Connect with us

South Asia

New Cold War in South Asia: How India Should Reconnoitre Its Foreign Policy Strategic Challenges?

Avatar photo

Published

on

During the Cold War, the world has been divided into two blocs i.e., capitalism and communism. The Cold War had been the outcome of the post-war disagreements, conflicting ideologies and fears of expansionism.

Due to internal and external dynamics of the South Asian region such as Pak-India and Sino-India rivalries, India’s hegemonic perception, its strengths in terms of demography and geography, the biggest standing army, massive pool of skilled human resources, advanced science and technology, rising economy and inventory of weapons, have once again moored the region into a new Cold War.

For the given geopolitical and geostrategic interests of the extra-regional powers such as the US, Russia and China, the South Asia has been entrapped in the geopolitical cobweb. The new equations have already been started taking place in global politics in general and the South Asian in particular. For the given of changing geopolitical landscape, myriads of strategic challenges have emerged before the Indian foreign policy. Now the question is how India will deal with these strategic challenges?

Paradigmatic Shift and New Equations: A New Cold War

The South Asia in general and India and Pakistan, in particular, have witnessed a paradigmatic shift in their foreign policies. The India foreign policy had gone under structural changes. Non-alignment has become the thing of the past, and realignment has become the lynchpin of the respective foreign policies. India has been coming closer to the US. These new alignments shifted the dead Cold War to the South Asia as a new Cold War. India as a major regional country and the US as a superpower have been sharing common interests in the region. These interests include stability, security, restraining extremism and terrorism etc. The new alignments have been emerging the US and India V/S Russia, China and Pakistan. The expanding strategic cooperation between India and the US and on the other hand, Russia, China and Pakistan, have been leaving drastic and indelible impacts on the South Asian geopolitical landscape.

During the Cold War (1945-1990s), the India and Russia had remained closed partners. The Russia had supported India in the time of crisis not only at the bilateral level rather in the international fora like the UN. Strategic help during the Indo-Pak War 1971, largest arms supplier, provision of advanced weapon and nuclear technology, ship and submarine technology, joint ventures in missile technology have been the some sectors of mutual cooperation. But the disintegration the USSR, the geopolitical scenario has been changed.

Realist scholars have argued that in international relation, there is no permanent friends or foes, it is only the national interests which are permanent. Now, India has been coming closer to the US. There was an active reciprocation by the US Presidents like Bush (2001 to 2009) and Obama (2009-till date), have given adequate space and accommodation to India’s strategic interests. The bilateral relations have been improved in multilateral sectors such as trade & investment, global security, support for inclusion in decision-making on matters of global governance, multilateral export control regimes MTCR, Wassenaar Arrangement, Australia Group and lastly the NSG.

Over the last one and half decade, the defence and security cooperation has been improved considerably. Sanctions imposed on India on account of nuclear tests in 1998, has lifted in 2001. A Joint Working Group (JWG) was constituted to enhance cooperation in counter-terrorism in 2000. The ‘New Framework for India-U.S. Defense Relations’ was signed in 2005. The nuclear agreement ‘123 Agreement’ was concluded in 2008 which was lingering on due to some technical issues. Bilateral dialogue mechanisms have been put in place to enhance defense cooperation, in policy of procurement, and production technology, security etc. Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) has been established for facilitating the technology transfer. Under this initiative, both countries have committed to exploring the possibilities of co-development and co-production of the weapons. The signing of the nuclear agreement and the Logistic Exchange of Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) was formalised on 29 August 2016, in which both the countries agreed “in principle” to use each other’s strategic assets and bases. Nuclear agreement and the LEMOA had created the geopolitical ripple in the South Asia.

On the other hand, Pakistan is coming closer to Russia. Moreover, China and Pakistan’s strategic partnership in nuclear and other weapon technologies have been growing. During the Cold War, Russo-Pak relations have been marred due to Pakistan strategic support to the US against the Russian intervention in Afghanistan. In the late 1970s and 1980s, Pakistan had extended support to the Mujahedeen to overthrow the Soviet-backed communist regime. Later on, these rebels had underpinned by the United States, United Kingdom, China and Saudi Arabia. However, the old enmities had lost in the changing geopolitical landscape. It has been argued by one expert of the South Asian issues that Russia and Pakistan have been surreptitiously developing geopolitical and geostrategic relations. Pakistan is urging for the delivery of Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets. Russia has already been agreed to deliver of Mi-35M helicopters to Pakistan.

