Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Do You Want to Trek to DoodhSagar WaterFalls?

Doodhsagar, literally meaning an ocean of milk, is an inviting waterfall in Goa-Karnataka border. Mondovi (Konkani) or Mahadayi (Kannada) river falls from over 1000 feet here, going as wide as 100 feet in some places. There are multiple drops of the fall from the top, and most people enjoy the top half from a railway track, when they take a train that runs right past the falls.

How to get there? But we had other plans. We wanted to see the entire falls from the bottom. The entire 1000+ feet falls! It does take some effort as there are only jeeps, motor bikes or a 15+ KM walk as our only options. We chose to walk.

We took an overnight mini bus journey from Bengaluru to a place called Ramanagara in Uttara Kannada district. Reached Ramanagara (don't confuse with the more famous Rama nagara near Bengaluru) early morning and freshened up. Keep at least 8 hours to get to Ramanagara.

From Ramanagara, we crossed over to Goa state and reached a place called Colem (also Kolem).

From Colem or Kolem, during monsoon you can only walk or take a motor bike ride (one bike per visitor). We preferred to walk. Jeeps are available for parts of the journey, but not throughout as the path gets flooded beyond jeep's safe driving height.

Trekking:  Start before 11 AM from Colem. You must target to reach the water falls before 3 PM. Else your luck might run out if it rains heavy or fog comes over. Remember, you will have to cross the river and streams many times. Even 30 minutes of heavy rain will raise the water level by a feet or two! We experienced over 1 feet difference within 20 minutes at the top. Carry a good first-aid box.

This is the starting point. Everyone in full josh!

The first 3 KM would be below the railway track and thick Western Ghats jungle. Remember, even if you take a jeep for a part of your return, you will have to walk back the same 3 KM stretch in the evening, so plan on coming here before sunset. Don't forget rainproof clothing, specifically for your mobile phones, wallets etc. It rains heavily in this part of Western Ghats rain forest. Torches will come handy for evening.

The path is beautiful. If you start early, you can relax next to streams, enjoy the views.. and if you are very lucky, you might catch a Bison or two from a distance! We saw one bison that was 600+ KG from a safe distance.

The track changes from rough jeep track to beautiful jungle tracks. In some places you can get lush green lawns! That's the best part of hiking during monsoon. Lots of greenery and heavy water flow making your trip worthwhile.

For those afraid of leech bites, you can carry thin plastic covers and tightly wrap around your shoe, socks and lower part of pants (see the left most person in a pic below).
If you go in a big team, you can have lot of fun. Just don't fall behind each much. Also do take a guide. Our guide was excellent. Click 100s of pictures. We had scores of good photographers!

If you don't want to walk, throughout the year you can avail motor bike facility. It would be almost the same price per person as trekking, minus all the fun of jungle trek.

The walking path is very beautiful. There would always be a small worry of a bison or leopard, but the guides will take you through safer ways. If you are nature lover, you can observe plenty of camouflaging insects, different types of birds, small reptiles and much more. 

If you give yourself enough time to hike, you can relax and take lots of pictures next to streams and river along the way. It is totally worth it, particularly during intermittent rains. If our youngest champion could trek all along, you can feel assured that this trek can be done by most people, who can walk 15 to 20KM in one day.
Our guide spotted some wild mushrooms on the way. He quickly grabbed a few and gave it on the way to a house where our food was being prepared. We had the same mushroom curry, on the way back from falls! As fresh as it gets...

 As we get closer to the falls, beyond the watch tower, the current gets tougher, and crossing becomes difficult. In one or two places, you might have to literally form human chains, or grab onto ropes put by volunteers. Be very careful with footing. One slip, and you might get washed down half a KM over rocks and boulders hurting seriously. Don't try any stunts here. If you feel unsafe, don't attempt any further. Go back to the watch tower and view from a safe distance. Water level here changes by hour.

And the view after all this effort? Priceless!
Many of our team members wished we reached an hour earlier to spend more time here. By the time we got here, it was time to pack up due to the risk of flash floods and more heavy rain. But even the 15-20 minutes we spent here were totally worth it!

This is the actual viewing tower, if you don't want to take a risk during the final stretch. It is safe to view from here in any weather.


And we did something we hadn't done before, after eating sumptuous lunch served by the guide's friend's family.
16 people in one jeep!! Because our second jeep to return was parked 3 to 4 KM down the road, and no one wanted to walk that much. So we had lot of fun with 16 people in one jeep :)

We decided not to travel back 600+ KM overnight as you will be damp, tired and really need a good shower and sleep. We headed to the nearest big city, Belagavi on the Karnataka side. It took us about 2.5 hours to get here from Colem. We stopped at Khanapur for a nice paav bhaji, Dosa and other dinner items.

