China in Kashmir???

by Joshua Foust on 9/8/2010 · 22 comments

A special guest post from “Sekundar.”

This should elicit more attention than it’s been getting; Selig Harrison asserts that the Chinese have between 7,000 and 11,000 soldiers in Pakistan-held Kashmir. The Chinese have had military in and out of the area since they built the Karakorum Highway as far as Gilgit, but so many is abnormal. Giving a paltry $30 million in flood relief so far (as compared to the U.S.’s hundreds of millions), the PRC has also sent the soldiers across the border to widen the Karakorum Highway linking Islamabad to Kashgar. Delhi has raised objections, but seemingly to no avail (WPR). Beijing has denied it, but it is in keeping with Chinese long term plans for the creating its own links in the region, including the deep water naval base at Gwadar, Baluchistan, and a proposed railway to what could be the world’s largest copper mine at Aynak in Logar, Afghanistan, which China obtained in 2007. I imagine this will only increase India’s desire to stock the recently rehabbed airbase at Ayni, Tajikistan.

How, at the non-governmental level, is the growing Chinese influence not raising the ire of average Pakistanis? The modern Chinese government has a solid reputation as oppressors of Muslims, gives far less than Western powers (see above aid figures), and is far more willing to deal with unsavory dictators in Pakistan and elsewhere. And now they have a larger military presence in the country than any other foreign power. Even the TTP can barely be bothered; it prefers killing innocent Shi’a much more (BBC). What gives?

Sekundar works in national security, and has worked, studied, and traveled in many areas of Central and South Asia.

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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Turgai Sangar September 8, 2010 at 8:31 am

Is he not confusing with the Aksaiqin territory which is historically part of Jammu-Kashmir too but has been under Chinese military occupation since 1962?

“The entire Pakistan-occupied western portion of Kashmir stretching from Gilgit in the north to Azad (Free) Kashmir in the south is closed to the world, in contrast to the media access that India permits in the eastern part, where it is combating a Pakistan-backed insurgency.”

Bollocks. First, the Karakoram highway, Gilgit and Hunza were not closed to the world but major tourist, trekkers and climbers destinations until quite recently. Second, the media access in Indian Kashmir: is he serious? Independent journalists, both Indian and international, are closely being watched and hassled there.

The separatist movement in Gilgit-Baltistan (e.g. groups like the Balawaristan National Front) were more an (romanticized) issue in the nineties than they are today.

Sekundar September 8, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Josh reminds me to mention Harrison’s reputation on Registan ( Duly noted; Harrison is a bastion of exaggeration and hyperbole. That being said, there is a PLA presence in Pakistan’s Northern Areas, along the KKH. Harrison was countered today by Pakistan (, but all Pakistan said was that there were no “combat troops.” Still, why is the Chinese presence and influence in Pakistan getting so relatively little press in Pakistan?

DPT September 8, 2010 at 2:34 pm

I would imagine that China’s military intrusion is more welcome to the military and ISI, and even with civilian regimes there is probably a stronger reputation amongst Pakistanis that China is a necessary partner against India and a more reliable ally than the Americans…

Prithvi September 8, 2010 at 3:40 pm

I think China can be stomached for the simple reason that it doesn’t lecture Pakistan or really most other country where it has concrete interests. The furthest they go is to exorciate Japanese politicians for going to Yasukuni Shrine to honor men to committed mass murder in China.

The United States on the other hand, is the half-hearted ally who can never quite stomach the deals it cuts in the name of realism and has to salve its conscience by chastising these regimes and finding someway to sabotage them (or eventually invading them.)

As to why Tehrik-i-Taliban finds the PLA less abhorrent than CENTCOM, I suspect that it is because the United States represents an alternate moral vision that outrights challenges that of TTP.

Prithvi September 8, 2010 at 7:37 pm

apparently my grammar is terrible

anan September 8, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Prithvi, it cuts both ways on America speaking out in favor of global values. To this day Indonesians respect Reagan for calling Pres Suharto “Mr. 10%” on Indonesian soil during a state visit, knowing the potential consequences of that statement on the cold war. Indonesia was then the 5th most populous country on earth and the most important and largest muslim country on earth.

I think authentic Americans without pretension, condescension and excessive pride go okay. Unfortunately far too many of our fellow Americans are pretentious, condescending pricks. More so on the left than on the right, but also on the right. Anne Coulter’s attitude are even more positively pretentious and condescending as those of the left. When Americans deny the greatness, capacity and agencies of others . . . it fuels anti Americanism. So does when we shoot our mouth offs without bothering to research what we are talking about. A perfect example of that was Al Gore bashing Malaysia for human rights in 1998. Malaysia of all countries, from which we Americans could learn a ton about business, valuing education, orderliness and hard work. Madeline Albright attitudinally emphasized many of the worst American stereotypes.

China has a huge global image challenge. It is far less popular globally according to Pew Research polls than the US. It was even less popular globally when countries are rated by population during the later Bush years, which is saying a lot.