India’s Strategic Challenges: What Should Do?

The new equation termed as a new Cold War. The entire South Asia has been entrapped by the mistrust and distrust. Since China has been emerging as a significant power to and to check various initiatives, the US has launched the ‘Asia Pivot’. The growing propinquity between India and the US heightened the strategic concerns of China and Pakistan. Moreover, China has been supporting Pakistan against India in several areas such as military technology, nuclear cooperation, and economic assistance. To put pressure on India, the strategic cooperation between China and Pakistan has been expanded substantially. The strategic challenges have further extended by developing strategic cooperation between Russia and Pakistan. Out of the vested interests of the external powers and partly the internal bickering has heightened the arms race in the entire South Asia. Of course, it will serve the ulterior motives of the extra-regional players.

Russia, China and Pakistan have already closer to one and other. Out of this new axis and nexus, several strategic challenges have been emerging before Indian foreign policy. These include String of Pearls, One Belt and One Road, CPEC, modernization of its PLA, South China Sea dispute, expanding the nuclear programme, cybersecurity and expanding strategic foray in Indo-Pacific Ocean (Gwadar, Sittwe, Hambantota ports) etc. Russia is coming closer to China and Pakistan. The nuclear triumvirate is a new geopolitical and geostrategic challenge for India.    

Now the question is, how to deal with the emerging strategic challenges? It is highly recommended that India should follow a calibrated and guided foreign policy. Independence of foreign policy should be maintained at any cost. The intervention of the external powers in its internal issues should be kept at minimum level. Russia as a strategic partner should not be lost. Rather than depending on imported weapons technology, more funds and investment should be generated for the indigenisation of weapon technology. Non-alignment has not lost its relevance as the challenges of the time of non-alignment have been still existing. The strategic partnership with external powers should not be enhanced at the cost of independence of the foreign policy, arms race, geopolitical conflict and strategic challenges, etc. At last, freedom of the foreign policy should be the main national interest of India.      

Dr. Bawa Singh is teaching in the Centre for South and Central Asian Studies, School of Global Relations, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda, India-151001. bawasingh73[at]gmail.com

Continue Reading
Comments

South Asia

A long way of solidarity: a voice for the voiceless Kashmiris

Avatar photo

Published

on

Friday prayers in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. © John Isaac

Every year on February 5 Pakistan observes Kashmir Solidarity Day. It aims to demonstrate Pakistan’s support and solidarity with the people of Indian-occupied Kashmir, and their continuing liberation struggle, and to honor Kashmiri martyrs who sacrificed their lives fighting for Kashmir’s independence.

Every year, on Kashmir Solidarity Day, Pakistan expresses its political, moral, and diplomatic support for the righteous fight of our Kashmiri brothers and becomes its voice in the international forums.

Kashmir’s discord carries historical as well as contemporary events that hinder its political future.

Historical account of the humiliation of Kashmir’s people

The history of conflict dates back to 1947. In the June 3 plan, the princely state offered a choice between India and Pakistan. Maharaja Hari Singh deceived Pakistan and ceded Kashmir to India through a standstill agreement, which sparked an uprising of Pashtun tribesmen and the Hindu nationalists and RSS to organize a program against Muslims, killing between 20,000 and 100,000 Muslims. On October 27, 1947, Indian troops landed in Kashmir to fight against the Pashtuns and the local armies; this led to the first India-Pakistan war. During the war, India’s prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, promised a referendum: “The fate of Jammu and Kashmir is ultimately decided by the people; the pledge we have given is not only to the people of Kashmir but also to the world.” “We will not and cannot back out of it.”

India referred the dispute to the United Nations a little more than two months later. A resolution passed on August 13, 1948, asking both nations to withdraw their forces; once that happened, a referendum was to be held, allowing the people of Kashmir to decide their political future. But the Indian troops were never withdrawn, and the referendum never happened. On January 1, 1949, the ceasefire was agreed upon, and Kashmir became a disputed territory. Over the next 70 years, India and Pakistan fought three wars over Kashmir.

