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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s reported remark last week that China is entering into the South Asian region in a concerted manner and the Chinese reported remark (later reportedly retracted but not denied) that China considered the northern parts of Kashmir (Gilgit-Baltistan) as parts of Pakistan — both of these in a span of couple of days indicated to the hardening of stances in India and China.

On Kashmir, there has been a mixed signal from Beijing of late, much to the chagrin of New Delhi affecting the latter’s core sovereignty. The so-called neutrality of Beijing on this issue is waning with four new changes in policy of China — issuing stapled visas to Kashmir residents of India; massive infrastructure projects (estimated at above $20 billion) and invitation to the Hurriyat leaders to visit China and deliberately intervening in the current unrest in the valley.

Beijing appears to be reconsidering the strategic value of Kashmir, for it is located strategically between the hinterlands of the Indian sub-continent, Chinese minority lands and Central Asian steppes. The total area of Jammu and Kashmir is about 222,236 sq km during the 19th century. In the 20th Century, J&K was subjected to territorial claims from India, China and Pakistan, although the Maharaja of J&K signed accession to the Indian Union in 1947. Subsequently this region was subjected to international scrutiny, political violence or even war (in 1947-48, 1965, 1971 and 1999 between India and Pakistan and in 1962 between India and China).

Today about 100,942 sq km is under Indian control (i.e. about 45 percent of J&K) while Pakistan occupies 78,114 (35 percent) and China about 43,180 sq km (about 20 percent) (including Aksai Chin and Sakshgam Valley ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963).