As public demand for retribution mounts, the tough-talking Modi, who as an opposition leader would mock his predecessor for being soft on Pakistan and China, finds himself in a difficult situation as his options look woefully limited against a nuclear-armed neighbor. Short of an appropriate military option, the sniping has moved to the global diplomatic stage. While Pakistan last week was drawing the world's attention to the ongoing protests in Indian-administered Kashmir that have claimed more than 80 lives, India has been trying to isolate Pakistan diplomatically at the ongoing United Nations General Assembly by painting it as a rogue state sponsoring terror.
But according to Shashi Tharoor, an opposition lawmaker and former minister of state for external affairs, "Isolation is a challenge since various countries have bilateral reasons not to isolate Pakistan. The US needs Pakistan because of Afghanistan, and China has major strategic interests there, especially the US$46 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that is China's single biggest overseas development project. As long as major powers choose to stay engaged with Pakistan, overlooking its misbehavior, diplomatic isolation will have its limitations as a policy."
The CPEC links the Pakistani port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea with Xinjiang ( 新疆 ), providing western China easy access to fuel imports from the Middle East and Africa while creating an export route for its landlocked western states.
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Gwadar is located in Pakistan's restive Baluchistan province, where a low-intensity separatist insurgency for nationhood has been bubbling for decades. Many Chinese workers have been attacked and killed amid the violence, forcing large-scale security arrangements. About US$460 million, or 1 per cent of the corridor's project cost, is to be spent on security, with two armed guards assigned to every Chinese worker.
With limited diplomatic or military options, experts believe it is this showpiece project – part of China's "One Belt, One Road" strategy of integrating the regional market with infrastructure investments – that India is targeting to force China to rein in its "all-weather friend" Pakistan.
"India playing the Baluch card is part of a more complex signal to the Chinese that their plans for the CPEC are contingent on wider regional stability, and thereby tacitly nudge the Chinese to play a constructive role in reorienting Pakistan's world view and foreign policies," said Zorawar Daulet Singh, co-author of India China Relations: The Border Issue and Beyond.