The Criminal Neglect of Infrastructural Development in Border Areas
We have learnt no lesson from ’62 debacle. Indian forces were defeated basically because they were deployed in areas completely devoid of infrastructure of any sort. Yet nearly fifty years down the line, situation remains more or less the same. Who is to answer for this criminal neglect? Our infrastructure in border areas is in a complete shamble which will put our forces at a great disadvantage in a future conflict scenario. No one of consequence in the political hierarchy has visited our border areas to see things for themselves.
The Chinese Concept of Strategic Encirclement of India
Chinese on the other hand have provided Pakistan with missile and nuclear technology in flagrant violation of all international norms.
The Chinese believe in the concept of a multi-polar world but a unipolar Asia. India on the other hand believes in a multi-polar world as well as Asia. A conflict situation is thus bound to arise. The Chinese obviously do not want India to become strong and be in a position to challenge Chinese supremacy in Asia, What better way to hem in India in South Asia by creating a ring of hostile and inimical states around India’s periphery.
Pakistan, like North Korea is more or less like a Chinese colony, ever ready to do their bidding be it ceding Indian territory to China in Saksgam valley in 1963 or allowing Chinese troops to be stationed in Northern Areas to oversee construction of oil pipeline and railway line to Gwadar port. Chinese on the other hand have provided Pakistan with missile and nuclear technology in flagrant violation of all international norms. In Nepal, Chinese are going full blast to make sure Maoists come to power there. It has major influence in Bangladesh and Myanmar. China has been forcing Bhutan to establish diplomatic relation, with it by occupying territory in Western Bhutan.
Chinese Infrastructural Build up in Tibet and Implications
The Chinese concept of infrastructural development in Tibet has kept in mind both economic as well as military aspects. The facets are:
- Use territory in Tibet for deployment of missiles in ground based silos aimed at Indian targets. This is a clever concept. In a hypothetical war situation, these silos will be the first to be taken out whether by conventional strikes or nuclear tipped war heads. By deploying missiles in Tibet instead of mainland China, it has ensured that the collateral damage will occur in Tibet and not in the mainland.
- Upgradation of airfields – Ngiti, Kongka, Pangta, Hoping, MarkhamDzong and Lhasa is being done to offset the disadvantage of there airfields being in high altitude areas imposing severe restriction on carriage of useful load.
- The three highways – Western, Central and Eastern are to join mainland China with Tibet and facilitate movement of not only economic cargo but troops and warlike stores as well.
- A modern railway line has been commissioned from Gormo to Lhasa with future plans to extend it to Nepal border. Obviously this will enhance Chinese capability to apply force where required.
The Chinese believe in the concept of a multi-polar world but a unipolar Asia. India on the other hand believes in a multi-polar world as well as Asia. A conflict situation is thus bound to arise.
- The oil pipeline which generally follows the Central Highway has a current capacity of 5 million tons annually. Although it caters for fuel needs of the populace, it would contribute geatly to a logistics build up for a conflict.
- Infrastructural improvement in the border areas has been remarkable. Apart from link roads, it also includes ware houses, storage shelters both over ground and under ground and weapon emplacements. These are absolutely necessary in the high altitude terrain of Tibet.
What is China upto in Gilgit – Baltistan and Pok
While India has independently confirmed that the presence of Chinese troops in Gilgit and Baltistan is a bit exaggerated in terms of numbers, the real concern here is on the number of projects and works China has undertaken in those areas and in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK). And the footprint is only growing larger.
At last count, South Block had noticed at least 17 confirmed projects in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan.
These constitute more than half the Chinese projects in areas under Pakistan’s control, making it a cause of major concern because of the disputed status of the areas. At present, according to government inputs, 122 Chinese companies are active in Pakistan, and most of them are also involved in projects in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan areas.
China, sources said, has suddenly increased its involvement in almost very key sector, and has virtually taken upon itself the responsibility of building basic infrastructure in these areas. The list of projects range from providing mobile connectivity services to building power projects, highways and rail links.
Karakoram Highway Upgradation: The China Road and Bridge Corporation has taken up this project and will give preferential credit of $327 million through its Exim Bank in what is a $491 million project. Two other MoUs on double-laning of the Karakoram Highway as well as widening of the Jaglot-Skardu road have also been signed.
There is a school of thought which says US cleverly encourages India’s anti-China thought while at the same time encouraging China to treat Asia as its backyard…
Pakistan-China rail link: This is a 750 km long rail link between Havelian and the Khunjerab pass along the Karakoram Highway. While feasibility studies are on for this project, Pakistan and China have agreed to establish a joint venture between Pakistan Railways and Dongfang Electric Corporation to initially run only freight trains on this route.
Jhelum Bridge: Pakistan has awarded Rs 1.2 billion contract to a Chinese state company for constructing a major bridge on River Jhelum at Dhangali in Mirpur district.
Five bailey bridges on Gilgit-Skardu road: Xin-jiang Road and Bridge Construction Company of China is replacing five existing beiley bridges on the 167 km long, strategically important Gilgit-skardu road.
Mining: A Chinese company called MCC Resources Development Company Ltd has been allowed to start a mineral exploration exercise in these areas. The Gilgit-Baltistan government has given a reconnaissance licence to the company. Pakistan Surpass Mining Company, which is subsidiary of China’s Xinjiang Surpass Mining Company Ltd, has submitted a $6 million investment proposal for mining in these areas. It plans to set up a hydropower station and molybdenum processing plant in Chupurshan Valley.
Sust dry port: A joint venture named Pak-China Sust Port Company is managing the Sust dry port, 200 km from Gilgit on the Karakoram Highway. Opened four years ago, the Chinese side is the principal stakeholder in the joint venture.
Mobile communication links: China Mobile is providing mobile services in PoK and certain areas of Gilgit-Baltistan. The company has major plans to set up more towers and expand coverage.
China Mobile is providing mobile services in PoK and certain areas of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Diamer-Bhasha dam: China is said to have agreed to finance this $11.3 billion, 4500 MW project. Also, it has agreed to provide the services of the China Three Gorges Project Corporation for the construction of the dam. Sinihydro has shown interest in the development of the project.
Mangla dam raising project: A joint venture comprising China International Water and Electric Corporation and some Pakistan companies have almost completed this project. Once operational, the average annual water availability for irrigation will increase by nearly 3 million acre feet.
Neelum-Jhelum hydro-power project: China Gezhouba Water and Power Corporation, which was part of the Three Gorges project, has formed a consortium and taken up this 969 MW project in Muzaffarabad district. Keen on completing this project before the Kishenganga project on the Indian side, Pakistan has obtained a commitment from the consortium that the work will be finished in eight years. Meanwhile, it has raised objections and gone for arbitration with India on the Kishenganga project under the provision of the Indus Waters Treaty.
Besides these, China has taken up at least four other hydropower projects in these areas – Bhunji project in Gilgit-Baltistan, Kohala project (1100 MW), Naltar project, and smaller projects in places like Phendar, Harpo and Yurlbo.
The US Factor in Sino–Indian Relations
There is a school of thought which says US cleverly encourages India’s anti-China thought while at the same time encouraging China to treat Asia as its backyard and manage it in order to leave America to concentrate on other parts of the world which are of strategic significance to it. This may well be true. In practice, Indo-US strategic partnership is more on paper than on ground. Apart from Indo-US civil nuclear deal, nothing of significance has emerged in Indo-US relations. US still feels India has no role in Afghanistan and Pakistan has a dominant role to play there. We need to wait for Obama visit in Nov to see what contours of an Indo-US Strategic partnership emerge.