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Strategic Border Conflicts and Natural Resources

Despite a world pandemic, capitalism's wars continue unabated. There is the continuing war in Syria (384,000 dead), a civil war in Libya (4,000 dead) and a conflict in Yemen (100,000 dead). According to the United Nations, nearly 80 million people worldwide, or 1 per cent of humanity, were uprooted at the end of 2019 after fleeing wars or persecution (INDEPENDENT 19 June 2020).

Recently there have been disputes in the Kashmir area between India and Pakistan a dispute that has gone on for decades. And in June this year 20 Indian soldiers were killed in Galwan Valley in the disputed Ladakh region. China accused Indian troops of crossing the border twice, "provoking and attacking Chinese personnel" (BBC NEWS 15 June 2020). Both sides insisted that no shots were fired. Indian officials gave accounts of fighting with bare hands, iron rods and stones.

The confrontation came after tensions arose in recent months over a new road India built in Ladakh, along the Line of Actual Control which divides the two sides. The new road angered China, which deployed troops and built infrastructure of its own in the disputed territory, heightening the risk of violent clashes. India and China have fought only one war, in 1962, when India suffered a humiliating defeat.

Ladakh is a region administered by India as a union territory, and constitutes a part of the larger region of Kashmir, which has been the subject of dispute between India, Pakistan, and China since 1947. The origin on the dispute was in the British decision at the time of Partition/Independence, to cede the territory to the ruler of Kashmir, a Hindu, when this was resisted by the majority Muslim population. Many Kashmiris have families in Pakistan. And Pakistan has through the decades often stirred up nationalist even terrorist resistance groups.

As with all of capitalism's wars the conflict in the region has mushroomed into a dispute over a mixture of natural resources, strategic point of influence and trade routes. Sometime one or a mixture of all is the reason for conflict and war but in terms of death and destruction they can more deadly than any pandemic: more so when all three countries have nuclear weapons.

In the past Ladakh gained importance from its strategic location at the crossroads of important trade routes, but since the Chinese authorities closed the borders between Tibet Autonomous Region and Ladakh in the 1960s, international trade has dwindled except for tourism. Apart from tourism, Ladakh has the potential to be exploited for precious mineral resources and hydropower projects.

In an article published in the HINDUSTAN TIMES in 2007, scientists have found "exceptionally high concentration" of uranium in Ladakh. The article went on to say: "Samples of rocks analysed in a German laboratory have revealed uranium content to be as high as 5.36 per cent compared to around 0.1 per cent or less in ores present elsewhere in the country". Uranium is very useful for India's nuclear civil and military programmes.

And China has for some time sided with Pakistan in their disputes with India. Long before President Xi, a previous Chinese regime built a main road via the Himalayas through Pakistan so a as to reach the coast. And China has a dispute ongoing with India, to do with the routing of a main road in NE India/Nepal.

As for the Indian part of Kashmir, President Modi plans to move in a lot of loyal Hindus into Kashmir, to swamp the locals and help control the area. Kashmiris would then be second class natives like Palestinians under Israel, or Native Americans in the US.

The conflict predictably rotates around economic and strategic considerations. Kashmir borders Pakistan, so Indian forces would be well placed to attack or defend if there was another war. Pakistan and India both claim Kashmir as their own. This dispute has led to three wars between India and Pakistan, and decades of instability in relations between the two nuclear powers.

Before Partition Kashmir was one of the most beautiful regions in the world with huge tourism potential. Now it is a region locked in conflict and violence. The Indian Administered Kashmir is occupied by 700,000 Indian troops and Muslims are oppressed; mosque and schools burned to the ground, and Kashmiri Muslims endure forced assimilation and religious conversion.

In an article "Is India Occupying Kashmir for its natural resources?" (PUBLIC OCCURENCES, February 4 2019), the journalist Joziah Thayer wrote that there are 12 million tonnes of bauxite, a rare ore used for the aluminium used to make aircraft. Kashmir also has 5 million tonnes of coal deposits. Thayer went on to write:

"Iron ores, gold, lead, copper, chromium, zinc, sapphires, rubies, tourmalines, bentonite, China Clay (Kaolinite), borax, gypsum, magnesite, limestone, slates, mineral paints, and sand are mined and exported daily in Kashmir but Kashmiris rarely see any of these profits from India. India is stripping Kashmiris of their land, natural resources and their right to be called Kashmiris".

The attack on Hindus is part of President Modis ultra-nationalist extremism which has a large Hindu following. Modi's followers in Kashmir, and elsewhere, take part in programs against Muslims similar to those used by the Russian Tsars. The aim of Modi and his supporters is to clear Muslims from India and that includes Kashmir.

Socialists argue that workers should not themselves be dragged into wars caused by disputes between different sections of the capitalist class and their political agents.

Capitalism causes wars and, nationalism and religion are used as a justification. The Coronavirus kills, but so too does capitalism. We need an antidote to both. And the quickest way to the first is production solely to meet human needs - not for profit. Socialism requires the abolition of nation states, boundaries, and the capitalist causes of war and conflict. To solve the problems of ill-health, war and poverty requires the replacement with a social system based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society.

And to achieve socialism requires struggle: class struggle. Only by ending capitalism can we put an end to class exploitation. By ending class exploitation, we end the economic conflicts of interest between rival capitalist countries which cause wars. We urgently need democratic and political action by a unified working class, working together in principled socialist political parties with socialism and only socialism as their aim.

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