Rest well and then the next day would be a lot of fun.

Military Mahadev temple, Belagavi. There is a beautiful park with miniatures of all of Shivaji Maharaj's forts here to see.

Belagavi's Durga temple, fort and lake opposite to the fort.

Suvarna Soudha about 15 minutes south of Belagavi. Massive structure for assembly building and you can get a great view of Belagavi from top of this hill. 
Then the historic Kittur fort and museum. You can spend hours listening to the guides explaining how India's first female freedom fighter fought the British army from here.

Overall.. Doodhsagar is in the middle of awesome attractions. Either you can head west after the falls to see the beautiful beaches of Goa, or head east to Karnataka for what all we saw, or head south again to Karnataka to more wilderness in the Western Ghats. Everything is within 2 hours of drive.

Go out there and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

CPEC: Does It Make Economic Sense For Pakistan?


The hottest topic during the past weekend was BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) or OBOR (One Belt, One Road). Basically China's mega project of Belt and Road Initiative, connecting dozens of countries and building infrastructure with a "win-win" proposal.

One important part of OBOR has relevance to the Indian subcontinent. That is CPEC - China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

There are five parts to this writeup. Feel free to jump to any section that suits your interest as the writeup is quite long. If you have time, go through every section, including the videos and reading material links provided. You will need at least 5 hours to fully absorb the extensive research provided here, if you want to read and watch all the material provided.

Five parts in this writeup:
  1. General views from involved countries.
  2. Legality of a disputed area through which CPEC goes through.
  3. Misconceptions about CPEC in Pakistan.
  4. Strategic reasons for CPEC that would mostly benefit China only.
  5. Why both Pakistan and China are going ahead with CPEC? 

Part 1: There are three general views about CPEC, from three concerned countries.

  1. If you are a Pakistani, you will be talking about the bright future for Pakistan in CPEC and how Dollars will grow from trees in a generation! Of course, you will say Indians are jealous of Pakistan's upcoming massive development, and hence they are not joining OBOR or CPEC. By the way, CPEC is the largest investment promised to Pakistan since its formation in 1947!
  2. If you are an Indian, you will focus on Gilgit Baltistan area of Jammu and Kashmir state, that is legally a part of India, but illegally occupied by Pakistani. You will also focus on Shaksgam valley and Aksai Chin as related areas of Jammu and Kashmir, illegally occupied by China. And, CPEC will eventually touch these Pakistan and China occupied territories that are legally a part of India due to 1947 J&K accession document. For India, this is a clear violation of its territorial sovereignty.
  3. If you are a Chinese, you will talk about economic cooperation with all neighbouring countries, specifically linking Indian ocean with Pacific ocean with the great CPEC project and OBOR mega scheme. As a Chinese, you would say, keep politics out of economic project.
But let's examine CPEC part of OBOR in detail. I am liberally using an excellent research posted on Twitter by an Anonymous poster {@handle_anonymus}. Special thanks to that man or woman, who has enlightened us all, while keeping anonymous. I also did some in depth reading and watching videos over the days to understand more on this. So this blog will have a combination of info, but presented in a way that will give you a bigger picture.

It does not matter if you support or oppose CPEC and OBOR. Just read to understand the ground realities and projections. Then give your opinion in comments, and specifically any corrections to the facts presented here.

Part 2: Why do you say that a part of CPEC route is illegal as per international laws?

This is about the entry point of CPEC into Pakistan from China. The first 300 or so KM of CPEC passes through Jammu and Kashmir state, which is a legal part of India. You can refer to my earlier blog to learn about Gilgit Baltistan area - Jammu and Kashmir, a Reality Check. I have provided maps and much more details about the overall regions and the "dispute" part.
"The multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is being touted as nothing more than a 'black hole' as far as people of Gilgit Baltistan (shown in green in the map below) are concerned. Junaid Qureshi, a Kashmiri writer raises voice against the CPEC project, which passes through Gilgit Baltistan, a disputed territory controlled by Pakistan."

In short, neither China, nor Pakistan can ever claim that they OWN this Gilgit Baltistan area, which Pakistan also called as Northern Areas. If this area goes to international court, neither China, nor Pakistan can ever produce Accession document, which is with India for the entire Jammu and Kashmir state, of which Gilgit and Baltistan are part of.

Why so much emphasis on Gilgit Baltistan, a part of Jammu and Kashmir state in India?

For those who have not studied or watched Gilgit and Baltistan area of Jammu and Kashmir state,
there are some links here. It is a fabulously beautiful place on the earth!

Watch the first 7 minutes and the last five minutes. You will see how CPEC is building infrastructure in Indian territory occupied by Pakistan. In India this is called as Pakistan Occupied Kashmir or PoK for short.