In Indian-administrated Kashmir, India maintains around 600,000 troops in Kashmir, who have committed human rights violations like rape, torture, and enforced disappearances that continue today. The number of people killed in Kashmir is estimated to be between 50,000 and 100,000, which shows the ruthlessness of the so-called largest democracy in the world.

Situation after the abolishment of articles 370 and 35A

On August 5, 2019, the Indian government abrogated Article 370 and Article 35A of the Indian Constitution, which granted Jammu and Kashmir a special status and autonomy. The Indian government enforced a curfew, disrupted communication connections, arrested political leaders, and deployed extra soldiers in the area, generating widespread resentment and demonstrations.

Since the abolition of Articles 370 and 35A, human rights abuses and violations in Kashmir have increased significantly, with claims of widespread mass arrests, torture, and extrajudicial executions by Indian security personnel. The Indian government has also restricted freedom of speech, assembly, and the press, making it impossible for citizens to openly express their thoughts and report on the state of the area.

In addition, the Indian government has been accused of fostering demographic changes in the area through the settlement of Hindu migrants, which has resulted in a fall in the percentage of the Muslim population and degradation of the Kashmiri people’s distinctive cultural and religious identity.

International human rights groups have shown concern about the situation in Kashmir and demanded an independent investigation into the reported human rights breaches and abuses. About 87 civilians have been killed by the Indian forces since the abrogation of Article 370. The international community has also advocated for a peaceful settlement to the issue that takes the Kashmiri people’s rights and interests into consideration.

The situation in Kashmir remains severe, and the continuous violence and human rights violations continue to provide the international community with a formidable task. The region’s political future is still unknown, and a sustainable resolution to the war has not yet been found.

Pakistan’s Advocacy for Kashmir

Pakistan has made several attempts to resolve the ongoing conflict in Kashmir and has sought international backing for its stance on the matter. Pakistan has repeatedly discussed the Kashmir issue at the United Nations and other international forums, stressing the need for a peaceful settlement of the conflict based on the self-determination principle and the right of the Kashmiri people to choose their destiny. Pakistan has also made diplomatic attempts to garner international support for its viewpoint, notably via the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Non-Aligned Movement.

Pakistan has also endeavored to provide political, diplomatic, and moral assistance for the Kashmiri resistance movement. India has accused Pakistan of financing terrorism in the area based on information that Pakistan supports separatist organizations in the region. Pakistan has denied these allegations and advocated for a peaceful settlement according to UN Resolution 47 (1948), which calls for a ceasefire, and UN Resolution 51 (1948), which calls for a plebiscite to be held in the region to determine the will of the Kashmiri people.

Despite these attempts, the situation in Kashmir remains unresolved, and a permanent resolution to the conflict has not yet been reached. The issue remains a significant source of conflict between India and Pakistan and a problem for the international community.

Conclusion:

Kashmir’s political future remains uncertain and is the subject of ongoing discussion and negotiation between India and Pakistan, as well as international engagement.

Currently, the territory is split between India and Pakistan, with India administering the greater part and Pakistan the smaller. The Line of Control (LoC), which divides the two managed territories, has often been the scene of tension and bloodshed.

There have been appeals for a peaceful conclusion that takes the rights and interests of the Kashmiri people into consideration. Some have suggested the concept of “self-determination,” in which the people of Kashmir would have the right to choose their destiny through a referendum or a negotiated solution between India and Pakistan.

Kashmir’s political future is unpredictable and vulnerable to the continuous dynamics of the war as well as the shifting political and strategic objectives of the major regional countries. The international community still has a big part to play in finding a solution, and India, Pakistan, and the other countries in the area are likely to have to be involved and support any lasting solution.

Continue Reading

South Asia

Sri Lankans deserve a clean break from the past

Avatar photo

Published

on

The decision of former president Maithripala Sirisena to run for president pits two unpopular, establishment candidates against one another. With both Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe involved in past political turmoil and the current economic crisis, Sri Lankans deserve a clean break.

