By Franca Colozzon:Nowadays the world is looking eastward. The new “Silk Road” is about to be designed and is already underway since the cooperation between China and Pakistan, one of the most important under the aegis of the “Belt and Road” initiative, revolves around the pilot project of the Corridor Economic between the two countries.
Right now we are talking about a conflict that has lasted since 1948, when the situation in Kashmir became more effervescent than usual and winds of war arose between China and India for what is called the “Paradise of the world”, Ladakh.
One step from the most intense blue of the sky among the breathtaking landscapes of a high altitude desert dotted with snowy peaks, Ladakh is a territory that from 3,000 to over 6,000 meters high, within the federated state of Jammu & Kashmir, is nestled between the majestic Karakorum and Himalaya mountain ranges. That enchanted and peaceful land, Ladakh “country of high passes”, a magical and timeless place, today is a territory of clashes between Chinese and Indians.
Ladakh is located in the far north of India, on the border with China and Pakistan, in a region with a Buddhist majority that was once the westernmost part of Tibet, where ancient religious traditions are scrupulously handed down from father to son and from master to disciple. A trip to Ladakh means a journey back in time, an introspective journey to the roots of the soul, between monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism with ancient charm. Today it represents one of the six total interconnection corridors envisaged by the initiative. Just as doubts and analyzes increase as to the impact that the major project carried out by the Chinese government is having on the economies of the countries involved, from Sri Lanka to Malaysia, China-Pakistan cooperation also presents difficulties and concerns that cannot be ignored.
The “Economic Corridor” project represents a crucial moment of transformation in relations between the two countries. Furthermore, from 1963 to 2012, a geo-economic collaboration took over even if the balance is more in favor of China.
Brief historical excursus
1963 marked an epochal turning point with the signing of two important agreements between China and Pakistan: the border agreement and the air transport agreement since Pakistan became the first non-communist country to grant and receive from the China access to airspace. In this way, Pakistan emerged from the isolation in which it found itself.
But the aspect that best characterizes the bilateral agreements between the two countries dates back to 1962, when there was a dispute between China and India over a border dispute. It was on that occasion that the United States supported New Delhi, thus breaking the link with Pakistan, which perceived that circumstance as an interruption in their alliance, pushing it to strengthen ties with Beijing.
India, perceived as a common enemy, ensured that relations between China and Pakistan were tightened to such an extent that, from initial diplomatic relations, the two countries moved to an ever closer military and strategic cooperation. The fundamental stage of this passage happened in coincidence with the Indo-Pakistani war of 1965. Thus began a fruitful collaboration of China with its support for Pakistan through the supply of armaments and a strengthening of the Pakistani military industry.
Even more substantial was the strengthening of Chinese-Pakistani diplomatic relations around 2013, which also marked a consolidation of the economic collaboration between the two countries, following a democratic electoral turn in Pakistan and then the China “Belt and Road” initiative which aims to reconstruct the trade flows between Europe and Asia along the route followed by the great Italian Marco Polo (1271 al 1295). through the famous Silk Road.
After the official visit of the Chinese President Xi Jinping to Islamabad in April 2015, the two countries have signed a strategic agreement for the development of the Economic Corridor with a maximum value which, from the budgeted 48 billion, has now gone to about 60 billion with involvement of Chinese labor (about 30 thousand Chinese workers) and infrastructure for transport, energy and industry in Pakistan and which allows the connection to the port of Gwadar.
The current geo-political situation near the Himalaya
From what emerges on a commercial level, one can soon arrive at a geo-political consideration. Chinese interests converge on Pakistani interests and, since China is an economic superpower, it is understood that its goal is to safeguard not only “Belt and Road”, but above all to protect Pakistan from Indian attacks that are concentrated in the area of constellation of territories that are part of the J&K, subject to Indian disputes since the end of British colonial influence.