Gilgit Baltistan is a  paradise of Jammu and Kashmir lost by India. Illegally occupied by Pakistan and China (Shaksgam valley).

"China occupies more than 20,000 square kilometer of Gilgit-Baltistan (part of Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir) covering Shaksgam, Raskam, Shimshal and Aghil valleys" - Senge Sering, President of Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies.

As part of the Sino-Pakistan Frontier Agreement from 1960s, the Chinese authorities guaranteed India that it accepted  Gilgit-Baltistan as a disputed territory and that the agreement was only  provisional in nature and would be renegotiated once the dispute of  Jammu & Kashmir was resolved.
This is the main reason India is saying CPEC is violating its territorial sovereignty.

This is how the Karakoram map highway was built between 1960s and 1980s first, and then being widened and strengthened during 2010s. India has objected to this many times in the past.

K2, the world's second highest peak is legally inside India per accession documents, but illegally occupied by Pakistan. See how beautiful it is.

In short, Gilgit Baltistan is a paradise, a tough terrain and strategically very important for India, but under Pakistan and China's joint occupation now, as described above. This is the core issue for dispute and there is no way it would end anytime soon.

It's always a possibility that India can block international loans to CPEC tomorrow, citing legality of the territory. It's quite possible and a big risk Pakistan is taking knowing well the reality of Gilgit Baltistan's accession to India history.

Part 3: Is CPEC really helpful for Pakistan? Let's examine Five big misconceptions.

For a minute let's say.. who cares about Indian opposition? Both China and Pakistan have nuclear weapons and there is no practical way India can wrestle Gilgit-Baltistan from Pakistan and China by force. India can play other tricks like water sharing cut off. But "we" can deal with them when they happen. "We" are going ahead with CPEC no matter what...

In that case, ask again. Is CPEC really helpful for Pakistan? This is the core question for this blog. CPEC is certainly helpful for China as it is planning it.
  1. But for Pakistan? Is it worth the time, money, effort, international conflicts and much more?
  2. Beyond politics, loans, technology etc... the big question is.. is this CPEC making economic sense to Pakistan, where most of the things are being built?
Now I will use the information from Twitter, referred here. I am going to present almost line by line that research from here onward.

There have been many rationals provided for CPEC. Pakistanis think that it would upend sea route and CPEC would become primary supply route for Chinese goods and thus when it is completed then Dollars will flow through canals! First I demolish five misconceptions that people may have about CPEC, and then ponder on why it is being built, and its ramifications.

First misconception about CPEC: Cost of Transportation will become less

The first misconception is that it would become a supply route to China by upending sea route for goods supplied to and from mid-east. It is not so and I would try to prove it using approximations with data available from open sources.

Distance between Shanghai and Kashi (Kashgar) = 5121 KM.
Distance between Kashgar and Gwadar = 2747 KM.

Average Trucking cost per Ton per KM in China = 5 cents.
Average Trucking cost per Ton per KM in Pakistan = 1.8 cents.

These cost are from a decade ago, and would have become 6 cents for China and 3 cents for Pakistan, just by taking inflation into account.This is the most conservative calculation as I am not taking into account Hazard premium that nature of Terrain imposes on Pakistan (Karakoram Highway is rated world's fourth most dangerous highway) and the Hazard premium that China has to pay for transporting good through Takla Makan Desert, Kulun Shan mountains range and Altai Shan mountain range.

But still let us calculate cost of transporting a Ton of good from Shanghai to Gwadar.

Cost incurred in Chinese territory = 0.06 X 5121 = $307
Cost incurred in Pakistani territory = 0.03 X 2747 = $82.41
So total cost from Shanghai to Gwadar for a Ton of goods = $389.41

Now let destination port be Dubai.

Cost of Transporting Dubai to Shanghai = $820 per TEU.
Since standard 1 TEU = 21,600 KG, the Cost of Transporting 1 Ton via sea from Dubai to Shanghai = $38.

Cost from Karachi to Dubai for 1 TEU = $125 (rate for Gwadar are not available as port is not operational).
So the cost of transporting 1 Ton from Karachi to Dubai = $5.787.
Total cost of Shipping a Ton from Shanghai to Dubai via Gwadar = $395.

Total cost of Shipping directly from Dubai to Shanghai = $38 which is 10.4 times less than that of Transporting via Gwadar !!

And this is not all. CPEC passes through Khunjareb Pass which remain open only from May 1st till December 31st of each year.  So CPEC can't be the main route to anywhere.

Second misconception about CPEC: China needs an energy Pipeline

The second misconception is that China is constructing a pipeline from Gwadar to Nawabshah. It has lead to Pakistanis speculating that Gwadar is on path of becoming an energy. Their TV shows even pulled in Iran and Russia into the gas equation of CPEC.

