Facts speak as they are eternal and irrefutable, but opinions, being potentially divisive, can vary. Let us do a fact check on Pakistani Army’s administration and operations. Administratively, it is divided into different regiments and operationally has 11 corps with territorial jurisdictions.
Of the 11 corps’ headquarters, Quetta’s XII Corps, with two infantry divisions—41 and 33 (29 Brigade, Zhob; 60 Brigade, Sibi; 205 Brigade, Loralai; and Divisional Artillery, Zhob)—is headed by a comparatively junior Lieutenant General Riaz (Baloch Regiment; retiring September 23, 2019), placed 19th out of 27 serving Lieutenant Generals of Pakistani Army. Riaz, also the commander of Southern Command Quetta, is responsible for western Sind, south and southwest Afghan border of Pakistan, and for reinforcement of eastern formation as required (as took place during the India-Pakistan stand-off in 2002). That aside, Riaz is committed to internal security against the separatist Baloch national army.
Thus, Riaz is a sector commander of a part of Pakistani territory. He is neither Army Chief (as of now) nor the prime minister (he has not yet resorted to a coup, unlike some of his “illustrious” predecessors) and he also doesn’t hold any other civilian constitutional position of the country, which traditionally had been under “forced” political and administrative grip of the Army.
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Against this background, it is surprising that a “junior” sector commander would have “extra-command” to sermonise on an issue which, following the civilised world’s conventional state structure, would be the privilege and prerogative of the prime minister or at least the nation’s ministry of external affairs. But then, that is Army’s Pakistan.
What did Riaz say? And why? The Quetta commander, being an estimated 55,000-troop boss, has given clarion call to India to “shun enmity” and “join the $46-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) along with Iran, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries and enjoy its benefits.”
But then we all know that the real Pakistan, at best a weak outpost, is serving under a terrorist and fundamentalist Army, and that traditionally the Generals thereof have shown enough “guts” to show off that they trust no civilian of their country except the military high command. It is an Army which betrayed and battered its own people in 1971. It is an Army which put its elected prime minister to sword in 1979. It is an Army which proved its valour and bravery by inflicting immeasurable misery on their own Bengali-speaking people, ruthlessly killing tribal populace of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), en mass massacre of Balochis and outsourcing its professionalism to terrorists and fundamentalists to spread hatred and fear, and organising target killing in India and Afghanistan! It is an Army which today is “universally lauded” for its “International Academy for coup training” and “International School of terrorism, fundamentalist handling and suicide bombing by illiterates.”
However, what comes as a real revelation is that the all-weather friend of this murderous Army, with an inglorious and dishonourable record, happens to be a country with a 5,000-year-old civilisation. Yes, it is the Han of the Hwang Ho and Yangtsze-Kiang valley who happens to have taken the position of an enlightened friend, philosopher, guide of Pakistan Army.
So much so that even the prima donna amongst the Chinese media believes the “sincerity” of a junior Lt General, and advises India that “the best way to reduce hostilities is by establishing economic cooperation … to put aside what cannot be reached by a consensus!” Indeed, so profound is the impression created by a junior, remote-area, sector commander, on its all-weather friend, that the Chinese official mouthpiece media instantaneously takes cue to describe and prescribe a mutually-beneficial economic roadmap for India. That India should try to “boost its export and slash its trade deficit with China via new trade routes.” As if joining the CPEC would be the panacea for all the ills and evils of the northwest frontier of India as has been suggested by the Chinese media: “That the northern part of India bordering Pakistan and Jammu & Kashmir will gain more economic growth momentum if India joins the project.”
China’s deep concern for the area referred to is understandable. Why? Because the area is infested with military, mullah, militant, ghazi, fidayeen, lashkar. That is the geography, through which the proposed CPEC would pass—inhabited or surrounded by an eternally hostile, illiterate, religious fanatic, turbulent, violent demography which faced innumerable invasions down the ages, but rarely managed to beat them or reverse the tide. And there is nothing to believe that historical factors and forces would be any different in the foreseeable future. Far from it. Hence the need for a balancing factor of India, to take and face bullets, in case of flare up.
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For India, however, it is sovereignty and the Constitution that the Chinese-promoted CPEC has brazenly trampled upon? Can any government of India (irrespective of the party in power) be seen to be fiddling, or compromising, with J&K territory, being an integral part thereof? Several adverse consequences, therefore, follow in case India falls into the trap. First, legally, India would violate its own law. China will straight-away be a part, inside J&K, with full “Indian help.” Militarily too, India will be outflanked, with “India’s collusion.” Geopolitically and in international fora, none will heed India’s point in case it is fingered by a Sino-Paki axis. Everyone will say: “It is your creation. You have joined them. Do not cry foul.” Also, India’s joining can only be perceived as if “Delhi is not serious about terror problem.” Indians themselves are likely to complain that there is a “hiatus between what is professed and what is practised by the government of India!”
And finally, China’s One Belt, One Road, through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, would amount to “Three Belt, Three Road” of the three-nation club (Beijing, Islamabad, Delhi) running over, and brazenly breaching India’s sovereignty and territory.
Seen in juxtaposition, since the Chinese see J&K as a disputed territory, will the Chinese accept an (identical) reverse situation in Tibet or Taiwan? In case a CPEC-type bilateral programme of two foreign countries passes through a disputed Tibet or Taiwan, and China is asked, or offered, to join for “connectivity, commerce and convenience,” how would the Chinese mandarins react? Will they say yes or no?
The author is alumnus of National Defence College, New Delhi. Views are personal