Ladakh: A four-dimensional conflict

India’s border disputes with its neighbours are primarily thelegacy of a colonial power, with India claiming paramountcy to be the only heir to the British Raj. Under law, judicial precedence and historical conventions, this paramountcy is illegal, creating border disputes with neighbours. It is important to emphasise that in context of the on going Ladakh crises, there are four parties to the conflict. Besides China and India, they are Pakistan and the people of Kashmir and Ladakh under the 1948 Kashmir Resolution.

It is worth mentioning that post 1947; China and India were allies while Pakistan was poised to join the containment alliance. How the positions flipped manifests the Indian desire to succeed the colonial hegemon while maintaining a façade of non-alignment and leadership of a post-colonial third world.

Even back then, Indian policies were contradictory, contrasting and called immoral by USA. While Pakistan espoused USA, India was handled by United Kingdom, the old colonial master. The British forward policy against Chi-
na was to continue under India. The statement made by the Chinese Ambassador to the Foreign Secretary of India on May 16, 1959 indicates how the poles flipped from ‘Hind-Chini bhai bhai’ to enemies: “On the whole, India is friend of
China, this has been so in the past thousand and more years, and we believe will certainly continue to be so in one thousand and more years to come. The enemy of the Chinese people lies in the East – the US imperialists have many military bases in Taiwan, in South Korea, Japan and in the Philippines, which are all directed against China. China’s main attention and policy to struggle are directed to the east, to the west Pacific region, to the vicious and aggressive US imperialism, and not to India or any other country in the Southeast Asia and South Asia... India has not taken part in the South-east Asia Treaty; it is not an opponent, but a friend to our country. China will not be so foolish as to antagonise India in the west.”

As events proved, India chose to take on China and ultimately live in the shadows of a two-front conflict. This policy made India the darling of the West while day by day, Pakistan got closer to China.

Ironically, Pakistan did not abandon the US, and is still the most credible ally in Afghanistan.

In 1961, Pakistan wrote to China that Chinese maps showed areas of Pakistan in China. Due to developing partnership between the two countries, China withdrew the disputed maps. Negotiations resulted in an agreement signed on 2 March 1963 by Chinese foreign minister Chen Yi and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto for Pakistan. The agreement resulted in Chi na and Pakistan each withdrawing from about 1,900 square kilometres of territory, along a boundary modified by Lord Curzon in 1905. Besides the swap, Pakistan gained 52 km2 south of Khunjerab Pass. The east-ward extension of the border is up to Karakorum Pass and close to Daulat Beg Oldi, the point short of which Pakistan claims its Kashmir-Ladakh boundary and a few KMs east of the beginning of Siachin Glacier.

The Siachin Glacier complex of 2,553 km2 is located in the eastern Karakorums. In 1982-84 India took control of the Siachin Glacier and main peaks and passes, leading to the Siachin Conflict between India and Pakistan right up to the
Saltoro Range.

Seen in the context of Indo-Chinese dispute between frontiers and boundary, this occupation was part of the Indian forward policy against China and Pakistan. India has now opened a box of strategic paradoxes that shall confuse their
planners for years to come. Unlike what analysts may say, the present conflict is tri-dimensional in the backdrop of the right of self-determination by Kashmiris.

Because the China-Pakistan agreement is subject to settlement of the Kashmir dispute, the mutual frontier between China and Pakistan opens political and strategic cooperation. The first initiative was the Karakoram Highway, which has now advanced to CPEC. Military cooperation as the situation evolves remains an option, including the military use
of Chinese Trans-Karakoram Tract Corridor. Daulat Beg Oldie is the northern most base of operations
against Siachin and domination of Siachin and the Chinese corridor. India is in a catch 22 situation.

To say that India has failed in its dual policy of challenging Communist China (US Axis) and check Islamic terrorism by taming Pakistan (a self-assumed assignment for the US Axis) is an understatement. Now in pursuit of delusional dreams with scant western backing, is India willing to embark on a military adventure? In contrast, US policy is confined to containment and proxies.

In the grandiose ambitions of becoming a hegemon, India must face the indignity of being a proxy: a hare running in the shadows of hounds. In this developing situation, abrogation of Articles 370 and 35 A provides precursors. India may decide to cede to Chinese ingressions in an unannounced way, but create an illusion of victory through pro-
paganda by quarantining Kashmir, change the demography and in crease military presence that could be used against Pakistan instead of China. Australia, its closest ally in the Pacific Rim is also weary of Indian designs in that region.

But according to Chinese and Pakistani viewpoints, by annexing Indian Occupied Kashmir and declaring Ladakh a Union territory, India has violated international laws, judicial laws and conventions built over thousands of years.
Therefore, if India decides to carry out face-saving aggression against Pakistan, it would have aggravated an ongoing two-front conflict. For the mere reasons that Chinese and Pakistani political and military objectives are well-aligned
on converging axis, India will sink into a deeper bog. The sheer size of the combined nuclear and military forces of China and Pakistan, forces nuclear deterrence but cannot prevent a local conflict. Ironically, this is what India always dreamed against Pakistan. How India will fight a seven-dimensional war without a nuclear option is best left to Indian planners to figure out. 

The statement by Karl Von Clausewitz, “War as instrument of policy in tandem with other means” could not be more relevant. 

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