But it is not - reasons are here.

If one look at this map properly, China borders Gas and Oil rich Central Asia and has three mega pipelines running from Central Asia to China, including the world's longest pipeline
This version of map does not show Indian borders accurately
Of anything that China needs, the least thing that China needs in East Turkestan is Energy. It could get ample amount of it just from across the border, some 100's of KM away. Note that East Turkestan is referred by China as its Xinjiang province, but there is a lot of controversy around that involving the native inhabitants Muslim Uyghurs. This CPEC runs through Xinjiang province on the Chinese part.

Third misconception about CPEC: It saves time 

The third misconception about CPEC is that it could save time. This again is false. Let’s assume the best possible conditions for a truck. A Truck would not stop anywhere (No rest for drivers, no checkpoints, no fuel or repair break) and assume that a Truck runs 24 Hours at 30KMph, and I am neglecting time it would be needed to transfer goods in Gwadar.

Time required for Travel = 262 Hours = 11 Days.

Via sea, the time required for transport of a container from Dubai to Karachi = 5 days.
So the total time required for overland transport when drivers and port handlers are supermen = 16 days.

Time required to transport a container from Dubai to Shanghai via sea = 15 Days.

This was an outlier calculation. Let's be realistic. Assume that a driver drives for 12 hour per day, it would take and on average take a day extra to go through customs and refueling stop. It would take him 91.57 hours to reach Kashgar, which would be equal to 7.7 days or 8.7 days taking pit stops into account. That Truck would take 170 Hours to reach Shanghai from Kashgar. That is 14 days of driving and assuming two days for pit stops, 16 days. We assume that Gwadar is as efficient as that of Karachi, it would take 6 days to clear import formalities.

Thus the total time it would need to transport goods from Dubai to Shanghai via Gwadar would be 36 days, compared to 15 days it would take to reach Dubai from Shanghai via Malacca!!

Fourth misconception about CPEC: It could serve Western China

There are two follies to this argument.
The first being that western China is sparsely populated and the second being that other seaports are closer to those provinces.

Following provinces are close to CPEC
1. East Turkestan (Xinjiang): Area 1664900 Sq KM; Pop 22.09 million.
2. Qinghai: Area 720,000 Sq KM; Pop 5.58 million.
3. Gansu : Area 425,800 Sq KM; Pop 25.64 million.
4. Inner Mongolia: Area 1183,000 Sq KM; Pop 24.82 million.
5. Tibet: Area 1228400 Sq KM; Pop 3.145 million.

Total area of these provinces = 5,222,100 Sq KM.
This is 54% of Total area of China, and an area 6.6 times that of Pakistan; while its population is just 81 million which is 6% of Chines population and less than half (0.44 times) of Pakistani population.

This is the extent of how sparsely populated Western part of China is.
Chinese version of map does not show Indian borders accurately

  Pakistan shares border with Takla Makan desert of China.
Chinese version of map does not show Indian borders accurately
A Highway & Economic corridors brings prosperity when Economic depression of a region is due to that region being cut off from rest of the country. In this case, underdevelopment is due to geographical factors, not due to infrastructure factors. See this map closely for climatic regions of Asian eastern half. Clearly a large portion of CPEC's intended area within today's China is BWk (Desert) or ET (Alpine) areas with very minimal human population. 

Deserts, cold arid Plateaus, and mountains reduce your Economic potential (unless you harness them for tourism like Switzerland).

Now we come to aspect of distance between West Chinese cities and nearest seaports.

CPEC is not airdropping in Western Qinghai so that it would have same effect on all of Western China. It is joining China in North-West corner of China, that is the western corner of East Turkestan. The only provinces that it could affect are East Turkestan (Xinjiang) and its neighbours Tibet, Qinghai, Gansu in Western China, and Inner Mongolia in Northern China.

Source: Wiki

Many people would find it difficult to fathom that some provinces (mostly in West China) are many times larger than even Pakistan itself. East Turkestan is 2.1 times larger, Tibet is 1.54 times larger, Inner Mongolia 1.48 times larger Qinghai equal to Pakistan, and Gansu is half of Pakistan.

Eastern part of Western China is further away from Pakistan than even Europe. For example capital of Shaanxi (Taiyuan) is as far away from Islamabad by air (3559 KM) as Ankara (3600 KM).
CPEC could not be used by people separated by 2 provinces from Pakistan. It is a non starter.

But let’s present facts still.
Take Shaanxi - Capital Taiyuan; Distance of capital from Islamabad = 4904.3 KM.
Distance of capital from nearest Chinese seaport (Tianjin) = 943 KM.
Distance of capital from Gwadar = 6644 KM.

