Indian Diplomat Sharat Sabharwal on Pakistan's "Resilience", "Strategic" CPEC, China-Pakistan "Nexus"

Retired Indian diplomat Sharat Sabharwal in his recently published book "India's Pakistan Conundrum"  disabuses his fellow Indians of the notion that Pakistan is about to collapse. He faithfully parrots the familiar Indian tropes about Pakistani Army and accuses it of sponsoring "cross-border terrorism". He also writes that "Pakistan has shown remarkable resilience in the face of adversity".  "Pakistan is neither a failed state nor one about to fail", he adds. He sees "limitations on India’s ability to inflict a decisive blow on Pakistan through military means". The best option for New Delhi, he argues, is to engage with Pakistan diplomatically. In an obvious message to India's hawkish Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he warns: "Absence of dialogue and diplomacy between the two countries carries the risk of an unintended flare-up". Ambassador Sabharwal served as Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan from 2009 to 2013. Prior to that, he was Deputy High Commissioner in Islamabad in the 1990s.

India's Pakistan Conundrum by Sharat Sabhrawal Book Cover


In a 30-minute interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire to discuss his book, Sabharwal said it is not in India’s interests to promote the disintegration of Pakistan. “The resulting chaos will not leave India untouched”. He further argued that Indians must disabuse themselves of the belief that India has the capacity to inflict a decisive military blow on Pakistan in conventional terms. “The nuclear dimension has made it extremely risky, if not impossible, for India to give a decisive military blow to Pakistan to coerce it into changing its behavior.”  He said Indians must disabuse themselves of the belief that they can use trade to punish Pakistan. “Use of trade as an instrument to punish Pakistan is both short-sighted and ineffective because of the relatively small volume of Pakistani exports to India.” 

Below are some key excerpts of "India's Pakistan Conundrum" by Ambassador Sharat Sabhrawal: 

Pakistan Not Failed State: 

"In conclusion, it can be said that Pakistan is neither a failed state nor one about to fail in the foreseeable future. Further, so long as the army remains a largely professional and disciplined force, having at its disposal Pakistan’s rapidly growing arsenal of nuclear weapons, the probability of a change in Pakistan’s external boundaries would remain very low. Therefore, a policy premised on the failure or disintegration of the Pakistani state would hinge on unsound expectations. However, because of the various factors examined in the previous chapters, Pakistan will continue to be a highly dysfunctional state with widespread lawlessness". 

Pakistan's Remarkable Resilience:

"Pakistan has shown remarkable resilience in the face of adversity – evidenced most tellingly by its recovery following the humiliating defeat in 1971. It has recovered significantly from the terror backlash, which followed Musharraf’s U-turn in the wake of 9/11. Fatalities in terror violence that mounted sharply from 2004 onwards, reaching the peak of 11,317 in 2009 (civilians, security forces personnel and terrorists), were down to 365 in 2019. Similarly, fatalities in suicide attacks, which reached the peak of 1,220 in 2010, were down to 76 in 2019".

China Pakistan "Nexus"

"China too reacted adversely to the above Indian move (article 370 abrogation), accusing India of continuing to undermine China’s territorial sovereignty by unilaterally amending its domestic laws and urging it to be cautious in its words and deeds on the border issue. Subsequently, it repeatedly called for peaceful resolution of “Kashmir dispute” left over from colonial history, based on the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements, thus echoing Pakistan’s position on the subject.  Pakistan’s questioning of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India and its policy of cross-border terrorism did not stem from the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under the Indian constitution and have outlasted its abrogation. The Pakistani dimension of India’s Kashmir problem and the Pakistani threat to the security of this sensitive region are still very much alive".

