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Going beyond Old Theory of ‘String of Pearls,” China is trying to make its Strong Presence felt in Indian Ocean

The November 14 departure of trade cargo from Gwadar marks a decisive arrival for China in the Arabian Sea and the Gulf region

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– by Mahendra Ved

November 19, 2016: Forget the “String of Pearls” theory about how China is supposedly surrounding India on the high seas. China is not just on the sea, but also on land, in air and deeply involved in the economies of all of South Asia and beyond.

Two events in India’s neighbourhood taking place on a single day, November 14, show the extent to which the Chinese reach has extended and is expected to grow phenomenally. They need to be taken into account by India’s strategic planners.

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One was Pakistan’s Gwadar port going operational and the other was the announcement in Dhaka that Bangladesh was getting its first-ever submarine from China.

Last Monday, the first major trade cargo departed from Gwadar, marking the operationalisation of the port designed and built by China. That also marked the completion, in just about two years, of the project to feed the port under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) under the Chinese One Belt-One Road initiative.

Flagging off the cargo, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the CPEC will “integrate development and commerce of various regions across Asia and Europe by increasing connectivity”. He further said that it seeks “to transform Pakistan into a regional hub of trade, commerce and manufacturing by harnessing its geo-strategic location into a geo-economic advantage”.

Taking in the big picture, he said the CPEC “will help integrate South Asia, China and Central Asia and offer opportunities for people in this region, and investors all over the world”.

The CPEC is central to the Sino-Pak vision and also to the Pakistani leadership as a panacea to all the ills affecting the country and of an acute feeling of being isolated after the United States under Barack Obama and much of Europe leaned towards India.

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At the event, the Prime Minister was accompanied by Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif. Both have attributed Pakistan’s current tensions with India to part of the latter’s efforts to “frustrate” the CPEC.

The November 14 departure of trade cargo from Gwadar marks a decisive arrival for China in the Arabian Sea and the Gulf region. From there, two ships — Al Hussain Zanzibar and Cosco Wellington — set sail for ports in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates and the European Union.

The Chinese have moved fast in Pakistan when, by contrast, there is little push on the India-Iran-Afghanistan accord to develop the Chabahar port in Iran — less than 100 km from Gwadar — and build a railway line that would link Chabahar to landlocked Afghanistan and thence to Central Asia.

The project, with the blessings of the Obama administration, was also to get Japanese participation with the likely visit to Iran of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. But a Japanese official recently said there was no word from the promoters of Chabahar seeking any financial participation.

The announcement in Dhaka about it getting its first-ever submarine from China comes a few weeks ahead of the visit to India of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, likely in the latter half of December. A range of political and economic issues are expected to be on the agenda.

However, Bangladesh has for long placed its military eggs in the Chinese basket. Irrespective of the political colour of the regime in Dhaka, this has been a continuing and expanding process, making China the largest trade partner and the No. 1 supplier of military hardware to Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, China’s deep involvement in Myanmar is a continuing story irrespective of whether the generals rule the country or the present civil-military leadership. So is China’s commitment on several projects in Nepal, including a railway line that can be extended right up to the Nepali border with Bihar.

Nepal wants to maintain careful equi-distance with India and China. Similarly, Sri Lanka, under heavy debt to China, wants to compensate the latter with several projects that the Maithripala Sirisena government has held back.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in July proposed to China’s Ambassador Yi Xianliang varying degrees of control over some of Sri Lanka’s biggest infrastructure projects, including the Mattala International Airport and portions of the Hambantota deep-sea port, and wondered if Sri Lanka could receive some debt relief.

China refused the suggestions saying it was not possible under Chinese law. But it has continued to promise “fullest cooperation” and that such deals should be conducted via investors on proper commercial terms. While China’s government will not swap debt for equity, it will help clear the road for Chinese companies to take over key projects in Sri Lanka. IZP, a Chinese information technology company, has been put forward as a potential purchaser of Mattala International Airport, while COSCO is looking into expanding operations at the Hambantota deep-sea port.

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The fact of the matter is that India has neither the capacity, nor the political intent, to reach out to its neighbours with investments and projects. Indeed, many of the projects awarded to it have lagged behind for several reasons.

That being the case, India has much more to worry and work on beyond countering the “String of Pearls”. The Dragon has arrived in the Indian Ocean. (IANS)

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Imagining Panun Kashmir: Dissent And Detente in South Asia

On the 17 th of April this month, the Prankote massacre of Kashmir’s valley, touched its twentieth anniversary, and a few days from today, on the 30 th of April, witnesses of the Doda massacre will observe its twelfth commemoration.

