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Naeem Akhtar sees Chinese dragon in Kashmir

Official spokesman of the Jammu and Kashmir government and Public Works Minister Naeem Akhtar has said that besides India and Pakistan, Kashmir has a Chinese factor too and that the ‘dragon’ is assuming a “much bigger role in Kashmir”.

With China repeatedly stonewalling India’s efforts to get the Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar listed as “terrorist” in United Nations, Akhtar uses the development to claim that JeM has been veritably “adopted” by Beijing.

And then goes on to conclude that the “growing influence of China” makes it imperative for India to engage with Pakistan. Ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been repeatedly urging the Centre to initiate talks with Pakistan to ensure peace in Kashmir.

“Unlike earlier, the great game is literally being played inside Kashmir,” Akhtar, a senior PDP leader, was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.

“The Kashmir issue isn’t limited to the fight between India and Pakistan now. There is another major factor involved — it isn’t Pakistan alone, it is China too.

“General (Bipin Rawat) said that the Army is ready to fight on both fronts. But there aren’t two fronts anymore. Now it is one single front, circling around. From Bhutan to Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Valley to Jammu, Sri Lanka and Maldives, it is all one front. Pakistan and China aren’t separate,” Akhtar said.

“All the big attacks inside J&K or even outside during last more than three years are attributed to Jaish-e-Mohammad, a group led by Masood Azhar,” said Akhtar.

“How can one not see that he (Masood Azhar) has been adopted by China? There are reports of some action taken against Hafiz Saeed. What about Masood Azhar? Even a lesser figure like Salahudin has been listed as a ‘global terrorist’ in UN but the great wall of China has been erected around Azhar,” Akhtar said.

He said China has been regularly vetoing attempts to designate him (Azhar) as a “terrorist” in United Nations. “Such things don’t happen without reason. Why only him? Why not others? Why didn’t China block such moves in UN against other people? The China connection needs to be understood,” he said.

“At this point, talking to Pakistan and initiating policies of reconciliation inside Kashmir is in the national interest. It is in our national interest that Pakistan doesn’t get irretrievably sucked up by China,’’ he said.

“And when we say talk to Pakistan, we are addressing our own central government because they have to take that step. We aren’t seeking anything from anybody other than the central government. That’s our right.”

Referring to the then Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif coming to attend the oath ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Akhtar said the environment (at that time) was turning conducive for the beginning of a fresh process between the two countries.

“Prime Minister Modi goes to attend a wedding in Pakistan…a great gesture to start the process. Pakistani leadership too had been forthcoming,’’ Akhtar recalled.

“But once he (PM Modi) returns (from Pakistan), Pathankot attack (January 2016) takes place. Who did it? Jaish,” Akhtar says to explain his analysis of the situation.

“If you don’t understand the seriousness of China’s role in our current situation, you won’t understand the need to engage Pakistan or initiate a process to engage separatists inside Kashmir.”

Akhtar also said that “the youngster who throws stones in Kashmir is doing so only because he lacks a gun… and in this new great game, these guns can come from China too.”

“Unlike 1990s, the flow of guns (inside Kashmir) hasn’t been happening. It hasn’t started as yet. So let’s use this time to initiate talks,” he said.

“This is why Mehbooba Mufti isn’t only governing a state, she is fighting a huge challenge. And the need is to understand the changing contours of that.”

Akhtar said that “the new situation that has emerged in Kashmir would have happened irrespective of PDP’s alliance with BJP”.

“People like me, leaders of mainstream political parties in Kashmir are living at the mercy of Pakistan. When militants can sneak inside such fortified army camps like what happened in Sunjuwan (in Jammu), what can stop them to walk into our homes and kill us and our families?’’ he said.

“Our (PDP’s) stance isn’t mere political rhetoric. We are at the forefront of this war and we see the entire picture,” he said.

On November 02, 2017, China blocked a bid to list Masood Azhar as a “global terrorist”. The bid was made by the US, France and Britain at the behest of India.

China has been repeatedly blocking India’s move to designate Azhar a “terrorist” under the Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council, even though Jaish is already on the UN’s list of banned groups.

In August last year, China extended by three months its technical hold on the proposal to list Azhar as “global terrorist” which was backed by US, France and Britain after it had blocked it in February.

In March, 2016, China was the only member in the 15-nation UN organ to put a hold on India’s application with all other 14 members of the Council supporting New Delhi’s bid to place Azhar on the 1267 sanctions list that would subject him to an assets freeze and travel ban.

J&K Police said that Jaish is responsible for every ‘Fidayeen’ attack over the last year.

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