China and Pakistan share a very special relationship that China doesn’t share with any other country. Not even really North Korea because North Korea lacks Pakistan’s civil society. China is more popular in Pakistan than China is in any other country other than China itself.

Pakistanis, far historic reasons like China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and dislike everyone else. Recently some Pakistanis have started to turn against Saudi Arabia for its salafi wahhabi extremism, but still most see Saudi Arabia as one of only three countries that tries to be on Pakistan’s side. Pakistanis believe in conspiracy theories. Many paranoid Pakistanis believe that there is a Jewish lead global conspiracy to destroy Pakistan. The UN and every country and is part of it except for China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The conspiracy naturally includes Jews, Mossad, CIA, Europe, Russia, India, Shiites, Sufis, UN, Ahmedis, Japanese, Blackwater, Australia . . . did I mention Jews? Many Pakistanis feel they have no choice but to bet the ranch on China.

anan September 8, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Prithvi, TTP has on many occasions talked about their plans to destroy the Jews, India, Israel, America, Russia, Europe, the Shiites, and the Jews, and more Jews [what is it with the Pakistani Taliban and Jews?]. They don’t plan on taking out China until after they have destroyed their first priority targets first.

anan September 8, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Many TTP leaders are retired Pakistani Army that still have fond memories of joint training exercises with the Chinese. Younger Pakistani Army officers haven’t had the chance to similarly interact with NATO militaries since the 1990 Pakistani sanctions. This might also partly account for their soft spot for China.

Zarathustra September 9, 2010 at 1:47 am


Can you provide link to the Reagan/Indonesia incident? I’m not familiar with this situation. Thanks

anan September 9, 2010 at 2:48 am

Will look for it. Referring to the 1986 Reagan trip to Indonesia. Can’t easily google a link to it.

CaoMengDe September 8, 2010 at 5:37 pm

“The modern Chinese government has a solid reputation as oppressors of Muslims,gives far less than Western powers (see above aid figures), and is far more willing to deal with unsavory dictators in Pakistan and elsewhere. ”

Hahaha, Right! The author should go remind those TTP numb-skulls what is in their best interests.

Gee, do you know anything more than what you read in the papers? People who works in national security nowadays, Sigh. No wonder I feel less secure all the time.

Chinese government maybe putting the screws on Uyghur nationalists, but if you are a Hui Muslim living in Gansu or Hebei, it has no beef with you.

It’s probably before your time, but Chinese Army Engineers build the KKH including the sections inside Pakistan.

And China will deal with any ruler of Pakistan whether they are dictators, democrats or cannibals. It’s call Realpolitik, my friend. Do they teach you that in national security circles nowadays?

If you are really working in national security and an American, please take note and learn from China on how to get more bang for your buck. Please stop wasting my hard earn tax dollars for a change, Gees.

Jindal September 8, 2010 at 8:50 pm

The PLA has moved into Gilgit as of late. Anyone remember Tibet? The Himalayas have stood the test of time as far as regional security is concerned. There is no room for naivety or continued navel gazing on part of Indian and Pakistani leadership. Kashmir isn’t about history, accession to India, Pakistan’s invasion, UN intervention, plebiscite talk, ethnic groups, or Islam. Handing over any part of Kashmir to a weak Pakistan would be akin to handing it over to China over the long run and is as good as the Indian subcontinent committing “water suicide” so it is not just a security threat but an existential threat. Read more here:

CaoMengDe September 8, 2010 at 9:41 pm


India never handed over Kashmir to to a weak Pakistan. Wars were fought and result is the LOC. What do you propose GOI to do? Fight another war over Kashmir? Fight another ‘uphill’ battle to take Aksai Chin?

I am not one to be accused of being a fan for GOI. But I have to admit that they do have more senses than you. And that’s a good thing for all parties involved.

Grant September 9, 2010 at 12:59 pm

The matter of image is rather typical, in Africa we get blamed for pushing for human rights and democracy while China invests and never bothers to push for any reform (including on corruption). In the Middle East where we try not to focus on human rights we get blamed for backing dictators. Face it, the U.S can’t win.

anan September 9, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Grant, America is more popular and respected in most of Africa than China. China has major PR challenges on the continent that they are trying to address. We Americans are more popular in Africa than we ever have been. Not just because of Obama, but also because of Bush Junior’s AIDs/foreign aid and free trade initiatives. Africans are pro outsourcing. 🙂 And just maybe we Americans benefit from the contrast between China and the US.

Even in Indonesia, China has PR challenges and in some ways is less popular, respected and emulated than the US. Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong has said that the US has earned its legitimacy with decades of hard work and that Asians and the international community want and appreciate the American role. China will finding earning this legitimacy to be very challenging.

We forget in the States, but in Asia and Africa especially China is percieved as a great global superpower comparable to the US. And with that comes all the baggage of being a superpower.

This said, China is learning fast and getting much better and more sophisticated. Which is a good thing since the rise of China generally benefits the world and America.

