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India, Pakistan and Hope for the Future

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Recent developments along the India-Pakistan border have grabbed the attention of the world have caused a steady build up of fear and uncertainty in both countries. The 18 September attack on an Indian army base in Kashmir and subsequent unravelling of diplomatic and military tension between the two nation has the caused a steady build up of tension and fear in the corridors of power in New Delhi, Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

With Pakistan denying the surgical strikes and India refusing to prove them wrong and providing proof, the conflict has been kept controlled. If there is any hope to keep the conflict controlled, and prevent it from full-scale war, Nawaz Sharif must be able to a fine line between coaxing India and satisfying his military. Pakistan must realize the futility and irrationality of protecting militants and terrorist groups, and for its betterment seek to dismantle its traditional, use of militants to conducting its foreign policy.

In the aftermath of the attack on the Indian army base by Pakistan-backed militants, India has adopted a multi-pronged retaliatory response by unleashing diplomatic hell on Pakistan at United Nations and by conducting surgical strikes on terrorist camps along the border. At the UN, asking it to abandon its dreams on Kashmir and ‘introspect on Balochistan’ instead. External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, lead the tirade against Pakistan stating that the world knew where terrorism and it was time for the world to isolate those nations which nurture, peddle and export terrorism. Not surprisingly, Pakistan responded to Swaraj’s ‘litany of lies’ and accused India of diverting attention from its ‘atrocities in Kashmir’.

By reaching out to fellow SAARC nation countries, New Delhi has successfully ensured the postponement of the summit in Islamabad by withdrawing from the summit and having Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka follow suit. All countries have stated their inability to attend the summit given the security environment that is not conducive to regional cooperation. On a bilateral front, India has had discussions over withdrawing Pakistan’s Most Favoured Nation Status (MFN) status and changing its stance on the Indus Water Treaty. While it has chosen not to act on those aspects of the relationship as of now, it has sent Pakistan a strong message: it will not hesitate in enforcing all forms of pressure in the future.

Ten days after the attack, India launched pre-emptive surgical strikes against terror camps along the LoC that had “positioned themselves at launch pads” ready to infiltrate and carry out attacks in Kashmir. By stating the pre-emptive nature of the strike and the fact that it does not plan to conduct any more such strikes, India ensured that the strike was not seen as an offensive attack on Pakistan territory, a move which may have escalated the conflict rapidly. Pakistan has denied the strike and has flown in foreign and domestic journalists to the LoC to prove their point. What does this mean? With India saying it conducted strikes and Pakistan saying it didn’t, where does it leave the two countries and what are the repercussions?

First, it allows the Pakistan narrative to flourish domestically. It has caused Pakistanis to further doubt India’s integrity and has raised questions as to why the Indian government has not provided greater details of the nature of the strikes and/or evidence that they happened. This suits Islamabad and Rawalpindi as they are no longer forced to respond to something ‘India made up’. Second, it allows the conflict to remain as is, and avoid further escalation of military confrontation. The truth about the strikes is known only to a select few in each country and by not providing proof of the strikes, both countries have jointly kept the conflict in control for the time being.

As the calls for providing evidence of the strikes in India gets louder, the government may be pushed into a tighter corner and forced to provide irrefutable evidence. While any evidence India provides will be refuted by Islamabad, it may provoke the sleeping dragon in Rawalpindi. The army may be forced to react to save face, if it is proved that the Indian army entered Pakistan territory. Any sort of military retaliation from Pakistan will force the right-wing nationalistic, ‘tough-on-Pakistan’ Narendra Modi government into a retaliatory war.

However, in an unprecedented move, the Nawaz Sharif government has warned the military about Pakistan’s increasing isolation. In a report by DAWN, the civilian government has sought agreement with the military on certain matters of the state, including non-interference of the military in law-enforcement cases against militant groups. Nawaz Sharif has also directed for fresh attempts to be made to wrap up the Pathankot and the Mumbai 26/11 cases and has also made a case for cracking down on the Haqqani Network, highlighting the increasing United States pressure that has already caused a deterioration in relations.

