By Arun Joshi
The United States is closely monitoring the disengagement process of the Indian and Chinese armies in Eastern Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control that had been a theatre of tense standoff between the two armies since April/ May last year. This is both good and bad news for India with regard to Jammu and Kashmir.
In its first reaction on the disengagement process that had started on February 10 and completed from Pangong Tso ( lake) a week later, the US has observed “ We are closely following reports of troops disengagement” and its state department spokesperson Ned Price added, “ We welcome the ongoing efforts to de-escalate the situation .”
Ned Price made it clear that the US will not stop here only as far as the situation along the LAC in Ladakh is concerned, where the two armies are still in a standoff position in the icy mountainous heights. It was clear from his comments that, “we will, of course, continue to monitor the situation closely as both sides work towards a peaceful resolution.”
This cautious optimism was tempered by concerns of the US, especially when America has pronounced that it is “back” , underlining that it would play its role as a world leader.
As was evident from the comments of President Joe Biden’s remarks made at Munich Security Conference last week, Washington sees competition with China on the global affairs. In a way, the attitude of the US administration toward China is same under the Biden administration as it was during his predecessor Donald Trump.
The US has special reasons to closely monitor the disengagement of the Indian and Chinese armies in Ladakh, for it offers a key whole view of the Chinese behaviour elsewhere.
American policy makers were concerned over the expansionist policies of China in South China Sea, Taiwan and its contest over Senkaku islands of Japan.
From Indian point of view – this has two potential issues (a) the world is watching how the standoff has been turned into disengagement with the larger objective of de-escalation leading to “peace and tranquility” on borders. There, of course, is a second issue because the tensions in Ladakh that Government of India had declared as federally administered Union Territory on August 5, 2019, will have its direct impact on the psyche of leaders of Kashmir who had made certain mocking observations about the Indian stand vis-à-vis China. Now they have changed the tune and started pressing for the talks with Pakistan to find out a lasting solution to Kashmir issue.
Since Ladakh was part of the state of J&K before it was separated under the J&K Reorganisation Act in 2019, whatever happens in the cold desert region has a direct impact on its borders and hinterland. This view has to be assessed because of the geographical linkage and China- Pakistan friendship and their eyes on the geo-strategic assets of this region.
The US observation with regard to the disengagement in Ladakh also indicates that the international community is having serious concerns about this region where China, India and Pakistan are locked in a complex relationship with one another. The confrontation between India- Pakistan or India- China is always viewed with worries about the widening of conflict and it is very quickly concluded that the nations involved in the conflict are heading toward nuclear flashpoint. All the three countries are nuclear powers and, Pakistan, in particular has made boisterous claims of its nuclear capabilities. These are particularly directed against India. Pakistan, by its words and actions, look at India as its enemy.
Since the US has its degree of relationship with all the three- it sees India as an ally to counter the growing economic and strategic influence of China, and Beijing and Washington have their own rivalries which have manifested more in the recent years . With Pakistan U S has had love hate relationship, for Islamabad has worked on the dictates of America but at the same time been a source of the scourge of terrorism.
The US’ observations on Ladakh is not necessarily a benign thing for India because it can open doors for its interference in Jammu and Kashmir, for it has interest in keeping things stable in the region because it needs Pakistan’s help in meeting deadline of moving its troops from Afghanistan by April, because Pakistan and Taliban- the destructive force- in Afghanistan have a relationship of creator and creation. It would like to keep Pakistan in good humour till its goal is achieved and therefore, it won’t be a surprise if it puts an extra spotlight on Kashmir.
About the Author:
Arun Joshi is a senior journalist based in J&K. He has worked with Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express and The Tribune.
He has authored “ Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War” and three other books.