China’s geopolitical game plan
Ever since Pakistan facilitated the secret visit of US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to Beijing in July 1971, China has played a major role in forging the security doctrine of Pakistan. Be it in creating the nuclear shield and encouraging North Korea to provide the nuclear warhead delivery missiles to using the jihadi terrorists as proxy warriors the Chinese signature is clearly visible.
In fact in the encouragement of insurgencies and terrorism by disaffected Indian nationals in the north east the China-Pakistan nexus has been in existence since before the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. The Chittagong Hill Tracts of the former East Pakistan was the favourite training ground for anti-India terrorists. China supplied the weapons and military expertise in guerrilla tactics as developed by its Chairman Mao Tse Tung in his treatise on unconventional warfare Yu Chi Chan (Guerrilla Warfare) during the civil war against the Kuomintang led by Chiang Kai Sheikh.
With Bangladesh under Sheikh Hasina determined to wipe out anti-India terrorist activities the current hunting ground is Myanmar where China is pursuing a geopolitical game plan intended to catch India in a pincer. China has said that it has stopped supporting the insurgency in the north east of India but Indian Intelligence sources have traced the tracks of ULFA ‘commander in chief Paresh Barua to Kunming in China. The manner in which China has refused to allow UN sanctions to apply to terrorist Jaish e Mohammad founder Masood Azhar wanted by India for the attack on Parliament in 2001 and more recently the Pathankot airbase attack shows the organized manner in which Beijing is using terror as a tool of State policy.
Soon after the Kissinger visit game changer China began helping Pakistan under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto with its nuclear weapons programme. The intent was to create a military balance whereby the smaller size of Pak military arsenal became a countervailing factor against India’s acknowledged numerically larger military force. Clandestine Chinese support helped Pakistan acquire tested miniature warhead designs for its aircraft delivered weapons.
Having kept a close watch on the China-Pak nuclear weapons collaboration India decided to force Pakistan to bring its “bomb in the basement’ programme into the open by conducting a series of tests at Pokharan in May 1999. Pakistan took the bait and immediately conducted nuclear weapons tests that proved that it had been clandestinely conducting its nuclear weapons programme which, several years before it actually happened, was revealed by US expert Leonard Spector that Pakistan’s bomb in the basement programme was “just two screwdriver turns away” from fruition.
Both the Kissinger factor and Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan saw the US government under George Bush senior granting waivers under the Pressler Amendment to show that Pakistan was not conducting a nuclear weapons programme. Washington kept up the charade till Pakistan conducted its nuclear tests in response to India. This Sino-American collusion was part of the Kissinger continuum.
Since the tests the American and western allies and China have time and again used the “nuclear flashpoint” threat to prevent India from teaching Pakistan a lesson in good neighbourliness. They collectively conspired to encourage Pakistan to use not just jihadi terrorists but also its own armed forces to try and delink Kashmir from India. This convergence is based on the Chinese strategy of using guerrilla tactics to harass Indian security forces operating from behind the magnified threat of the use of nuclear weapons if India used diversionary attacks into the Pakistani hinterland. It is under this nuclear umbrella provided by China with missiles from North Korea that Pakistan launches its terrorist strikes from behind the nuclear shield.
The Indian surgical strike in late September in retaliation for the Uri attack on an Indian Army barracks has only served to force Pakistan to shift the terrorist sanctuaries and launch pads further away from the Line of Control. However, there has been a reversion to Chinese guerrilla tactics in the form of attacks by between two and four terrorists (who had earlier successfully infiltrated through the LoC) on Indian security forces and infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir.
Given that it is festival season in India the possibility of terrorist attacks has grown. The cumulative effect is intended to put the Indian security forces to stress by constant deployment.
As the BRICS summit document has shown that dependence on China, Russia or the US to rein in Pakistan and force it to desist from facilitating terrorist attacks on India from soil under its control is sheer wishful thinking.
China needs to keep a tight control over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir because it is through this chunk of Indian Territory that China is constructing its multi-mode Economic Corridor. It has posted nearly 10,000 troops of the People’s Liberation Army disguised as engineers and technicians because the local population has at times refused to work on Chinese projects. By throwing its weight behind the likes of Masood Azhar, Syed Sallauddin and Hafiz Mohammad Saeed China is using them to keep the local population quiescent. The Pakistan Army contributes by frequent assaults on the largely Shia population of the “northern areas”.
In a belated attempt at damage control the NDA government has talked of increasing the density of sentry posts along the Line of Control and improving the sensors to help prevent infiltration. More urgently what is required is simultaneous operations to plug the infiltration and conduct search for foreigners who now constitute a threat within Indian defences. At one time Parliament was told that there are an estimated 300 terrorists who have managed to infiltrate through the LoC. The number has come down to 250. Such exact numbers begs the question: If you could see them and count them why didn’t you shoot them?
These terrorists are now moving about freely looking for targets to attack with the clear intention of showing to the restive population in Kashmir that Pakistan is still on their side in spite of the Indian surgical strike. To be able to neutralize them quickly India will have to first of all re-establish the writ of the local police in the first instance. More security forces (BSF, CRPF, ITBP and SSB) to secure static defences and enlarge the net of counter-insurgency/counter-terror forces to seek out and eliminate the 250 Pakistan trained terrorists roaming around in the hinterland. This is a manpower intensive operation and India will have to seek assistance of recently retired Army personnel with experience of fighting in Jammu and Kashmir to return as reservists to help beef up the security net.
At the same time it must put in abeyance the impending retirement of about 50,000 soldiers that is an annual feature. This will obviate the need to “thin out” troops from positions confronting Pakistan on the western front and China across the Line of Actual Control in the Himalayas.
For a nation that is expected to have learned something from counter-insurgency operations from the very moment of its creation, the national security establishment could not comprehend the consequences of using pellet guns on the local population. India has been buying everything from everywhere. It could have asked the Israelis for some of its dispensers for crowd control-the “Skunk” which spews liquid that smells of rotten sewage. Non-lethal, non-injuring but extremely effective to deal with the children that the terrorists are using to pelt stones at Indian security forces.