Strategic China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC):

"China’s reaction to the Indian move and its subsequent aggressive actions in eastern Ladakh have added to that threat. Keen to ensure the safety and security of its strategic CPEC investment, China could in the normal course be expected to encourage a solution based on freezing the existing  territorial reality between India and Pakistan in J&K. However, with the downturn of its own relationship with India, it may be tempted to sustain and bolster Pakistan’s hostility. Equally, India’s strategic planners may be tempted not to give any comfort to China on the CPEC until a degree of stability is restored to the India-China equation, disturbed seriously by China’s aggressive behaviour in eastern Ladakh. Overall, the external environment for the security and stability of Jammu and Kashmir has worsened. This makes it all the more important for India to address the internal dimension of its Kashmir conundrum. India’s challenge is to ensure peace in J&K, not only in the immediate, but durable peace, for the failure to do so would continue to invite external meddling". 

Consequences of Pakistan's Disintegration: 

"Should India work to break up Pakistan? A body of opinion in India recommends that India should be proactive in causing the disintegration of Pakistan. For the reasons mentioned in Chapter 6, a policy premised on disintegration of the Pakistani state would hinge on unsound expectations. However, let us examine, for the sake of argument, the consequences of heightened turmoil in/break up of Pakistan for India. The unwise policies of Pakistan’s rulers have already resulted in considerable turbulence there. Though the Pakistani state uses terror against India, it is calibrated  by its instrumentalities. Heightened chaos in Pakistan leading to collapse of the state authority will not leave India untouched. Let us not forget that Pakistan has continued to pay a heavy price for having caused instability in its neighbour – Afghanistan – something I repeatedly recalled to my Pakistani audiences. Collapse of the state will also present India with a humanitarian crisis of a gigantic proportion, with the terrain between the two countries offering an easy passage to India for those fleeing unrest in Pakistan. At the height of terrorism in the Pakistani Punjab in 2009–10, some of my interlocutors in Lahore were candid enough to say that in the event of a Taliban takeover, they  would have no option but to run towards India. Break up of Pakistan could lead to a civil war amongst the successor states or worse still among various warring groups vying for influence, as was the case after collapse of the state authority in Afghanistan, entailing the undesirable consequences mentioned above and perilous uncertainty concerning the ownership of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Alternatively, India may be faced with a hostile Pakistani Punjab in possession of nuclear weapons. In either case, it will be bad news for India".


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Comments

Riaz Haq said…
Excerpts of Sabharwal's book review by Indian Maj Gen Jagatbir Singh, VSM (Retd):

https://www.sundayguardianlive.com/news/country-not-india-paks-fundamental-problem

Ambassador Sharat Sabharwal has had the unique distinction of managing complex relations between India and Pakistan at crucial junctures, as he has served there both as Deputy High Commissioner from 1995 to 1999, and as High Commissioner from 2009 to 2013, where he has been witness to various facets of Pakistan—both negative and positive. His book, “India’s Pakistan Conundrum”, published by Routledge is, therefore, written with the knowledge and insight of a practitioner but also with the wisdom of his depth of knowledge and understanding of the multiple dilemmas that shape the relationship. The book, therefore, brings a much needed clarity on key issues that shape this critical relationship.

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The book is laid out in two parts, with Part I examining the nature of the Pakistani State and how it impacts India to include chapters on religious extremism, the economy, which depends on an external patron, the Army, which is described as a “state within a state”, the ethnic fault lines, what drives Pakistan hostility towards India and “Whiter Pakistan”.
Part II covers key issues of India-Pakistan relations and India’s policy options. This has chapters on all the major issues to include Jammu & Kashmir, terrorism, trade, other outstanding issues which include Siachen and Sir Creek, our shared heritage, engaging with the real power centre, water, MFN and Pakistan’s fault lines, the nuclear dimension, isolating Pakistan, the issue of dialogue versus no dialogue and the way forward in managing the relationship. Each chapter has been deeply researched with detailed quotes from various sources to back his observations.
Pakistan has defined itself as the antithesis of India. It craves parity with India in spite of the differences in size, potential and comprehensive national power. In this quest it has “turned itself into a rentier state, ready to do the bidding of an external patron, willing to underwrite its ambitions vis a vis India financially and militarily even at the cost of the interests of its people”.
While writing about religious extremism, the author clearly brings out the changes that have taken place in the Constitution, which included declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslims as well as the traditional Shia-Sunni divide and the divide within the Sunnis between Deobandis and Barelvis.