Thus Ladakh has again become the terrain of clashes on the border between India and China, exacerbating the conflicts between the two neighboring giants: the Elephant and the Dragon have faced each other recently, leaving many dead especially on the Indian side on the ground. A punitive expedition organized by the Chinese contingent on the Indian border deteriorates the relationship between the two nuclear powers. But India and China have no interest in raising the level of confrontation at the level of the leaders in power. Only the Indian population, insufflated by nationalistic hatred against everyone, feels surrounded not only by the Coronavirus, of which the Chinese are guilty, but also by the Chinese products themselves, by their cumbersome and worrying presence in the possession of nuclear weapons.
The cause of the dispute has become an authentic powder keg that has its epicenter in the J&K, while on the slopes of the Himalayas India is creating a new Palestine. The territorial dismemberment taking place on the Indian side, with the new demographic laws promulgated by the Indian government, aims to dismantle the demographic fabric of Kashmir to overturn the “status quo”, that is the existing situation with a Muslim majority in the J&K. Ladakh with its 58% Buddhist population represents an anomaly in the general balance system of that land which is becoming the new Palestine of Asia.
One of the fundamental elements of Article 370 was in the past the ban on Indians not born in Kashmir from moving to that state and owning homes and land. In an attempt to preserve unity in the diversity of the nation, the aim was to ensure demographic balance, based on the Muslim majority. Now, like Israeli settlers in the occupied territories, Hindus will be able to move to Kashmir, changing the religious profile of its population. As between Israelis and Palestinians, terrorism, violence and repression are also part of everyday life in Kashmir. Now there will be more, everything.
From 1962 to today, China and India have never defined the border that separates them along the Himalayan chain, and the Line of Actual Control (the territorial dividing line that divides the two countries for years) is constantly being crossed by both sides to create outposts. Hence the constant reprisals and mutual punitive expeditions.
Beyond “Belt and Road” and the pandemic.
Alongside the strong Chinese concerns regarding the complex Pakistani administrative system with provinces divided between different ethnic groups and with politicians not always of stable reference, it remains to ensure the keeping of the “Belt and Road” agreement which must be considered not only an Economic Corridor convenient for both countries, but the possibility of extending decisive strategic influence to nearby areas.
A Chinese loan in the immediate term, especially in conjunction with the Coronavirus pandemic taking place in Pakistan and Kashmir, would truly be a cure-all for a country like Pakistan that has been severely tested in the latter period.
If China wants to offer the world the image of “beneficial power” and expand its global influence as it has succeeded, without belligerence, in all the areas in which it has brought its cooperation (see, for example, Africa), this is the right time to carry out his project.
Above all, it is the moment when, having emerged victorious from the pandemic controlled in a virtuous manner, China sees its number one enemy, the USA, economically and psychologically debilitated since the American health system, in the grip of the power lobbies, has failed to tame the crisis following COVID-19 due to the inability of the public system to face it.
The scenario that opens up before the eyes of geo-political observers appears to be a perspective of world government in the process of being reversed, even in the face of a substantial GDP difference between the two world giants: America and China, Eagle and Dragon are facing an unparalleled trade war that Trump thought he was going to win, but that he underestimated both for the pandemic impact and for the Chinese stubbornness.
To make system and be united and supportive is an endemic characteristic of the Chinese people. A solidarity-based society is founded on these principles and wins, not so much by force of arms, but as a cohesive system to face the challenges of the future.
Ladakh: needle in the balance
Ladakh I am sure will be the beginning of an unparalleled territorial challenge, the real battleground between Chinese and Indians. The Chinese-Pakistan-Turkish axis will be the winning axis not only of a new “Silk Road”, but of a path of history that will see India, already prey to the fascism of the RSS and the PM Modi, succumb as it goes.
All of this is taking place under the watchful eyes of the UN and the whole world as if the pockets of unparalleled ignorance that have seen some illiterate Indian peasants mocking some women volunteers who went around recommending the use of the mask in the villages were not enough; as if the witch-hunt carried out by Hindus against Islamic minorities, scapegoats for an unfair policy by the PM Modi, together with violence, kidnappings, imprisonment of Kashmiri journalists, were not enough; they were only guilty of spreading news about what is currently happening in Srinagar and throughout Kashmir under the eyes of the whole world.
Will Ladakh, Eden on earth under the “Roof of the World”, be the turning point of politics in Kashmir? The redemption of the proud Kashmiris? To the Dragon the answer.