This is a silver lining on what has been a grey, foreboding cloud. While it remains unlikely that the military will buckle down it is vital for Pakistan’s civilian government to make an attempt to loosen the military’s grip on certain conditions laid down by India and the US. Cracking on terror groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Haqqani Network will not only demonstrate the power of the civilian government, but it will earn Raheel Sharif and his men, new found respect amongst the people of Pakistan. The military’s counterinsurgency operation Zarb-e-Azb, which has been in effect since 2013 has been in full swing cracking down on terror camps in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. While the military’s communicating wing, has played a highly successful campaign in highlight the Pakistan military’s determination and resolve to root out militants and terrorists that threaten the country, the absence of any action against the Haqqani Network and JeM is jarring and obvious. Although Pakistan cannot overtly demonstrate that it is listening to what India is saying, showing India and the world, some goodwill will help Pakistan redeem itself in the world’s eyes. Not to mention, it will do Pakistan a whole of good domestically.

Both India and Pakistan would do well to remember that their problems will be far better resolved, if they are able to work in tandem, seeking solely diplomatic solutions. India must remind itself of its ultimate goal vis-à-vis Pakistan. New Delhi’s aim is not the military destruction of Pakistan, but to exert enough pressure that it abandons its use of terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy. It must humbly recognize that surgical strikes are not strategic game changers in the conflict, but psychological maneuvers that are directed to coerce Pakistan to give up its policy of supporting militants. If history has taught us anything it is that, Pakistan is so quintessentially bipolar in his governance that it is highly optimistic to assume that the military will let civilian government dictate terms to it. It is therefore unlikely that given the present situation, Pakistan will bow down and ‘give in’. Pakistan military intelligence agencies have been providing militant groups with support for many, many years. Their alliances with militant leaders such as Sirajuddin Haqqani, Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed have been sacrosanct. If the military allows civilian law enforcement agencies to act against such militant groups, the backlash will brutal and dangerous on their part.

That being said, in the spirit of discussing an optimal and ideal situation to get out of the current mess, if the civilian government in Pakistan is able to put enough pressure on the military to give into certain demands, Nawaz Sharif will be relieved having saved the country from conflict and diplomatic humiliation, however the credit will go to Raheel Sharif. The army chief will end his tenure on a high, his popularity soaring having been true to his word of rooting out militancy in Pakistan and saving the country from international isolation. In India while the army will continue to be praised for its heroism, all our aware od the political bidding behind the strikes. The Narendra Modi government will be able to pat itself on the back for successfully exercised strategic restraint against Pakistan and having shed any sort of domestic doubt that they are a government that are “too soft” on Pakistan.

Pakistan must realize that it cannot draw out and postpone the inevitable. It must seriously take down all terror and militant infrastructure in the country and disregard terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy. For far too long, the military has propagated the belief that it is doing everything it can to take down terror infrastructure in the country. While the United States has pressurized it to do more, by blocking subsidized sale of military equipment and repeatedly reminding it of its promises, Pakistan must give up its game for its own good. Irrespective of what it wants from India vis-à-vis Kashmir, it must realize that only by sincerely committing to absolving terror from its territory can it find its redemption.

Then and only then, can both India and Pakistan begin to rehash their problems.

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South Asia

India’s Unclear Neighbourhood Policy: How to Overcome ?

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India has witnessed multiple trends with regards to its relations with its neighbours at a time vaccine diplomacy is gaining prominence and Beijing increasing the pace towards becoming an Asian superpower, whereby making these reasons valid for New Delhi to have a clear foreign policy with respect to its neighbourhood.

Introduction

The Covid Pandemic has led to increased uncertainty in the global order where it comes to power dynamics, role of international organisations. New Delhi has tried to leave no stone unturned when it comes to dealing with its immediate neighbours.  It has distributed medical aid and vaccines to smaller countries to enhance its image abroad at a time it has witnessed conflicts with China and a change in government in Myanmar. These developments make it imperative for New Delhi to increase its focus on regionalism and further international engagement where this opportunity could be used tactically amidst a pandemic by using economic and healthcare aid.

According to Dr. Arvind Gupta, New Delhi has to deal with threats coming from multiple fronts and different tactics where it is essential for New Delhi to save energy using soft means rather than coercive measures.. India under Vaccine Maitri has supplied many of COVAXIN doses to Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka where many have appreciated this move. The urgency of ensuring humanitarian aid during these periods of unprecedented uncertainty are essential in PM Modi’s Security and Growth For All ( SAGAR) initiative, which focusses on initiating inclusive growth as well as cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region.

