US Secretary of Defence James Mattis’ statement on the CPEC, both the US and India find themselves trapped in their own snare. Without any reference to the entire Kashmir region, Mattis, inadvertently or otherwise, brought up the phrase ‘disputed territory’ when expressing his country’s reservations about the corridor. “The One Belt, One Road (of which CPEC is the flagship) also goes through disputed territory, and I think that in itself shows the vulnerability of trying to establish that sort of a dictate,” US Defence Secretary James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee late last week.
India has always dismissed the notion of ‘disputed territory’ and called the entire region as its integral part. Major western capitals practically endorse New Delhi’s position and most have kept silence of expedience despite the wave of violence – hundreds of deaths, casualties and pellet-gun-induced fatal injuries to eyes – in the Indian-controlled Kashmir since the killing of Burhan Wani in Jualy 2016. Picking up on this paradox, General Nasir Janjua, the National Security Advisor, believes that the US Defence Secretary’s statement has resurrected the issue on the global radar. “This way the USA has not only recognisd Kashmir as a dispute but helped highlight it internationally,” Janjua told Daily Times.
“Washington should now step forward and help us seek a solution to Kashmir in the light of the UN resolutions,” he said, “Kashmir has been bleeding and the world has looked on silently. Isn’t it about time for the US to deploy its leverage for securing a peaceful resolution of a disputed territory?” Janjua asked.
Mattis’ statement also validates Sino-Pakistan suspicions on the motives of the Indo-US opposition to CPEC.
Secretary Mattis has also said that the US opposed China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ policy in principle because in a globalised world, there are many belts and many roads, and no one nation should put itself into a position of dictating ‘One Belt, One Road’.
By endorsing the Indian position on CPEC, Mattis has basically pulled the cat out of bag and provided a glimpse of how the Trump administration plans to forge a new partnership with India on Afghanistan.
Earlier, during his September 25-27 visit to New Delhi, the Defence Secretary had exchanged vows of cooperation with his Indian counterpart Ms Nirmala Sitharaman. They agreed to enhance the Indian role in counter-terrorism training of the Afghan troops and building of the country’s police force in the fight against the Taliban. Expanded role of Indian military is also under consideration to provide expertise in supporting the US-led training and advisory mission with Afghan security, the media has been told.
This convergence was not out of the blue; the Trump administration has been gradually ramping up pressure on Pakistan, manifest in statements before and after the strategy was unveiled; a day before his meeting with Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Secretary Mattis had upped the ante by telling a House Armed Services Committee hearing that the administration would try ‘one more time’ to work with Pakistan in Afghanistan, before turning to other options to address Islamabad’s alleged support for militant groups.
Strangely, none of the reports by the US Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) since 2012 has ever made any reference to Pakistan as the sole source of Afghanistan’s troubles.
On the contrary, both an alliance of Afghan NGOs (which prepared a 10-point Roadmap to Peace for Afghanistan) and the SIGAR have identified governmental corruption, warlordism, narcotics, Taliban and other non-state actors and abuse of fundamental rights as the primary reasons for Afghanistan’s continued troubles.