for Pakistan is going to be governed by its own strategic objectives and regional agenda as a major global power. Mathieu Duchatel, for example, sees China’s priorities in Kashmir shifting from ‘weakening India, to tacitly accepting Indian power, to vigilance that Pakistan not become too weak.’ China’s more balanced position on Kashmir had less to do with its dilution of support for Pakistan than with its own strategic interests in cultivating India at a time in the 1990s, when India offered tremendous economic opportunity.

Similarly, its seemingly rigid stance on the visa issue could be its way of exercising leverage over India, rather than merely reinforcing its special ties with Pakistan. As Jingdong Yuan notes astutely, ‘China’s support of Pakistan’s position signal its political intent rather than exercise an unswerving commitment…which explains Beijing’s largely moral and political support rather than direct military involvement in the Kashmir conflict.’

Ashley J. Tellis is even more circumspect about China’s unqualified support for Pakistan vis-a-vis India. Besides diplomatic and moral support, he argues, ‘China might even be willing to provide it with the military instruments necessary to preserve its security, but it will neither provide Pakistan any formal guarantees of security nor extend deterrence. Nor will it prepare joint defences that imply coordinate military action against India’.15


The China-Pakistan nexus is clearly a case of convergence of interests of the two. China wants to balance India in South-Asia, and Pakistan wants a protective shield. The interests of the two countries had converged in the backdrop of the geopolitics during the Cold War years, particularly after the Sino-Soviet split and the Indo-Soviet friendship treaty of 1971.

The bifurcation of Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh had impelled the convergence of strategic and security interests of China and Pakistan. It may be recalled that during the earlier years of the Cold War in the 1950s, Pakistan had supported the USA in the CENTO pact against China. The change in the geo-politics only changed the equation between China and Pakistan.

A study of Sino-Pak axis clearly indicates that their proximity was in close proportion to India’s proximity to Russia, and later to the USA when the two signed the Indo-US Nuclear Deal in 2008. The Sino-Pak Axis can partially be explained in terms of the trust-deficit and security dilemma between India and China. The slow and incremental Sino-India engagement has produced corresponding Chinese sensitivity to India’s concerns.

Further, China displayed an equal gesture to both India and Pakistan when it signed the ‘Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation and Good Neigbourly Relations’ with Pakistan in April 2005, and Beijing signed a similar and path-breaking agreement with India. The reason being that the geopolitical significance of Pakistan for China is hard to be ignored by anyone.

Moreover, the geographical proximity of Kashmir to the disputed India-China boundary has brought Pakistan into the strategic centre stage of China’s South Asia policy. It is against this context that India needs to adopt a nuanced approach so far as the Sino-Pak strategic nexus is concerned. As is evident in the paper, there have been certain gaps in Pakistan’s claims and China’s commitments. Besides, China’s neutral position in the Kargil war was reflective of China’s little changing attitude towards India. The doing away of the practice of the stapled visa to Indian citizens from Jammu and Kashmir is yet another example of China’s softening of its stance towards India. However, more needs to be done by China to mitigate the persistent trust deficit between the two countries.

Collusive support is a dynamic strategy adopted by a nation to pursue own interests under prevailing geo-political situation by providing overt and covert support to an alliance partner against a mutual threat. In 2010, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jaibao had visited India (much like Chou en Lai had done in 1961) to size up his opponents and make the so called bid for peace. From Delhi he went to Pakistan and extolled the cliché ‘China-Pak friendship is ‘higher than the mountains and deeper than the oceans’.16 Gilgit has virtually been handed over to China by Pakistan. Apparently this is a gradual shedding of the POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir). The new Chinese approach to the western sector reveals that India’s problem could be much larger than the question of stapled visas.

Like the US focus on Af-Pak, India need to focus on ‘China-Pak’ as a combined threat to India that may be manipulated more and more in the future by Beijing. The China-Pak nexus is the strongest any country can possibly have with China. How Asia’s geopolitical landscape will evolve over the next couple of decades is not easy to foresee. But it is apparent that an increasingly assertive China is unwittingly reinforcing America’s role in Asia as the implicit guarantor of security and stability.

For the foreseeable future, the Sino-Pakistani strategic nexus will remain an enduring aspect of the China-India-Pakistan triangle, although Pakistan’s own future trajectory remains uncertain. Kashmir, for its part, is likely to remain a festering territory dispute, which can, at best, be managed well by the three disputants. In fact, calls to resolve that dispute are equivalent to asking that an irretrievably broken down marriage be fixed. Sino-Indian friction is growing and the potential for conflict remains high. China and Pakistan are hand in gloves in waging asymmetric war on India and the situation is likely to get increasingly volatile. With heightened Sino-India friction, the combined China-Pak threat is graver than ever before. India need to review the threat holistically, evolve a strategy and implement it at the earliest.

(Asif Ahmed, Assistant Professor, Defence & Strategic Studies, Department of Political Science, Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra, E-Mail [email protected] )

1. Uppsala Conflict Data Program Conflict Encyclopedia, Conflict Summary, Conflict name: India: Kashmir, Type of incompatibility: Territory, Interstate/intrastate dimension: Intrastate, Conflict status: Ongoing, Date of first stated goals of incompatibility: 29 May 1977,…Southern_Asia#
2. Asif Ahmed “An Analysis of India-Pakistan Relations from Past to Present – Strategic Implications for India” Published in Suraksha Chintan’s Special issue on Indo-Pak-Relations. Vol.3 No.3, July 2011 on page no 90-101.
3. Nick Easen CNN (24 May 2002). “ – Aksai Chin: China’s disputed slice of Kashmir – 24 May 2002″. CNN.
5. Siddharth Ramana, China-Pakistan Nuclear Alliance, IPCS Special Report, August 2011.
6. Ramananda Sengupta, Evaluating a rocky India-China-Pakistan relationship, February 2010, Al Jazeera Centre for Studies,
7. See CRS Report RL31555, China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues.
8. K. Alan Kronstadt, Pakistan-U.S. Relations, Feb 6,2009,
9. “Pakistan Secures China’s Help to Build 2 Nuclear Reactors,” Wall Street Journal, October 20, 2008.
10. See…486&Itemid=141.
11. See…ate=2008/12/20.
12. Laura Schuurmans, Kashmir: the Geopolitical Implications & its impact on regional peace and security, Kashmir EU week at the European Parliament Brussels, Belgium, November 2013.
13. Anwesha Ray Chaudhuri, India and the Pakistan-China Nexus in Gilgit-Baltistan, March 16, 2011…audhuri_160311
No. 19 May 2013.
15. Rajshree Jetly ,Sino-Pakistan Strategic Entente:Implications for Regional Security, ISAS Working Paper No. 143 – 14 February 2012.

Asif Ahmed

Asif Ahmed is Assistant Professor at the University of Kurukshetra, teaching defense and strategic studies. He holds an MA in Defence & Strategic Studies (Punjabi University) with couple of other post graduate degrees in Mass Communications and Journalism. Professor Asif Ahmed has published one book on national security of India and authored articles in English, Punjabi, and Hindi languages in various newspapers, magazines journals, and has also edited chapters in books at the national and international levels. For some time he also participated in Live Radio Talks and Phone in counseling programs at the AIR Patiala station in India. Professor Ahmed's areas of interests are National Security of India, Distance Education, Human Rights Education, and Environment Education. He may be reached at [email protected]. and blogs at

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