This pandemic witnessed various threats coming in India’s neighbourhood through multiple dimensions which include maritime, land, cyber as well as air threats where adversaries are using these to put pressure on New Delhi to settle land as well as marine disputes as per their terms.  These encirclement strategies have made it necessary for India to open up various options such as holding maritime joint exercises with like-minded countries, developing partnerships, providing economic as well as healthcare support to weaker countries plus having a clear insight about changing global dynamics and acting as per them.

This piece will discuss about various changing tactics, pros and cons which India has with respect to developing its national security vis-à-vis its neighbourhood, why should it prioritise its neighbourhood at the first place?

Background

India’s Neighbourhood is filled with many complexities and a lot of suspicion amongst countries, some viewing India because of its size and geography plus economic clout as a bully where it is wanting to dominate in the region putting others aside. This led to New Delhi play an increased role in nudging ties first with its neighbours with whom it had multiple conflicts as well as misunderstandings leading to the latter viewing Beijing as a good alternative in order to keep India under check.

Ever since PM Modi has taken charge at 7 RCR, India’s Neighbourhood First Policy has been followed increasingly to develop relations, to enhance understandings and ensure mutual cooperation as well as benefit with its neighbours. The relations with Islamabad have not seen so much improvement as compared to other leaders in the past. Even though former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was invited for PM Modi’s 1st Swearing In ceremony in 2014, terrorist activities have never stopped which could be seen through Pathankot, Uri and Pulwama terror attacks which killed many of the Indian soldiers. Even though surgical strikes were conducted on terror camps in retaliation to these bombardments, Islamabad has not changed its heart at all about its security or regional demands. New strategies and friendships are being developed where Beijing has played a major role in controlling power dynamics.

The Belt and Road initiative, first time mentioned during President Xi’s 2013 speech in Kazakhstan, then officially in 2015,  lays emphasis of achieving a Chinese Dream of bringing countries under one umbrella, ensuring their security, providing them with infrastructure projects such as ports, railways, pipelines, highways etc. The main bottleneck is the China Pakistan Economic Corridor when it comes to India’s security threats, passing through disputed boundaries of Gilgit and Baltistan in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir till Gwadar. Other projects have been initiated in Chittagong, Hambantota, Gwadar , Kyapkyou. These projects form a String Of Pearls in the Indo Pacific where New Delhi is being balanced against through economic plus development incentives being given to the member countries under the project. That’s why in the recent past, New Delhi is asserting its influence in the region, looking at new dimensional threats where Beijing’s threats in the maritime domain in the islands in East as well as South China seas are not being seen favourably in many countries such as ASEAN, US, Australia and Japan which is giving India an opportunity to look towards countries with a common threat. Amidst this great power struggle between Washington and Beijing, New Delhi is stuck between a rock and hard place i.e., having a clear and strong foreign policy with its neighbours.

In this region, India has a sole threat which is mainly Beijing where the latter has achieved prowess technologically and militarily where New Delhi lags behind the latter twenty fold. So, there is a need for improvising military technology, increase economic activities with countries, reduce dependence on foreign aid, ensure self-reliance.

Situation

South Asia is backward when it comes to economic development, human development and is a home to majority of the world’s population which lives below poverty line. The colonial rule has left a never-ending impact on divisions based on communal, linguistic and ethnic grounds. Even, in terms of infrastructure and connectivity, New Delhi lags behind Beijing significantly in the neighbourhood because the latter is at an edge when it comes to bringing countries under the same umbrella. Due to these, many initiatives have been taken up by New Delhi on developing infrastructure, providing humanitarian aid to needy countries.

There have been numerous efforts made by India with respect to reaching out to the Neighbours in 2020 through setting up of the SAARC Covid Fund where many Neighbourhood countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka gave contributions to ensure cooperation, joint scientific research, sharing information, healthcare kits where the countries contributed USD $ 18 million jointly towards this fund where New Delhi made an initial offer of USD $ 10 million.

