The title of Robert D Kaplan’s famous book, ‘The Revenge of Geography’ readily comes to mind when we take stock of our critical strategic spaces. The challenges have been magnified by our two diabolic neighbours, China bent upon asserting its coercive dominance and Pakistan, whose existential raison d’etre is to create new criticalities for us. Compounding matters is their much-touted collusion, manifesting in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
While each space has its relevance, yet three most critical corridors are – Siliguri corridor; Pathankot-Jammu link and Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), touted as ‘casus belli’ by the Chinese for the current stand-off. Critical spaces are characterised by three main factors; firstly, fragility of communications, secondly, inefficient governance and lack of development and thirdly, demographic challenges, especially ethnic balance. These factors generate centrifugal forces, creating ripe conditions for secessionist tendencies.
Sarpanch in remote Pin Valley, while handing over a representation citing lack of basic facilities, cheekily mentioned that if sent across, Chinese would certainly oblige. Despite 70 years of republic, surface connectivity in bordering states remains tenuous, with misplaced focus on building statues, temples and spiritual connectivity projects. Many states are barely beginning to get some semblance of rail connectivity and it may take another decade for them to be on the rail map.
Pathankot-Jammu link, with just 10 odd km of depth (in stretches), has not only witnessed skirmishes in operations but Pakistan has also made multiple attempts to spread the arc of terrorism from the valley to Kathua-Samba region.