Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Pay attention to their objectives in dealing with China and Pakistan


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Article 370

Mains level : Paper 2- China-Pakistans overlapping interests in Kashmir and diverging objectives.

While their interests overlap, Pakistan and China diverge when it comes to their objective in Kashmir. Both want to keep the pressure on India to avoid it from changing the status quo. Extending this line of argument, the author in this article suggest that India should separate the policy response to China from Pakistan, as they differ in their objectives.

Coordinated efforts to corner India?

  • Latest news on the Ladakh front suggests that Chinese and Indian forces have begun to disengage in select areas.
  • But this does not detract from the reality that in the past few weeks Beijing and Islamabad are making coordinated efforts to challenge India’s presence in the Kashmir-Ladakh region.
  • There is stepped-up activity on Pakistan’s part to infiltrate terrorists into the Valley.
  • China has undertaken provocative measures on the Ladakh front to assert control over disputed areas around the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Let’s see how Pakistan and China’s interests overlap

  • In Pakistan’s case the intensification in its terrorist activities is related in part to the dilution of Article 370. 
  • Dilution of Article 370 helps India de-link Ladakh from the Kashmir problem.
  • For China, the division of Ladakh from Jammu and Kashmir allows India a freer hand in contesting China’s claims in the region.
  • Increasing road-building activity on India’s part close to the LAC augments this perception.
  • In addition, Ladakh borders China’s most restive provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet.
  • Ladakh is also contiguous to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Gilgit and Baltistan, where the Chinese have invested hugely under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
  • External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s remark last year that India expects to have “physical jurisdiction over (POK) one day” has alarmed Beijing which sees any such Indian move as threatening the CPEC project.
  • These factors demonstrate the overlapping interests that Beijing and Islamabad have regarding India in this region.

The above factors explain why Pakistan and China would want India to be so preoccupied with taking defensive measures in Kashmir and Ladakh as to have little time and energy left to attempt to alter the status quo in POK or in Aksai Chin.

But there are major differences in Pakistani and Chinese objectives regarding India

  • These differences are related to their divergent perceptions of their disputes and their different force equations with India.
  • For China, Ladakh is primarily a territorial dispute with strategic ramifications.
  • China also believes it is superior to the Indian militarily and, therefore, can afford to push India around within limits as it has been attempting to do in the recent confrontation.
  • For Pakistan, its territorial claim on Kashmir is based on an immutable ideological conviction that it is the unfinished business of partition and as a Muslim-majority state is destined to become a part of Pakistan.
  • Islamabad also realises that it is the weaker power in conventional terms and therefore has to use unconventional means, primarily terrorist infiltration, to achieve its objective of changing the status quo in Kashmir.
  • China is a satiated power in Ladakh having occupied Aksai Chin and wants to keep up the pressure on New Delhi to prevent the latter from trying to change the situation on the ground.

Way forward-Pay attention to objectives while negotiating

  • China’s primary concern with regard to Kashmir is to prevent any Indian move from threatening the CPEC project.
  • It does not challenge the status quo in Kashmir.
  • Pakistan, on the other hand, is committed to changing the status quo in Kashmir at all cost.
  • It has been trying to do so since Partition not only through clandestine infiltration but also by engaging in conventional warfare.
  • Therefore, while it is possible to negotiate the territorial dispute with China on a give-and-take basis.
  • Doing the same is not possible in the case of Pakistan which considers Kashmir a zero-sum game.
  • India should, therefore, distinguish the different objectives on the part of Beijing and Islamabad and tailor its responses accordingly without conflating the two threats to its security.

Consider the question “Policy response of India in dealing with Pakistan and China should consider differences in their objectives in relation to Kashmir. And clubbing them together just because of their tactical overlap should be avoided. Elaborate.”


Lumping the twin threats posed by Pakistan and China together because of a tactical overlap between them makes it difficult to choose policy options rationally. So, the policy response must understand the difference in their objectives and avoid clubbing them together.

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Kartikey Mishra
3 months ago