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Kashmir
Kashmir. Pixabay

By Tania Bhattacharya

Ms. Tania Bhattacharya
Ms. Tania Bhattacharya

On the 17 th of April this month, the Prankote massacre of Kashmir’s valley, touched its twentieth anniversary, and a few days from today, on the 30 th of April, witnesses of the Doda massacre will observe its twelfth commemoration.
Both Prankote and Doda are grim reminders of the self-destructive chamber of echoes, we recognize as Kashmir. During both incidents, Hindu Kashmiris had been targeted for annihilation. In both cases, the perpetrators had achieved their end. It was the year of 1989, when the valley of India’s most iconic northern state, had                                                 reverberated with the vicious cries of Islamic azadi.

Here is a sample of those communal slogans:
“La Sharqia la gharbia, Islamia! Islamia!”
(From East to West, there will be only Islam)
“Musalmano jago, Kafiro bhago” 
(O! Muslims, Arise, O! Kafirs, scoot)
“Islam hamara maqsad hai, Quran hamara dastur hai, jehad hamara Rasta hai”
(Islam is our objective, Q’uran is our constitution, Jehad is our way of life)
“Pakistan se ik rishta, la ilaha illallah”
(Our connection with Pakistan is, La ilaha illallah)
“Kashmir mein rehna hoga, toh Allahu Akbar kehna hoga”
(If you wish to remain in Kashmir, then you have to say Allahu Akbar)

Representational image for Islam.
Representational image. Pixabay

Insurgency with the tacit support of a large section of Muslims that were residents of
Indian Kashmir, had commenced its rampage in 1990, in that region. Ever since
then, the stock statements emanating from our political elite have been wishy washy,
blinkered and unpragmatic. An entire generation of Indians from the mainland have
grown up to learn, that Kashmir burns not because its majority Muslims are
disaffected due to identity, but because they have economic grievances that when
fixed, can effectively end the Kashmir conundrum. Time and again, we have been
proven wrong over our naïve assertions. For, it is when empty bellies start rumbling
with the flames of revolution and dissent, instead of pleas for jobs and homes, that
we need to sit up and take serious note.
It was the renowned Indian writer and critic, the late Khushwant Singh, who had
opined in the early 90s, that the fundamental difference between Punjab and
Kashmir, was the orientation of the two faiths that were responsible for giving us a
hard time. Sikhism, the religious notion over which the Khalistan secessionist
movement was based, he had pointed out, was integrated with the history of the
Indian sub-continent. Sikhism had been initially created as the military extension of
Hinduism and was an offshoot. Its holy places were divided between Pakistan’s
Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh, and India’s Golden Temple at Amritsar. The Khalistan movement was poised to fail when its adherents realized
that they were rooted in the very soil that they were out to destroy. Islam however,
was a different ball game. It was a religion with its foundations in the far away desert
landscape of the Middle East, which was inspired by a culture that could not be more
different from South Asia’s. Reigning in Kashmir, therefore, was a pipe dream, that
would require oodles of gumption, statesmanship, and patience.

Ever since we have mistaken the scoffing at Indian nationalism by the majority
Muslims of Kashmir, for a dissent against the lack of resources, we have made major
blunders with beefing up the security apparatus of that state, thinking that we were
trying to tame ‘our’ people. Wherever the origins of their discontent may lie, it is
foolish to presume that hundreds of thousands of people who identify with Islam
more than they do with the Indian nation-state, will magically transform into docile,
law-abiding citizens if we provide them with jobs. A cursory look at revolutions closer
to our times, beginning with the 20 th century, is ample proof, that their arteries have
always lain at their impoverished centres.

Before we allow a plebiscite to determine what the individual Kashmiri wants, we
must consider a hitherto unacknowledged demand; that of Panun Kashmir. Panun
Kashmir has been forwarded as a legitimate demand by the Hindus of Kashmir, for
the creation of a Pagan majority Kashmir, by slicing off a chunk of the place. Once
this has come about, resettlement of the internally displaced Hindus of the valley,
who were forced to evacuate their ancestral lands for the seventh time in the
January of 1990, can be carried out.