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The author writes that Pakistan “has shown remarkable resilience in the face of adversity” and as long as the Army remains “a largely disciplined and professional force” having at its disposal a rapidly growing arsenal of nuclear weapons, it’s unlikely to fail in the near future.
Part II is the key, covering India-Pakistan relations to include J&K, which is always placed on a higher pedestal in any discussion.
Riaz Haq said…
India's misery index is 35.8 and Pakistan's 32.5...meaning Indians are worse off than Pakistanis. https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/worst-countries-to-live-in

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India has ranked at 136 in the annual UN-sponsored happiness index, ranking even below Pakistan, which is at the 121 spot. https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/india/world-happiness-report-2022-india-ranks-below-pakistan-finland-happiest-for-fifth-year-in-a-row
Riaz Haq said…
#Modi says bhajans (#Hindu religious songs) will cure #malnutrition. Over 35% of #Indian children are stunted, 19.3% wasted & 32.5% underweight.
BJP rule has seen undernourished population increase from 14.9% to 15.5% of population https://science.thewire.in/health/narendra-modi-malnutrition-bhajan/ via @TheWireScience


In the 92nd episode of ‘Mann ki Baat’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said conducting bhajans can be part of the solutions to reducing malnutrition.
Cultural and traditional practices are not harmful. But it is in bad faith to make them part of habits that sideline tested and approved solutions to crucial welfare issues.
The statement also distracts from the fact that in Modi’s time as prime minister, India has come to account for a quarter of all undernourished people worldwide

There is much evidence in the public domain that says the availability, accessibility and affordability of good-quality food is crucial to improve the nutritional and health status of India’s people. There is nothing, however, about bhajans.

Many scholars and scientists have often criticised Prime Minister Modi for his irrational claims on many occasions. Reminiscent of his “taali, thali and Diwali” campaign as the COVID-19 pandemic was gaining strength, Modi’s comment on bhajans only distracts from the dire importance of effective public health measures – even as the rate of improvement of some important indicators have slid in his time at the helm.

Cultural and traditional practices are not harmful. But it is in bad faith to make them part of habits that sideline tested and approved solutions to crucial welfare issues.

In his monologue, Modi narrated a story of how people of a community in Madhya Pradesh each contribute a small quantity of grains, using which a meal is prepared for everyone one day a week. However, he shifted the focus at this point to devotional music in bhajan–kirtans – organised under the ‘Mera Bachha’ campaign – instead of dwelling on the role of Indigenous food cultures. This is counterproductive.

More malnourished children

India’s National Family Health Surveys (NFHS) and Comprehensive National Nutrition Surveys have documented the high prevalence of malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency among India’s children, adolescents and women. The recently published NFHS-5 results reported a high prevalence of stunting, wasting and underweightedness among children younger than five years and that they have declined only marginally in the last five years.

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A public-health approach to malnutrition requires us to pay attention to a large variety of socioeconomic conditions. In this regard, while many of Prime Minister Modi’s other comments in his monologue are well-taken, especially about public participation, neither the need for context-specific interventions nor for evidence-based policies are served by misplaced allusions to bhajans and kirtans.

Riaz Haq said…
Mani Shankar Aiyar: What #India's #Modi Has Not Recognised About #Pakistan: ITS RESILIENCE AND NATIONALISM http://www.ndtv.com/opinion/pakistans-resilience-beats-modis-56-inch-chest-771700 … via @ndtv

Note: Mani Shankar spent some time in Pakistan posted as a diplomat, serving as India's first consul-general in Karachi from 1978 to 1982. He's a former federal cabinet minister and current member of Rajya Sabha

"unlike numerous other emerging nations, particularly in Africa, the Idea of Pakistan has repeatedly trumped fissiparous tendencies, especially since Pakistan assumed its present form in 1971. And its institutions have withstood repeated buffeting that almost anywhere elsewhere would have resulted in the State crumbling. Despite numerous dire forecasts of imminently proving to be a "failed state", Pakistan has survived, bouncing back every now and then as a recognizable democracy with a popularly elected civilian government, the military in the wings but politics very much centre-stage, linguistic and regional groups pulling and pushing, sectarian factions murdering each other, but the Government of Pakistan remaining in charge, and the military stepping in to rescue the nation from chaos every time Pakistan appeared on the knife's edge. The disintegration of Pakistan has been predicted often enough, most passionately now that internally-generated terrorism and externally sponsored religious extremism are consistently taking on the state to the point that the army is so engaged in full-time and full-scale operations in the north-west of the country bordering Afghanistan that some 40,000 lives have been lost in the battle against fanaticism and insurgency.