New Delhi has even mustered ties with the Association of Southeast Asian countries during the pandemic under its Act East Policy where proper connectivity through the Northeast could be useful in easing movement of goods but currently, the infrastructure in Northeast needs more improvement where issues such as unemployment, poor connectivity are prevalent whereby disconnecting it from rest of the other states. This region could play an important role in linking Bangladesh, Myanmar to New Delhi along with the proposed India-Thailand –Myanmar Trilateral Corridor. Focus has also been laid to develop inland waterways, rail links and pipelines to ease connections between countries, making trade free and more efficient.

India is focussing on developing the Sittwe and Paletwa ports in Myanmar under the Kaladan Development Corridor, at the cost of INR 517.9 Crore in order to provide an alternative e route beneficial for the Northeast for getting shipping access

Summing Up

 These above developments and power display by a strong adversary, give good reasons for New Delhi to adopt collective security mechanisms through QUAD, SIMBEX and JIMEX with a common perception of having safe and open waters through abiding to the UNCLOS which China isn’t showing too much interest in, seen through surveillance units, artificial islands being set up on disputed territories which countries likewise India are facing in context to territorial sovereignty and integrity. These developments make it important for India to look at strategic threats by coming together with countries based on similar interest’s vis-à-vis Chinese threat.

There is a need for India to develop and harness its strength through connectivity and its self reliance initiative ( Aatmanirbharta ) so that there is no dependence on any foreign power at times of need . Proper coordination between policy makers and government officials could make decision making even easier, which is not there completely because of ideological differences, different ideas which makes it important for the political leadership to coordinate with the military jointly during times of threats on borders. Self-reliance could only come through preparedness and strategy.

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India is in big trouble as UK stands for Kashmiris

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 A London-based law firm has filed an application with British police seeking the arrest of India’s army chief and a senior Indian government official over their alleged roles in war crimes in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Law firm Stoke White said it submitted extensive evidence to the Metropolitan Police’s War Crimes Unit on Tuesday, documenting how Indian forces headed by General Manoj Mukund Naravane and Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah were responsible for the torture, kidnapping and killing of activists, journalists and civilians – particularly Muslim – in the region.

“There is strong reason to believe that Indian authorities are conducting war crimes and other violence against civilians in Jammu and Kashmir,” the report states, referring to the territory in the Himalayan region.

Based on more than 2,000 testimonies taken between 2020 and 2021, the report also accused eight unnamed senior Indian military officials of direct involvement in war crimes and torture in Kashmir.

The law firm’s investigation suggested that the abuse has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic. It also included details about the arrest of Khurram Parvez, the region’s most prominent rights activist, by India’s counterterrorism authorities last year.

“This report is dedicated to the families who have lost loved ones without a trace, and who experience daily threats when trying to attain justice,” Khalil Dewan, author of the report and head of the SWI unit, said in a statement.

“The time has now come for victims to seek justice through other avenues, via a firmer application of international law.”

The request to London police was made under the principle of “universal jurisdiction”, which gives countries the authority to prosecute individuals accused of crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

The international law firm in London said it believes its application is the first time that legal action has been initiated abroad against Indian authorities over alleged war crimes in Kashmir.

Hakan Camuz, director of international law at Stoke White, said he hoped the report would convince British police to open an investigation and ultimately arrest the officials when they set foot in the UK.

Some of the Indian officials have financial assets and other links to Britain.

“We are asking the UK government to do their duty and investigate and arrest them for what they did based on the evidence we supplied to them. We want them to be held accountable,” Camuz said.

The police application was made on behalf of the family of Pakistani prisoner Zia Mustafa, who, Camuz said, was the victim of extrajudicial killing by Indian authorities in 2021, and on behalf of human rights campaigner Muhammad Ahsan Untoo, who was allegedly tortured before his arrest last week.

Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the past two decades in Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both in its entirety.

Muslim Kashmiris mostly support rebels who want to unite the region, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

Kashmiris and international rights groups have long accused Indian troops of carrying out systematic abuse and arrests of those who oppose rule from New Delhi.

Rights groups have also criticized the conduct of armed groups, accusing them of carrying out human rights violations against civilians.

In 2018, the United Nations human rights chief called for an independent international investigation into reports of rights violations in Kashmir, alleging “chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces”.