While a presidential election cannot be held until 2024, the Sri Lankan Electoral Commission recently announced local elections for February. With no popular mandate and as the only member of his party, President Wickremesinghe is expected to face an embarrassing defeat in the poll, but it is unlikely to bring down the government.

The announcement that Sirisena would run as president comes at a pivotal time for Sri Lankans.

Wickremesinghe warned this week that the Sri Lankan economy could contract by up to 4% this year, after shrinking 11% last year.

Last year, the island nation descended into turmoil, with an economic collapse leading to its worst crisis in years. Foreign currency shortages, runaway inflation and a recession left the government unable to make debt repayments and left Sri Lankans desperately short of food and fuel.

This led to unprecedented unrest, particularly in the capital Colombo, resulting in the deaths of protesters and police, with hundreds more injured or detained. The protests culminated in the storming and occupation of the presidential palace, forcing Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country, with Wickremesinghe replacing him as president.

Sirisena has a chequered history in Sri Lankan politics.

Sirisena was part of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s cabinet before defecting to the opposition and winning a surprise election victory against Rajapaksa in 2015.

As President, Sirisena formed a close partnership with Wickremsinghe, appointing him Prime Minister, before the two spectacularly fell out. This culminated in the sacking of Wickremesinghe in 2018, replacing him with Mahinda Rajapaksa. At the time, Wickremesinghe claimed that the move was “unconstitutional”.

This led to a constitutional crisis and power struggle between Wickremesinghe, Rajapaksa and Sirisena, with the former President dissolving parliament and calling snap elections. Sirisena then decided to not seek re-election, leaving office in early 2019. He was replaced as president by Mahinda’s brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Recently, the Sri Lankan supreme court ordered Sirisena and several other top government, police and intelligence officials to pay millions of rupees in compensation to the victims of the 2019 Easter bombings in Colombo. The court found that Sirisena, as former president, ignored multiple warnings about an imminent terrorist attack weeks before the deadly event took place.

But Wickremesinghe is also no saint.

Wickremesinghe, a six-time prime minister, won a parliamentary vote with the backing of the Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party to replace Gotabaya Rajapaksa in July 2022. For this reason, he is accused of owing his position to the family.

Upon gaining the presidency, Wickremesinghe immediately cracked down on protesters, condemning the protests as “against the law” and calling protesters “fascists”. Under his watch, more than 140 protesters have been arrested and its leaders driven into hiding.

In August 2022, the United Nations condemned his government’s crackdown on protesters. The UN also criticised the repeated use of emergency measures, such as curfews, calling them a “misuse of emergency measures”.

The president has also been accused of delaying this poll, claiming the economically crippled country cannot afford to spend 10 billion rupees on a local election. However, the election commission decided to proceed despite the president’s request. Nonetheless, this raises doubts about Wickremesinghe’s respect for the democratic process.

What Sri Lankans desperately need is political stability and good economic management so the country can dig its way out of its worst crisis since independence.

Sirisena and Wickremesinghe offer neither. The former is struggling to finalise a bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund and both are notorious for poor political decision making and unpopular with a public desperate for change.

Therefore, Sri Lankans are faced with two establishment candidates who only offer more of the same.

The solution, at least for the time being, is for Wickremesinghe to call a presidential election so the next president has a clear mandate by the people. This will assist in forming a stable government and in bailout negotiations with the IMF.

Power also needs to be decentralised through ambitious political reforms that allow for wider participation and decision making in parliament. While, admittedly, this would be difficult under both Sirisena and Wickremesinghe, it is the first step in dealing with corruption and nepotism in Sri Lankan politics.

Presidential candidates serious about solving the countries problems also need to focus on key issues, such as rebuilding the economy, accountability for human rights and rebuilding political integrity and public trust.

Only once this is achieved, and Sri Lanka has shed itself of its dysfunctional political past, will it be able to recover.