"And yet," as was said on a more famous occasion, "it works!" Pakistan and her people keep coming back, resolutely defeating sustained political, armed and terrorist attempts to break down the country and undermine its ideological foundations. That is what Jaffrelot calls its "resilience". That resilience is not recognized in Modi's India. That is what leads the Rathores and the Parrikars to make statements that find a certain resonance in anti-Pakistan circles in India but dangerously leverage the impact on Pakistani public opinion of anti-India circles in Pakistan. The Parrikars and the Saeeds feed on each other. It is essential that both be overcome.

But even as there are saner voices in India than Rathore's, so also are there saner - much saner - voices in Pakistan than Hafiz Saeed's. Many Indians would prefer a Pakistan overflowing with Saeeds to keep their bile flowing. So would many Pakistanis prefer an India with the Rathores overflowing to keep the bile flowing. At eight times Pakistan's size, we can flex our muscles like the bully on the school play field. But Pakistan's resilience ensures that all that emerges from Parrikar and Rathore are empty words. India is no more able than Pakistan is to destroy the other country"


http://www.ndtv.com/opinion/pakistans-resilience-beats-modis-56-inch-chest-771700
Riaz Haq said…
As the world lurches through the growing pains of massive geopolitical change, the US’ relationship with India will increasingly take center stage. Washington likes to see itself as providing a geopolitical center of gravity that is inherently attractive to nations like India, especially against regional competitors such as China. As the US is about to discover, however, India and China have a shared ambition about who should dominate the Pacific in the coming century, and it doesn’t include the US. Op Ed by Scott Ritter

https://www.energyintel.com/00000183-21d9-d467-adc7-21fdd54f0000

On Aug. 19, India’s minister of external affairs, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, gave a speech at a university in Thailand where he stated that relations between India and China were going through “an extremely difficult phase” and that an “Asian Century” seemed unlikely unless the two nations found a way to “join hands” and start working together.

For many observers, Jaishankar’s speech was taken as an opportunity for the US to drive a wedge between India and China, exploiting an ongoing border dispute along the Himalayan frontier to push India further into a pro-US orbit together with other Western-leaning regional powers. What these observers overlooked, however, was that the Indian minister was seeking the exact opposite from his speech, signaling that India was, in fact, interested in working with China to develop joint policies that would seek to replace US-led Western hegemony in the Pacific.

Struggle for Leadership

More than six decades ago, then-US Senator John F. Kennedy noted that there was a “struggle between India and China for the economic and political leadership of the East, for the respect of all Asia, for the opportunity to demonstrate whose way of life is the better.” The US, Kennedy argued, needed to focus on providing India the help it needed to win that struggle — even if India wasn’t asking for that help or, indeed, seeking to “win” any geopolitical contest with China.

Today, the relationships between the US, India and China have matured, with all three wrestling with complex, and often contradictory, policies that are simultaneously cooperative and confrontational. Notwithstanding this, the US continues to err on the side of helping India achieve a geopolitical “win” over China. One need only consider the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or “Quad,” conceived in 2007, but dormant until 2017, when it was resurrected under US leadership to bring together the US, Japan, Australia and India in an effort to create a regional counterweight to China’s growing influence.

There was a time when cooler heads cautioned against such an assertive US-led posture on a regional response to an expansive, and expanding, Chinese presence in the Indo-Pacific region. This line of thinking held that strong Indian relationships with Tokyo and Canberra should be allowed to naturally progress, independent of US regional ambitions.