Take Ningxia - Capital Yinchuan; Distance of capital from Islamabad = 4337 KM.
Distance of capital from nearest Chinese seaport (Tianjin) = 1200 KM.
Distance of capital from Gwadar = 6077 KM.

Take Chongquing (No capital); Distance of Chongquing  from Islamabad = 5069 KM.
Distance of Chongquing from nearest Chinese seaport = 0 KM. This is considering the construction of Three Gorges Dam. Barring the largest cargo ships, ocean going ships could sail upto Chongquing. But still distance between Chongquing and Shanghai is 1689 KM.
Distance of Chongquing from Gwadar = 6843 KM.

Take Guzihou - capital Gulyang; Distance of capital from Islamabad = 5459 KM.
Distance of capital from nearest Chinese seaport (Beihai) = 796 KM.
Distance of capital from Gwadar = 7199 KM.

Take Yunnan - capital (Kuming); Distance of capital from Islamabad = 5859 KM.
Distance of capital from nearest Chinese seaport (Beihai) = 1024 KM.
Distance of capital from Gwadar = 7635 KM.

Take Sichuan - capital (Chengdu); Distance of capital from Islamabad = 4976 KM.
Distance of capital from nearest Chinese seaport (Chongquing) = 326 KM and (Shanghai) = 1968 KM.
Distance of capital from Gwadar = 6716 KM.

All these Western provinces that Pakistanis dream Gwadar would serve are farther away from Gwadar than Western Europe is from Pakistan by Road. Distance between Islamabad and Berlin by road is 6353 KM, and of Paris is 7300 KM; nearly of the order of distance of Gwadar from any of Eastern provinces of Western China.

Anyway China does not even intend to use Gwadar for these provinces. It already has a corridor via Myanmar to Yunnan province for redundancy in 2013 itself.

Fifth misconception about CPEC: It would develop East Turkestan (Xinjiang)

Now we come to final dream of CPEC - that it would develop far west of China that is East Turkestan. This is pure day dreaming.

The reason that East Turkmenistan is not developed is because most of it is covered with Takla Makan desert. near Pakistan border and Tien Shan mountain range in the north.

Inner Mongolia region is not developed because most of it is covered with Gobi desert.

Quinghai is not developed because most of its is mountainous with Kulun, Altun and Bayan Har shan mountain ranges.

Gansu is not developed because its area is covered with Gobi desert and Quilian Shan mountain range.

Tibet is not developed because it is a barren cold plateau.
Chinese version of map does not show Indian borders accurately
These places have a low population density because of geographical limitations. Desert and Mountains never support high population, and this is a basic economic rule that low population areas never have high growth potential (because of less number of producers and consumers). Barring discovery of oil, desert remains civilization backwater, irrespective of how many road you build since their population supporting capacity is limited by some very basic factors, FOOD and WATER. Even if you transport food at great cost in this area, you would still have no water to support a large settlement.

Part 4: Then WHY is China financing such a massive CPEC project?
Now that we have put some misconceptions regarding CPEC out of way, we ponder on reasons why China is financing CPEC? There are four key reasons.

First reason for China building CPEC: Backup Trade route 

The first reason is that China is building an alternative trade route in case Malacca and Sunda straits are blocked by US Navy or Indian Navy during a war. You need to go through either Malacca, Sunda, or Lombok straits, if you want to travel from Pacific to Indian oceans and does not want to swing around Papua New Guinea or Australia.

Malacca, Sunda and Lombok straits of south east Asia

CPEC will provide China with alternative route, in case its sea trade is shut down by navies dominating the Indian Ocean.

Second reason for China building CPEC: Excess Built-up Capacity  

The second reason for CPEC/OBOR is that China has excess capacity in Cement and Steel which it could not dump in market as most countries have started imposing countervailing duties on Chinese dumping. China is dumping its excess Steel and Cement capacity in OBOR, which the recipient countries have to pay. European investment into China has decreased recently. In 2016 it dropped 23% - lowest in 10 years. Chinese market access issues causing it. So China looking elsewhere to make profits.

Third reason for China building CPEC: Get Asian countries into Chinese debt 

The third is strategic reason. China is trying to bind Asian countries to itself by investing in their infrastructure, investment that carry a steep rate of return, thus indebting them to China. This is not limited to Pakistanis as even Sri Lanka has $50Bn debt due to politically motivated Chinese investment in Hambantota done during Rajpaksa’s time, which it is finding difficult to discharge. Tajikistan is also facing a similar issue with big loans from Chinese.

CPEC plan made public: Nawaz Sharif's march towards turning Pakistan into Chinese province begins

Nothing much to gain for Pakistan. (A Pakistani TV debate): 104 Coal plants closed in China, but pollution would escalate in Pakistan. Then there is always the loan issue.