MM September 9, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Interesting. Does this mean that Chinese large business is OK because they are “pragmatic” and care only about making money and American large business is not OK because they lecture dictators and do not ignore bad behavior? Capitalism for the sake of money is OK if there are no moral strings attached?

I agree America has forgotten some of what made it great and arrogance easily becomes hypocrisy when the moralist does not practice what they preach.

But you can make the case that American openness and knowledge sharing and pushing of human rights have helped many nations, including China, by making world trade and globalization more safe and predictable as a result.

What is that Spiderman thing? “With great power comes great responsibility.” Never easy and you never really get thanked for the good things, just blamed when you screw up. The best of all worlds is that China and Brazil, and India, and others who come of age and power in the next 100 years try to be moral and honest and fair and behave like America does at its best.

Manoj September 10, 2010 at 7:05 am

The Pakistanis’ Invaded Kashmir on October 21st, 1947; Commanded by General Akbar Khan with “Tribesmen” included many Pakistan Army officers and men, in and out of uniform and artillery provided by regular Pakistan Army Enter villages e.g. Baramula, Rajouri and Poonch were destroyed by the Pakistani army while committing murder, rape and plunder.
Rather than any negotiated settlement, Pakistan chose the route of brute force in 1947.
Is this out of concern for Kashmiris?
Pakistan attacked Baramula Killing 7,000 in a town of 10,000 people
Especially brutal to Sikhs, whom the Pakistani army labeled as “Ball Walle Kafir”, the non-believer with hair.
Destroyed the hospitals, Hindu and Sikh temples and the church of Baramula.
Skardu (POK): Radio message from Pak Commander to Pak HQ: “Skardu liberated. All Sikhs killed. All women raped”.


In 1952, the Kashmir legislature, elected in elections recognized by observers as free and fair, with 100% of the legislators Muslim, voted to ratify Kashmirs accession with India.

The Ethnic Cleansing of Hindus in Kashmir:
Pakistani government’s direct aiding and abetting of terrorism in Kashmir has resulted in:–
20,000 Hindus killed and 500,000 Hindus have fled Kashmir in terror. The world has been mostly silent about this ethnic cleansing of Hindus from Kashmir.
Madrassas of Pakistan: In last 32 years, unemployed youth educated in the religious madrassas of Pakistan & foreigners’ are trained by Pakistan’s spy agency ISI to infiltrate into Indian Kashmir and ethnically cleanse the Hindus, Sikhs and secular Moslems, destroy schools, hospitals, and basic infrastructures. In last 12 years, over 25,000 lives have been lost and the world has remained silent.
These same “madrassas” are also the breeding ground of terrorists who supported Al Queda and the talibans and were responsible for the 9/11 attacks on US.

CaoMengDe September 10, 2010 at 1:39 pm


American large business do NOT lecture dictators and routinely ignore bad behavior. Rightly so since a business exists to make profit for its investors NOT to make the world a better place.

American government makes a show of lecturing dictators for their bad behavior for the consumption of domestic American audience. It does this sometimes clumsily in detriment to our national interests. It helps to learn how the world really works.

Prithvi September 10, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Of course, it’s not as if China’s cold realism is a panacea for those with cast iron stomachs. A somewhat lower profile aside, it’s not as if they’re anymore immune to blowback than we are, especially given the growing sense of African* resentment against perceived Chinese economic exploitation.

China’s policy approach to Africa is not altruistic, and no different from the Western approach in the scramble for oil and natural gas. It’s aid contribution, focusing on infrastructure has certainly been more valuable to the African countries than the Western policy, which has poured money into Africa but neglected infrastructure building. The Chinese are now, however, encountering some African resentment and violence which need to be addressed. Sino-European cooperation
could help.

China’s image suffers because of the nature of some of the régimes it deals with (even though they are following in Western footsteps), but the PLA trying to send a shipment of arms to Zimbabwe, while the West was seeking increased sanctions, did nothing for China’s reputation.
-Stanley Crossick, Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies

see also

*of course I understand Africa is not a monolith, as it consists of various nations, ethnicities and cultural groups

CaoMengDe September 10, 2010 at 8:55 pm


Certain resentment is unavoidable, it’s the price of power. Look at how America is both admired and hated around the world. Of course, you can always ameliorate the situation in each individual cases but it’s never going to disappear entirely.

The fact that China is receiving its own share of resentment is a measure of the growth of its stature. Nobody in Zimbabwe really hold any grudges against Bhutan.

caillo September 12, 2010 at 6:43 pm

I do not understand what happened in the pakistan. What are the interests of American. Pakistan is constantly bombarded. Pakistanis and not responding. Although this article has nothing to do with a little, but who could get a response from those who lived there and I’ll be very happy. If no one helps me get my mind happy.

Pavel Stroilov September 16, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Look who is talking! Soviet archives expose Selig Harrison as a former secret collaborator of the Soviet Union and a channel for their propaganda in the West; more recently, he helped North Korea to create a disinformation smokescreen for their nuclear program:
Whatever this man says should be presumed to be communist disinformation of some kind, unless proven otherwise.

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