Also Read: A look into the mind of a brainwashed Kashmiri suicide bomber

It is imperative, that upon the formation of Panun Kashmir, which was created as
retributive justice for the hounding of the state’s Hindus by its Islamic elements, the
Azadi seekers will demand a plebiscite. In my opinion, it is high time that we take this
demand seriously, and eschew a fallacious policy of force, for a lasting solution,
which may very well require the ceding of a part of Indian Kashmir, for the sake of
lasting peace in the remaining areas. As long as Kashmir continues to simmer, the
repatriation and rehabilitation of our Hindu sisters and brothers of Kashmiri descent
in the land of their origin, is unlikely to see the light of day. However, if we find it in
ourselves to sacrifice some portion of the troubled region to those who place Islam
before nationhood, then in the same breath we can justify the renaming of the
remainder of Kashmir as Panun Kashmir, the land of the Hindus of Kashmir.
Carving up Kashmir along sectarian lines may sound reprehensible to our ears that
have been fine tuned to jingoist jargons, but eventually, nothing else will bring a
stable solution. Upon following the wise axiom of “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s”,
India will be in a position to exercise a free hand in Panun Kashmir and do as it
pleases. As soon as the map of PK has been finalized, with the strategic military
locations remaining with India, and a section of the valley is handed out to the
Azaadi seekers and their very active mass base, India needs to put feelers out there,
that those Kashmiri Muslims, along with other residents who had never joined the
secessionist camp, are free to remain back in Indian controlled Panun Kashmir.
A monumental change of this sort, is bound to create millions of bleeding hearts,
who will have to acquiesce to the new borders, and will have to leave behind
businesses and ancestral homes. A time limit of up to three years must be awarded to those who have to shift their base from one area to the other. After the Kashmir
state assembly adopted the ‘Land to Tillers’ Act on the 13 th of July in 1950, the
remaining Hindu Kashmiris had been forced to part with much of their territories. The
final blow of 1990, was still far away then.

Representational image for War.
Representational image. Pixabay

An international body of peacekeepers, along with units of our paramilitary forces,
are required to oversee the exchange of populations to and from PK. It is high time
that South Asia with the world’s oldest system of village republics – known as the
Panchayati Raj – conducted itself with grace and fortitude during the difficult time
following the plebiscite and the final partitioning of Indian administered Kashmir. If
Britain can grant Scotland, Ireland, and Wales the chance to break free, and if the
opposers and supporters of Catalonia’s secession can go about their activism with a
pacifist approach, then we too must deal with our Gordian Knot of Kashmir, using
civilized means, dialogue, and a plebiscite.

If India can accomplish to withdraw the draconian AFSPA from Kashmir (and our
North-East), end the bloodshed in the valley, realize that people who desire a
different identity cannot be forced to endorse the Indian one, stop diagnosing a
question of religious nationalism with economic packages, and give the Hindu
Kashmiris what their due is; then we will have set a golden example for many other
nations to emulate. For one, Pakistan will be under tremendous pressure to resolve
its dispute in Gilgit-Baltistan, which has for long demanded autonomy from the
federal state. There will be a handful of western regions like Russia and the Balkans,
which can be legitimately harangued to resolve their crises at the North Caucasus
and at Nicosia respectively, as swiftly, and as peacefully as India’s Kashmir
plebiscite. With the construction of a permanent border wall between Panun
Kashmir, and the newly created Islamic state of Kashmir culled out for the Azadi
seekers, India would be able to save millions of lives in its defence apparatus from
being lost in the valley. Our forces could then focus on one and one duty alone, that
being the supervision of the International borders at Panun Kashmir.
Few Indians are aware, that the act they defend as their own, the AFSPA, or Armed
Forces Special Powers Act, was a British creation. Much like the homophobic laws
that were imported from England in the nineteenth century to control India’s masses,
AFSPA too is not indigenous to India. In fact, this law was used against the anti-
colonial freedom activists that wished to end the British domination of India, by the
crown and polity of Britain. Today, the government of a post-colonial India, is
resorting to the same British law, to target the Muslim dissidents of the valley. This is
cruelly ironic.
Over the past few decades, a new and vexing question has abruptly raised its head
among the Muslim Kashmiri community. It is that of the etymology of the name of
their state. Kashmir is incontrovertibly derived from ancient Sanskrit terms with the
name being mentioned by famed Greco-Roman scholars of yore, in their treatises.
Ever since Shaivaite Hindus speaking the Dardic (Central Asian) language of
Kashmiri have settled the valley, the flowering of the areas cultural motifs have
advanced themselves bearing a distinct Sanskrit flavour. The rub though, is that the
Central Asian genealogy of Kashmir, the very element that makes it unique among
the other Indian identities, is being threatened by it. This arises from a claim made by
a fringe segment of Muslims there, that the name Kashmir is actually a Hebrew

derivative and points at the Semitic roots of the region’s identity. Hebrew is the
language of the Jews.
It must be noted within the context, that Judaism’s faulty ‘Ten Lost Tribes of Israel’
theory is