India’s government has denied the alleged rights violations and maintains such claims are separatist propaganda meant to demonize Indian troops in the region. It seems, India is in big trouble and may not be able to escape this time. A tough time for Modi-led extremist government and his discriminatory policies. The world opinion about India has been changed completely, and it has been realized that there is no longer a democratic and secular India. India has been hijacked by extremist political parties and heading toward further bias policies. Minorities may suffer further, unless the world exert pressure to rectify the deteriorating human rights records in India.

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S. Jaishankar’s ‘The India Way’, Is it a new vision of foreign policy?

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S. Jaishankar has had an illustrious Foreign Service career holding some of the highest and most prestigious positions such as ambassador to China and the US and as foreign secretary of India. Since 2019 he has served as India’s foreign minister. S. Jaishankar also has a Ph.D. in international relations from JNU and his academic background is reflected in this book.

His main argument is simplistic, yet the issues involved are complex. Jaishankar argues that the world is changing fundamentally, and the international environment is experiencing major shifts in power as well as processes. China is rising and western hegemony is declining. We are moving away from a unipolar system dominated by the US to a multipolar system. Globalization is waning and nationalism and polarization is on the rise (p. 29). The old order is going away but we cannot yet glimpse what the future will look like. This is the uncertain world that Dr. Jaishankar sees.

Dr. Jaishankar also argues that India too has changed, it is more capable and more assertive. The liberalization program that began in 1991 has made the Indian economy vibrant and globally competitive and it is well on track to becoming the third biggest economy in the world, after China and the US.  The war of 1971 that liberated Bangladesh, the liberalization of the economy after 1991, the nuclear tests in 1998 and the nuclear understanding with the US in 2005, Jaishankar argues are landmarks in India’s strategic evolution (p. 4). So given that both India and the system have changed, Jaishankar concludes, so should India’s foreign policy.

But his prescription for India’s foreign policy, in the grand scheme of things, is the same as before – India should remain nonaligned and not join the US in its efforts to contain China. India will try to play with both sides it seems in order to exploit the superpowers and maximize its own interests (p. 9). But he fails to highlight how India can find common ground with China other than to say the two nations must resolve things diplomatically. He also seems to think that the US has infinite tolerance for India’s coyness. In his imagination the US will keep making concessions and India will keep playing hard to get.

Jaishankar has a profound contradiction in his thinking. He argues that the future will be determined by what happens between the US and China. In a way he is postulating a bipolar future to global politics. But he then claims that the world is becoming multipolar and this he claims will increase the contests for regional hegemony. The world cannot be both bipolar and multipolar at the same time.

There is also a blind spot in Jaishankar’s book.  He is apparently unaware of the rise of Hindu nationalism and the demand for a Hindu state that is agitating and polarizing India’s domestic politics. The systematic marginalization and oppression of Muslim minorities at home and the growing awareness overseas of the dangers of Hindutva extremism do not exist in the world that he lives in. He misses all this even as he goes on to invoke the Mahabharata and argue how Krishna’s wisdom and the not so ethical choices during the war between Pandavas and Kauravas should be a guide for how India deals with this uncertain world – by balancing ethics with realism (p. 63). Methinks his little digression in discussing the ancient Hindu epic is more to signal his ideological predilections than to add any insights to understanding the world or India’s place in it.  

One aspect of his work that I found interesting is his awareness of the importance of democracy and pluralism. He states that India’s democracy garners respect and gives India a greater opportunity to be liked and admired by other nations in the world (p. 8). Yet recently when he was asked about the decline of India’s democratic credentials, his response was very defensive, and he showed visible signs of irritation. It is possible that he realizes India is losing ground internationally but is unwilling to acknowledge that his political party is responsible for the deterioration of India’s democracy.

This is also apparent when he talks about the importance of India improving its relations with its immediate neighbors. He calls the strategy as neighborhood first approach (pp. 9-10). What he does not explain is how an Islamophobic India will maintain good relations with Muslim majority neighbors like Bangladesh, Maldives, and Pakistan.

The book is interesting, it has its limitations and both, what is addressed and what is left out, are clearly political choices and provide insights into how New Delhi thinks about foreign policy. So, coming to the question with which we started, does India have a new foreign policy vision? The answer is no. Dr. Jaishankar is right, there is indeed an India way, but it is the same old way, and it entails remaining nonaligned with some minor attitudinal adjustments.  

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