Why Modi-Jinping talks should also focus on CoK - China-occupied Kashmir

The  common perception in India is that we have a problem with Pakistan  over Jammu and Kashmir, with our western neighbour not only sitting  on large chunks of our territory (Pakistan-occupied Jammu &  Kashmir, or PoJK) but also sending jihadis over to create mayhem on  this side of the line-of-control (LoC).

What  Indians do not so readily acknowledge is that we also have a CoK  problem in addition to the PoK one. CoK is China-occupied Kashmir,  and this part of real estate grabbed by China accounts for nearly a  fifth of the original Jammu & Kashmir state that joined the  Indian Union in 1948 after its Maharaja, Hari Singh signing the  instrument of accession.

So  when Chinese President Xi Jinping visits India from 17-19 September,  the Indian side will not only have to focus on trade, investments and  the broader issues that strain the relationship (the unsettled border  row over which we fought a war in 1962), but also on CoK. Narendra  Modi will have to bring CoK also in his discussions with Jinping - even  though the border  problem is not going to be solved in a hurry.

The  problem with Indians is that we tend to forget what the Jammu &  Kashmir issue is really about as the decades pass. This writer will  thus like to refresh memories on what the issue is really about, and  on what China is up to (the  full monograph on Jammu & Kashmir will soon be published by Firstpost in a downloadable ebook shortly).

Let’s  start with a brief chronology of key events in Jammu and Kashmir. The  problem became a formal India-Pakistan flashpoint when Pakistan, in a  bid to force the ruler to join Pakistan, sent in around 5,000 Pathan  tribesmen to invade J&K starting on 21 October 1947. That set off  a chain of events of which the highlights are the following:
*Instrument  of Accession (hereafter referred to as IoA) signed on 26 October 1947
*IOA  unconditionally accepted by Lord Mountbatten that same day
*Jawaharlal  Nehru sent the Indian army to defeat the Pathan invasion, but chose  to go to the UN on 1 January 1948 on the aggression
*Resolutions  adopted by the UN Commission for India and Pakistan on 13 August 1948  and 5 January 1949 provided for a plebiscite in J&K after the  withdrawal of troops by Pakistan from PoK
*The  regent of J&K, Karan Singh, issued a proclamation on 25 November  1949 that legally declared total oneness of the state with the  Constitution of India
*Article  370 became a part of Indian Constitution in 1950
*Elections  to the State Constituent Assembly were held in 1951 and Sheikh  Abdullah became PM of J&K
*Sheikh  Abdullah was arrested in 1953 when Nehru felt he was developing his  own agenda
*The  Kashmir Constituent Assembly confirmed the legality of the state’s  accession to India in 1954
*The  J&K constitution came into force on 26 January 1957.

India  entered the Kashmir chakravyuh –  a battle formation adopted by the Kauravas in their war with the  Pandavas which Abhimanyu, Arjuna’s son, knew how to enter but not  exit safely – with Nehru’s decisions of 1948, but no one has been  able to exit this chakravyuh.

If  we have to exit the chakravyuh, both ordinary Indians and  policy-makers have to understand what is at stake. So let’s begin  with some basic facts about Kashmir, its geography, and how much of  Kashmir Pakistan and China are sitting on right now.

The  state of J&K had a total area of 2,22,236 sq km in 1947 before it  joined India. Of this only 46 percent is in India’s possession  today; the balance is under forceful occupation of Pakistan and  China. M A Jinnah is said to have complained about a moth-eaten Pakistan  inherited after partition, but in Kashmir India actually has less  than half the state – a moth-eaten Kashmir, so to speak.


Regions Area in Sq Km % of current J&K in India % of original J&K state in 1947
Jammu region 26,293 26.0026 12.0012
Kashmir Valley 15,948 16.0016 7.007
Ladakh region 59,146 58.0058 27.0027
State of J&K 1,01,387 100.00100 46.0046


Regions Area in Sq Km % of J&K in 1947
Area covered by Instrument of Accession 2,22,236 100.0010
Area under India’s possession 1,01,387 46.0046
Forceful occupation by China after 1962 war 37,555 17.0017
Pakistan Occupied J&K (Mirzapur, Muzaffarabad 13,297 sq kms, Gilgit-Baltistan 64,817 kms) 78,114 35.0035
POK area ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963 5,180 2.002

This  2.22 lakh sq km of Jammu and Kashmir was ruled till 1948 by Maharaja  Hari Singh, whose full title at that time was quite a mouthful:  Shriman Indar Mahander Rajrajeshwar Maharajadhiraj Shri Hari Singh Ji  Jammu and Kashmir Naresh Tatha Tibet adi Deshadhipathi.

Which  brings us to bigger questions? What are Pakistan’s and China’s  interests in owning large areas of Jammu & Kashmir?

Q1:  Why was (or is) J&K important to Pakistan?

A: Lt Gen NS Malik wrote:  “J&K forms the head of the Indian sub-continent, and has been  the traditional trade route of Central and South Asia to the East and  Tibet, generally called the ‘Silk Route’. It is bounded by more  countries than any other state of India; in the North East with  Tibet, and further North with Xinjiang province of China, in the  North West with the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan, in the West with  the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and further South with Punjab of  Pakistan. This geographic layout is strategically so important that  no power of the world wants to remain away from the area, as it gives  them access to the sensitive areas of the neighbouring countries”.  To read full article by Lt Gen Malik Click Here.

Q2:  What is the importance of Aksai Chin (a part of undivided J&K) to  China?

A: The  Sinkiang (Xinjiang) and Tibetan plateaus constitute a wedge into the  Himalayas and were considered by China to be very strategic. They  wanted to grab those areas that allowed them to establish roads  between Sinkiang and Tibet. With the undetermined border between  Soviet Turkestan and Sinkiang a source of friction and tension with  Russia, China needed an effective line of communication with Sinkiang  through Akshai Chin.

Lt  Gen N S Malik wrote: “China is spending huge sums to build  infrastructure through highways connecting Tibet to Xinjiang through  the Chinese-occupied Aksai Chin plateau, and Xinjiang to Pakistan via  the Karakorum highway through the Kunzreb pass. This highway then  connects Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea, giving a warm water port and  access to the Indian Ocean to China. Its importance can be visualised  in that China trade can avoid the bottleneck of the Malacca straits  as also cuts down turnaround to the interior provinces of China.”

Clearly,  it is not going to be easy for India to reclaim the parts of Kashmir  it has lost to Pakistan and China. But that does not mean it should  not be brought on to the table for discussion.

First  published in Click here to view

Also read
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4. From Huawei to Xiaomi: Why Narendra Modi should do a hard bargain with Xi Jinping by Yatish Rajavat
5. China’s Borderline Belligerence by Brahma Chellaney
6. 17 ways to deal with an aggressive China by Sanjeev Nayyar

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