India officially divided its state of Jammu and Kashmir Thursday into two new union territories to be ruled directly by the central government in New Delhi. The so-called Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and of Ladakh have placed part of Chinese territory under India’s administration, triggering new border disputes with China. How will this India’s unilateral move affect China-India ties? How will it influence regional stability and security? Lan Jianxue, Zhao Gancheng shared their views on these issues with the Global Times.
Lan Jianxue, expert on South Asia at the China Institute of International Studies
China firmly opposes India’s move of placing part of Chinese territory under Indian administration.
New Delhi on August 5 proposed to revoke the special status of India-controlled Kashmir. About three months later, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has lost its autonomy and been divided into two federally administered territories. The move aims to permanently change the status of Kashmir by giving India control of the entire region that it does not wholly possess.
Despite being denounced for its unilateral and hegemonic move to change the autonomous status of India-controlled Kashmir, India has taken its own course and thus escalated tensions in the region – India-Pakistan ties have come to a very dangerous point due to their long-held conflicts while a new border dispute could be ignited between India and China.
New Delhi’s move is in line with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aggressive approach on territories and sovereignty. Under current international circumstances, with India’s rise, many countries are trying to draw New Delhi to their side, leading to a more aggressive Indian stance on territorial disputes with neighboring countries.
India’s unilateral move has infringed China’s sovereignty. According to Indian Home Ministry’s notification on Saturday detailing the boundaries of the two newly created union territories, the “Union Territory of Ladakh” includes China’s Aksai Chin, which has undoubtedly been part of China’s territory. India’s deliberate decision will expand China-India territorial rows, create fresh frictions and complicate their border disputes.
Chinese President Xi Jinping had an informal meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the southern Indian city of Chennai in October. The creation of the two new union territories has undermined the momentum of China-India relations.
Not recognizing legitimacy of the “Union Territory of Ladakh,” China may reinforce its defense at borders with India, will firmly safeguard its sovereignty and territories and enhance communication with Pakistan and jointly oppose India’s move that breaks the status quo.
India’s unilateral move will hurt its own interests and those of others. Pakistan and India’s diplomatic ties have been severely affected since August and the tensions will be more strained after India’s official establishment of the two union territories.
Zhao Gancheng, research fellow at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies
Placing China’s Aksai Chin into the “Union Territory of Ladakh” shows India’s intent to change the China-India border status. China would not admit it and has firmly opposed India’s move that would damage peace and stability in the region.
However, China is maintaining a low profile on the issue. India’s Foreign Ministry pledged to China in August that India won’t create new sovereignty claims and won’t change the Line of Control in the Kashmir region and won’t change the control line on the China-India border.
India believes Ladakh is not a part of Kashmir so it will have disputes about Kashmir only with Pakistan after Ladakh is separated as another union territory. But we cannot predict how this move will affect China-India ties.
Modi wants to rewrite history by bowing to the country’s nationalist sentiments by taking away Muslim’s special rights in the state. Revoking Kashmir’s autonomous status will somewhat benefit India’s development, but it will possibly lead to peace and tranquility being undermined in the region. This will in turn harm the interests of India’s neighbors and also infringe on interests of Indian people.
Pakistan has suspended trade and people-to-people exchanges with India since August. India may not consider Pakistan’s countermeasures important, because India’s exports to Pakistan were much higher than the imports. Pakistan’s suspension of trade would have more negative impact on Pakistan than India.
However, Pakistan has expressed its will to tackle this dispute by peaceful means and without resorting to force. It has fulfilled the promise so far. It is hard to say whether the two countries can settle their disputes on Kashmir. India intends to keep the status quo in the region, so it will not provoke a war with Pakistan in keeping with what we know right now.
But it would pose a challenge to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan as he has failed to propose effective countermeasures to deal with India’s unilateral move. Political opposition in Pakistan or the military may be dissatisfied with his handling of the situation.