India’s recent move on the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir was an attempt to check China’s growing influence in the region, said a Taiwanese scholar.
Chien-Yu Shih, Secretary General of the Taiwan-based Association of Central Asian Studies, told Anadolu Agency that Indian premier Narendra Modi tried to take advantage of tensions between Washington and Beijing, in order to hinder China’s expansion in South Asia.
Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government discontinued special provisions guaranteed by the Indian Constitution to the disputed region under its control, dividing the region into two downgraded and centrally-controlled “Union Territories”.
New Delhi imposed a lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir a day ahead of rushing an additional 40,000 troops to the region to quell possible protests, while at the same time enforcing a complete communications blockade.
“This policy move definitely is going to pose a threat to China’s further expansion,” said Shih, who teaches Journalism and International Relations at Hong Kong Chuhai College.
China is investing nearly $50 billion into Pakistani infrastructure with the aim of constructing roads, buildings, highways, bridges, cities and power plants, part of what is called the “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” (CPEC) to connect China’s western Xinjiang province to Pakistan’s Arabian Sea coast in Balochistan.
CPEC has been declared a flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative seeking to recreate the centuries-old Silk Road passing through over 100 countries.
Shih linked India’s move to the U.S.’ Indo-Pacific strategies:
“This involves not only India but the U.S. and Japan as well.”
He underlined that with Beijing purchasing large amounts of oil from Iran, it was “good timing” for India to pursue such a policy, with China bordering the eastern frontier of the Jammu and Kashmir region.
However, New Delhi’s move triggered a massive response from Pakistan which downgraded its diplomatic relations with India and indicated that it would take the case to the UN Security Council.
China also criticized the move, though in a more restricted form. It said the reorganization of the disputed region undermined its sovereignty.
Beijing referred to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh region — one of the two Union Territories — and said the country’s border concerns had not been addressed.
China and the U.S. are at the same time engaged in a trade war, with each side increasing tariffs on the other’s goods, though both seek to ink a trade deal between them. The trade war has impacted the Chinese side with markets witnessing 27-year low growth last quarter.
Moreover, the U.S.-imposed sanctions on Tehran also impose penalties on countries buying oil from the country. India — once second largest buyer of Iranian oil — has since brought imports down to nil, earning U.S. praise.
Shih said one of the major concerns for China was the transportation of oil and gas through the Indian Ocean to Western China, with the Modi government showing it was definitely a “continuing threat to development of CPEC”, with its most recent move.
Adding that no one is going to benefit from the U.S.-China trade war, he said both countries were under “extreme pressure” on the economic front as they vilified each other.
“It is now a social consensus in U.S. that if there is any biggest threat in future to the country that is China,” he said referring to ongoing presidential campaign in the U.S. which goes to polls next year.
“Every move made by China poses a threat to the U.S. and vice versa, but now they are in a deadlock,” he said.
Shih underlined that China had many issues at hand including the ongoing Hong Kong protests, criticism of the so-called re-education camps in Xinjiang, upcoming polls in Taiwan which — which it claims as its own territory, South Korea-Japan tensions and North Korea.
“China-India relations have been managed in quite a good way in recent years,” he said, adding that though Beijing sought to manipulate relations through “soft” means, the situation between the two countries was still “not out of control”.