These same “cool heads” argued that the US needed to be realistic in its expectations on relations between India and China, avoiding the pitfalls of Cold War-era “zero-sum game” calculations. The US should appreciate that India needed to implement a foreign policy that best met Indian needs. Moreover, they argued, a US-Indian relationship that was solely focused on China would not age well, given the transitory realities of a changing global geopolitical dynamic.

The Asian Century

The key to deciphering Jaishanker’s strategic intent in his Thailand comments lay in his use of the term “Asian Century.” This echoed the words of former Chinese reformist leader Deng Xiaoping, who, in a meeting with former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1988, declared that “in recent years people have been saying that the next century will be the century of Asia and the Pacific, as if that were sure to be the case. I disagree with this view.” Deng went on to explain that unless China and India focus their respective and collective energies on developing their economies, there could, in fact, be no “Asian Century.”

Riaz Haq said…
The Asian Century

The key to deciphering Jaishanker’s strategic intent in his Thailand comments lay in his use of the term “Asian Century.” This echoed the words of former Chinese reformist leader Deng Xiaoping, who, in a meeting with former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1988, declared that “in recent years people have been saying that the next century will be the century of Asia and the Pacific, as if that were sure to be the case. I disagree with this view.” Deng went on to explain that unless China and India focus their respective and collective energies on developing their economies, there could, in fact, be no “Asian Century.”

While Washington may not have heard the subtle implications of Jainshankar’s words, Beijing appears to have done so. Almost immediately after the text of the Indian minister’s comments was made public, the spokesperson for China’s foreign minister declared that both India and China “have the wisdom and capability to help each other succeed rather than undercutting each other.” The takeaway from this exchange is that while both China and India view their ongoing territorial disputes as problematic, they are able and willing to keep their eye on the bigger picture — the ascendancy of the so-called “Asian Century”.

The fact is that India and China have been working toward this goal for some time now. Both are critical participants in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which envisions the growth and empowerment of a trans-Eurasian economic zone that can compete with the economies of the US and Europe on a global scale. Likewise, India and China are actively cooperating within the framework of the Brics economic forum, which is emerging as a direct competitor to the Western-dominated G7.

While it is possible for India to navigate a policy path balancing the US and China in the short term, eventually it will need to go all in on China if its aspirations for an “Asian Century” are ever to be met. This narrative is overlooked by those in the US pursuing zero-sum policies with India when it comes to China.

Given the destiny inherent in the collective embrace of an “Asian Century” by India and China, the US could well find itself on the outside looking in when it comes to those wielding influence in the Pacific going forward. One thing is for certain — the “American Pacific Century” which encompasses the period between the Spanish-American War and the post-Cold War era, where US military, political, and economic power reigned supreme, has run its course. Whether or not India and China will be able to supplant it with an “Asian Century” is yet to be seen. But one thing is for certain — the strategic intent is certainly there.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer whose service over a 20-plus-year career included tours of duty in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control agreements, serving on the staff of US Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf during the Gulf War and later as a chief weapons inspector with the UN in Iraq from 1991-98. The views expressed in this article are those of the author.

Riaz Haq said…
Book Review by Amit Baruah

https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-reviews/india-pakistan-conundrum-peace-talks-diplomacy/article65941299.ece

Stability in Pakistan will serve India better, argues a former diplomat
Sharat Sabharwal offers a sober and realistic assessment of Pakistan’s trajectory and attitude towards India in India’s Pakistan Conundrum: Managing a Complex Relationship. The book, written by a former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, who had also served as Deputy High Commissioner, is a welcome addition to strategic literature on how to deal with Islamabad.

Sabharwal, who looks at the nature of the Pakistani state in the first part of the book and India’s bilateral policy options in the second, likens dealing with Pakistan as a game of snakes and ladders. Every time you climb a ladder and feel you are making progress, the snake intervenes and you are lower down the rung than before.



The former diplomat believes that Pakistani security agencies and their terror proxies made sure that the relationship hit one of the longer snakes each time the bilateral relationship with India appeared to be looking up. Holding that Pakistan would continue to be a “highly dysfunctional state with widespread lawlessness”, Sabharwal, unlike many of his more hawkish colleagues, rightly feels that the break-up of Pakistan is not in India’s interests.