Fourth reason for China building CPEC: Sweet deal in Pakistan

The fourth reason is that China is getting a very sweet deal from Pakistanis for CPEC. See a number of news and analysis links here provided from Pakistani newspapers.

Chinese banks provide loans for CPEC, which is constructed using Chinese cement, steel, and manpower thus effectively returning that money back to Chinese economy.

Pakistan pays 2-5% interest rate above Libor (London Interbank Offered Rate), has taken sovereign guarantee for 18% RoR.

Pakistan would be paying China $90 billion on a loan of $50 billion!!! .. and that too when it has limited avenues to make money from CPEC,while dumping of Chinese goods would kill Pakistan industry. Pakistan also has to pay for ancillary expenditure like security from its pocket.

Part 5: Finally, then WHY are China and Pakistan going ahead with CPEC?

From Chinese perspective, it is simple. It knows that Pakistan would not be able to pay its loan
and eventually China would come to own infrastructure and/or land inside Pakistan. It is classical neo-colonialism. Make a country so indebted to you that it could not help but sell itself to you. Pakistan would become a puppet of China completely :(

To this effect, China is also making Pakistan drive out any alternative creditors like ADB so that it does not have a competition in colonizing Pakistan.

Pakistan, on its part, is desperate for any investment, on whichever term it comes with. Pakistan's Military is getting a share, its people have a hope that CPEC would bring prosperity, and it also believe that if China own majority of assets in Pakistan, it would interfere in any future Indo-Pak war to save its assets.

If you have analyzed the analysis so far, you would be shaking your head stating - "It is hard to understand the mentality of Pakistanis.... also love the meticulous planning Chinese have done to reap a windfall in CPEC!"

Do you agree with the analysis? Tell me your feedback openly and in a civil way, by leaving a comment.


Bonus Material:
Some ancient Sanskrit names of some cities of East Turkestan or Xinjiang province of China; 

Karasahr - Agnidesh 
Khotan - Kustana 
Aksu - Bharuka 
Kucha - Kuchina 
Kashgar - Sailadesha. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Jammu and Kashmir - A Reality Check

Every day I keep seeing questions on Jammu and Kashmir. Who does it belong to? How did we get here? What are the solutions? Who is to blame?

Let me answer the four most pertinent questions:

  1. Will India be able to improve relations with Pakistan?
  2. What is wrong with Kashmir, the Kashmir people, Hurriyat, and the governments of India and Pakistan?
  3. Which nation does Aksai Chin belong to : China or India?
  4. Why doesn’t India give Kashmir to the Kashmiris?
Part 1) Will India be able to improve relations with Pakistan?

Pakistan is a country built on a faulty foundation. The 2 nation theory wherein Muslims can't live with Hindus (mostly) was their firm belief. But after losing Bangladesh due to their own crime, that theory is now flushed. Also, the gradual prosperity of Indian Muslims, who are living with Hindus well for most part, has shocked the 4th generation of Pakistan since independence. Economically, Pakistan is nothing in front of India. Pakistan's economy is much less than just one state of India, that is Maharashtra.

Economy of Maharashtra - $398 billion (in 2015)
Economy of Pakistan - $271 billion (in 2015)

The only thing that is keeping Punjabis, Sindhis, Pathans, Baluchs and others is the artificially created hate against India (victim hood). India will be able to improve relationship with Pakistan only to the extent of keeping away mad Generals of Pakistan from actually triggering the danger buttons on missiles. Beyond that, it is more of a stick, carrot, stick, carrot... relationship. Because you can't have perfect relationship with someone whose only dream is to destroy you.


Part 2) What is wrong with Kashmir, the Kashmir people, Hurriyat, and the governments of India and Pakistan?

Basically who is blaming whom..

There is nothing wrong with Kashmir. What we have is a dispute cultivated by Britain and USA, during 1940s and early 1950s. Now it is an issue cultivated by China for its economic benefits and access to Arabian sea and Indian ocean via Pakistan. Even after 7 decades, there is no end in sight.

Kashmir is generally a term used for the whole of Jammu and Kashmir state. The state as it was in 1947, is a big one. Today, 60% of the state is within India, even after the Maharajah who ruled in 1947 (Hari Singh) formally signed an accession document to merge his state into India, like 100s of other Rajas. Pakistan has control of 30% which it invaded in the form of "tribal" invasion. China has control of about 10%. China might have a bit more than 10% as, Pakistan in 1960s "gifted" a lush green Shaksgam valley in the north, to China.

The Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir princely state signed with India in 1947 an
instrument of accession. That's it. J&K belongs to India eternally or at least close to eternity :)

This map  (and another map in Part 3) shows approximately the areas held by India, Pakistan and China. 
PoK = Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and CoK = China Occupied Kashmir. 
These are standard terms used in Indian parliament. Some also use PoJK and CoJK.