Points of tension
Increased chaos in Pakistan, the book argues, would not leave India untouched. Pakistan, Sabharwal says, continues to pay a heavy price for having “caused instability” in Afghanistan. A Pakistani state collapse would also present India with a humanitarian crisis of “gigantic proportion”.

Referring to a dossier on the 26/11 Mumbai attacks he received as High Commissioner from the then Interior Minister Rehman Malik, the veteran diplomat points out that the Pakistani government admitted that the Mumbai strikes were planned, financed, and committed by a “defunct” Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). “I often told my Pakistani interlocutors that if a defunct group could commit such a large act of terror, I wondered what a live terrorist outfit based in Pakistan could do,” he writes. Expressing dismay at the way Pakistan enabled the accused in the 26/11 terror strikes to go free, Sabharwal is correct in his diagnosis that there is no “silver bullet” to put an end to terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

Call for vigil
“Therefore, India will have to continue to count on its counter-terror capabilities and deterrence, combined with turning as much heat as possible on Pakistan in conjunction with its international partners,” he says. Sabharwal examines closely the claim that the February 2019 missile strike at a Pakistani “terror camp” called Islamabad’s nuclear bluff and makes the point that the possibility of escalation was built into the Pakistani response. He poses “the” question: can a responsible Indian leader authorise a “consequential conventional military strike” on the assumption that it will not escalate to the nuclear level by accident or otherwise? My answer would be a resounding no. Imagine the Pakistani response if Kargil had been done in reverse.

Sabharwal takes the view that direct engagement with Pakistan’s Army and its leadership would not lead to behavioural change given its hostility towards India. However, this reviewer would argue that maintaining multiple — front and back channels with the Army — would at least provide a window into the thought processes of the day in this key institution. In sum, the book under review provides a practitioner’s insight into tackling a different country and relationship. A must-read for those who follow India, Pakistan and their many challenges.

Riaz Haq said…
How China and Pakistan Forged Close Ties
Though ties between China and Pakistan began in the wake of the 1962 Sino-Indian clash, China did not embrace the relationship. By the mid-2000s, the shift in U.S.-India relations and China's own global ambitions made Pakistan a critical partner for China.

Article by Manjari Chatterjee Miller

https://www.cfr.org/article/how-china-and-pakistan-forged-close-ties

On a visit to China almost a decade ago, I had a conversation with a Beijing-based Chinese foreign policy analyst. The subject of China’s relationship with Pakistan came up and the analyst laughed ruefully. Although he acknowledged Pakistan saw the bilateral relationship as a valuable friendship, he implied that was not how China saw it. China was in some ways reluctant, I gathered, even to be seen as cultivating a friendship with Pakistan. At the time, the idea of taoguang yanghui (hide your strength and bide your time) still held sway in China, and the Chinese government was not only wary of being seen as an international spoiler state but also siding with one. China saw no need to trumpet the relationship, and Pakistan needed China more than the other way around.

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Pakistan is now an important partner for China. The relationship raises the specter that India may, in the future, face a two-front war, a scenario that would have been implausible a decade ago. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and embassies in South Asia often tweet sympathetically about the relationship—including on topics such as Pakistan’s welcome of the Chinese-sponsored Global Security Initiative, China-Pakistan football matches, China’s flood aid, and pandemic cooperation. At an MFA press conference earlier this year, the spokesperson gushed that, “the bond of friendship and mutual assistance between the Chinese and Pakistani people is stronger than gold, and the two countries’ iron-clad friendship is deeply rooted in the people and boasts strong vitality.”

This is not to say the relationship is problem-free. China’s wariness about Islamist militants in Xinjiang and their links to Pakistani militants, its concern about Chinese citizens working in Pakistan who have been the targets of terror attacks, the sporadic opposition in Pakistan to CPEC projects, and China’s caution about weighing in on Kashmir (despite its recent condemnation of India’s abrogation of Article 370 and Wang Yi’s reference to the territory at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting) all continue to be sticking points. Yet this is no longer just a relationship, but a genuine partnership. India should take note.

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