Now coming to "Kashmir".. there are five distinct parts of Jammu and Kashmir state.

1) Kashmir valley - Small valley around Srinagar.
2) Jammu - Southernmost part of J&K. Most populated place.
3) Ladakh - Eastern Himalayan hills. Has the world's highest motorable road etc. Very sparely populated.
4) Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK): This has two distinct parts. One is the southern strip along India's Kashmir valley, which Pakistan calls as "Azad Kashmir". Then the bigger northern part which is Gilgit and Baltistan. Now-a-days, these two areas - Gilgit and Baltistan, are together termed as Northern Areas.
5) Aksai Chin (CoK) - North Eastern J&K under China's control since 1962 war where Chinese walked into this area. Aksai Chin is almost a desert where no one lives. China also controls the lush green Shaksgam Valley (CoK 1 in the map), "gifted" by Pakistan in 1960s, in return for things which you can imagine.

Only two of these five places actually have protests and people movements today. That is Kashmir valley within India, and PoK or Azad Kashmir in Pakistan. The former is larger and louder. The latter is smaller, but simmering. Kashmir Valley has separatist groups under a Hurriyat banner, which represents overall less than 5% of the overall Jammu and Kashmir. But media projects them as the true representatives of "Kashmiris". Some of them want to become independent and some opt for Pakistan. On the Pakistan side, low key movements are there to join India. They are not given much publicity in media.

So if you look at the overall picture, majority of Jammu and Kashmir is peaceful or without any movements today. It's only the 10 to 20% of the overall state, centered around the valley, that has disruptions. There are zero problems in the large populated part of Jammu and Kashmir state, the Jammu region. Jammu is predominantly Hindu and Ladakh is predominantly Buddhist. That might explain why those regions have no issues with India.

India blames Pakistan sponsored terrorism and support to separatism for all the problems.  And they keep coming inside India regularly. Almost every month you will see a gun battle, with cross border infiltration bids being stopped. You also see many demonstrations in Kashmir valley, with Hurriyat groups mobilizing 1000s of Kashmiri Muslim youth to come against India. India's claim is, just like 500+ princely states that signed the accession document, J&K also signed. So the whole state legally belongs to India. That is the final settlement.

Pakistan blames India for all the trouble. Pakistan talks of occupation by India. Pakistan goes back to 1940s and 50s when a three step process was discussed. It shows that India had agreed to do a plebiscite for the whole state then considering a war situation. But India says that one of the pre condition put by UN was that Pakistan should withdraw from all the areas of Jammu and Kashmir that it had army on. Pakistan refused to withdraw its troops. So India conducted democratic elections in its part of J&K and the matter is closed since then.

China does not openly blame much, but quietly sides with Pakistan. After all China got parts of Jammu and Kashmir with almost no effort, and it wants Pakistan for its CPEC (economic corridor) to open a gateway to Arabian Sea/Indian ocean. Without PoK, China has no direct border with Pakistan, so it is vital from China's expansionist agenda to support Pakistan at any cost, even when Pakistan sponsors terrorism on large scale against India and other countries. China also keeps offering 'mediation' which India rejects every time within minutes.

Hope this gives a glimpse of the core issue. Frankly, the issue is not as bad as you see in the media. More than 12 million people live on the Indian side of J&K today. More than 10 million of those live peacefully. "Kashmir Problem" is essentially a problem in a small part within Kashmir valley, of a huge Jammu and Kashmir state.

Part 3: Which nation does Aksai Chin belong to : China or India?

Aksai Chin belongs to India.

Two reasons:
  1. It was a part of Jammu and Kashmir princely state. In fact, the Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir had even constructed a fort at Shahidulla (modern-day Xaidulla, a part of Xinjiang in China today), and had troops stationed there for some years to protect caravans. So it was more than Aksai Chin that was under Jammu and Kashmir ruler’s control.
  2. It was a part of 1865 Johnson line during British survey of India. William Johnson, a civil servant with the Survey of India had drawn the "Johnson Line" in 1865, which had put Aksai Chin into Jammu and Kashmir. After 1947 October, Jammu and Kashmir joined India through a legally signed accession document by the Maharajah. This was similar to 100s of other Maharajahs who signed to accede to India during that year, which British left India, creating India and Pakistan as two separate nations.

If you look closely, Aksai Chin has borders with both Xinjiang and Tibet. Both were not with China 70 years ago. Chinese call the 1949 occupation of Xinjiang (a Turkish Muslim dominated province) as the “Peaceful liberation of Xinjiang”. Before that in 1878, Chinese had “reconquered Xinjiang” once. Not sure why they needed a second “liberation” in 1949. They also term the 1951 occupation of Tibet by China as “Incorporation of Tibet into the People's Republic of China”. In short, both are huge central Asian regions and both were not a part of what we know as China today, before 1949.

Then how did India lose Aksai Chin to China?

Because post 1947 independence, India was going through a big turmoil. Civil war, massive poverty and other issues had kept the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru busy with highly populated places, taking focus off Aksai Chin which had almost no population. It was a barren land in the high altitude of Himalayas, at the tip of Northern India. Moreover, Tibet was a buffer state between India and China, and a friendly one. So India had nothing to worry on Aksai Chin area. But the newly resurgent China had just “incorporated” massive provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet, and was building China National Highway 219. That highway runs through Aksai Chin connecting Lazi and Xinjiang in the Tibet Autonomous Region. Despite this region being nearly uninhabitable and having no resources, it remains strategically important for China as it connects Tibet and Xinjiang. The highway construction started in 1951 and the road was completed in 1957. This was one of India’s biggest blunders, as they did not “notice” this highway built through Aksai Chin, fully claimed by it! By the time they lodged complaints with China, it was too late.

So China literally got 10s of 1000s of sq. KM of Aksai Chin area, while India was sleeping or busy with internal issues. Now they are using it as a bargain to get more strategic lands east of Himalayas.
  • So Aksai Chin belonged to Jammu and Kashmir.
  • It became a part of India after Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India via a legal signature in 1947.
  • But it mostly is under Chinese control since 1950s as India was “too busy” to notice a massive highway being built by China through Aksai Chin.
  • It is officially termed as CoJK in India - China occupied Jammu and Kashmir
There is also another part of Jammu and Kashmir state of India, called Shaksgam valley. That is not barren like Aksai Chin. It is a beautiful lush green Himalayan mountain region, “gifted” by Pakistan in 1963 to China for other “favours” extended by China. It is CoJK - 2 (China Occupied Jammu and Kashmir part 2) in Jammu and Kashmir.

Shaksgam Valley must be the only land on this planet, which belongs to one country (India) legally, but “gifted” by a second country (Pakistan) to a third country (China) for other favours received!
So Aksai Chin and Shaksgam Valley issues would remain a thorn between India and China relations for decades to come.. if not longer.

Lastly, not only Aksai Chin, but China technically has no business with Himalayas. Even today, 94% of Chinese live east of the Heihe-Tengchong line or Hu Huanyong line. Yes 94%!!

Sorry: J&K map is not accurate in this population density map found on the net.

Look on the Indian side. There are 100s of millions of Indians living within 100–200 KM from Himalayas all across its west to East length. So all these claims of Tibet, Aksai Chin, Shaksgam valley, Arunachal Pradesh, Xinjiang are fairly strategic and new from Chinese point of view, without any basis from historic or population existence logic. The Hun Chinese have historically been limited to the east of Hu Huanyong line. And it holds true even today.

Part 4 (Final): Why doesn’t India give Kashmir to the Kashmiris?

Kashmir is a small valley in the larger state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Jammu and Kashmir is today divided among 3 countries - India, Pakistan and China.

Only one country has the legal instrument of accession signed - that is India.

The Instrument of Accession is a legal document executed by Maharaja Hari Singh, ruler of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, on 26 October 1947. By executing this document under the provisions of the Indian Independence Act 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh agreed to accede to the Dominion of India.

Just like modern India was formed by 500+ such accession documents signed by erstwhile Rajas, Nawabs, and other leaders, Jammu and Kashmir joined India in 1947. Once a part of Indian union each state has freedom within its territories, as defined by the constitution of India. Compared to rest of Indian states, J&K has a lot more freedom and autonomy. More than 200 constitutional amendments to Indian constitution are not even applicable in J&K as of today.

So no matter how many decades this talk goes on, No Pakistani or No Chinese can ever claim an inch of Jammu and Kashmir state, as the entire state is a legal part of India due to the accession document.

Pakistan is illegally occupying Pakistani Occupied Kashmir (both Muzaffarabad region and Gilgit- Baltistan areas.)

China is illegally occupying Shaksgam valley (COK 1) and Aksai Chin (COK 2). See map at the top of this blog post for details.

So Kashmir is already with Kashmiris. There are Kashmiri Chief Ministers governing the state for decades. Just like a Kannadiga governs Karnataka, a Odia governs Odisha, a Kashmiri is governing now.

Whatever violence and trouble we have there is sponsored by Pakistan which is illegally occupying a big portion of J&K. The moment China and Pakistan vacate their illegal occupations, and return the entire J&K to the rightful owner India, all problems would be solved immediately.

PS: All images used in this blog post are found using public search on internet. All credits to original rights holders.