Continue Reading

South Asia

A Hybrid Political System for Pakistan: A Proposal

Avatar photo

Published

on

The political system of Pakistan is an amalgamation of Islamic, British, and Indian influences, shaped by a multifaceted array of religious, ethnic, and regional factors, making it a culturally rich and ever-changing landscape. Pakistan is renowned for its powerful military establishment, which has traditionally wielded significant influence in determining its political direction. The nation’s political history is characterized by cycles of military rule, punctuated by several coups, followed by phases of democratic rule, though the military has continued to exert a significant degree of influence in the country’s politics. Furthermore, Pakistan has had to contend with the pernicious threat of extremism, with various militant groups operating within its borders and perpetrating terrorist attacks, which have destabilized the nation’s political, social, and economic stability.

This article aims to shed light on the challenges faced by the political system in Pakistan, specifically concerning the current political turmoil the country is experiencing. It also suggests a potential solution to stabilize the system and bring about a revolution in the way politics is conducted in Pakistan

The challenges faced by Pakistan’s democracy are compounded by the elite classes’ actions. The country is currently facing significant upheaval, which can be attributed to several factors. The lack of solid democratic institutions, frequent military takeovers, and the involvement of powerful military and civilian elites are among the underlying causes of the country’s political instability. Additionally, ethnic and regional conflicts, poverty, and economic growth issues further exacerbated political instability. The ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, as well as political unrest in neighboring countries, have also had an impact on the country. Furthermore, Pakistan’s history of military control, political corruption, and a lack of a deeply ingrained democratic culture have all contributed to the volatility in its political system.

The current political quagmire that plagues Pakistan is multifaceted, primarily stemming from a dearth of political acumen and a paucity of commitment on the part of leaders to prioritize the exigencies of the populace over their own personal and factional interests. This has led to a diminution of public confidence in the political system and government officials. Furthermore, the military’s prolonged political intervention and sway history has exacerbated a lack of democratic stability and accountability. Another critical conundrum that has impeded the country’s political evolution is the preponderance of corruption and nepotism in every government agency, rendering it difficult for citizens to repose trust in government officials. As a result, there is a burgeoning loss of faith in institutions of all varieties, with people losing trust in the government, corporations, and political leaders.

Furthermore, the failure of successive governments to address the issue of corruption has further undermined public trust in the political system. The permeation of corrupt practices in every government institution has made it difficult for citizens to have faith in government officials, leading to a general disillusionment with the political system. Additionally, the lack of transparency and accountability in government operations has enabled corrupt officials to operate with impunity, further eroding the public’s trust in the political system. The aforementioned issues have resulted in a political climate marked by a lack of stability and continuity, hindering the country’s economic and social development. It is imperative that the political class and other stakeholders work towards addressing these issues to ensure that the political system can effectively serve the people’s needs and promote the country’s long-term stability and prosperity.

Proposing A New Way to get stability in Political System?

A hybrid political system combines characteristics of many political systems, such as democracy and autocracy. Two examples are a semi-presidential system, which combines a prime minister and a president, and a federal system, which combines a central government with regional administrations. Hybrid systems can also include components of other kinds of democracy, such as a parliamentary system combined with a robust presidential system. These systems are frequently viewed as a compromise between competing political ideologies or as a means of balancing the strengths and shortcomings of various systems

If the official replaces the current political system with a hybrid one, it could be very beneficial. One of the main advantages of a hybrid system is that it allows for a balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of government. In a presidential system, the executive branch is separate from the legislative branch, with the president having a lot of power. In a parliamentary system, however, the executive branch is accountable to the legislative branch. In a hybrid system, the executive branch has some independence from the legislative branch but is still responsible for it. This helps to prevent too much power from being concentrated in one person or group and also helps to protect citizens’ rights and to avoid abuse of power.

An additional benefit of implementing a hybrid system is that it may facilitate more efficient decision-making by leveraging the strengths of both presidential and parliamentary systems. In a presidential system, the separation of powers can result in stalemates and prolonged indecision, while in a parliamentary system, the government can swiftly collapse if it loses the legislature’s support. A hybrid system, on the other hand, can offer a balance of stability and agility, allowing for more prompt decision-making while maintaining the accountability of the executive branch. Furthermore, considering Pakistan’s history of military involvement in politics, a hybrid system can provide a mechanism to hold the military accountable to the civilian administration and reduce the likelihood of military intervention.

It is imperative to acknowledge that a hybrid system may not be the ultimate remedy for all of Pakistan’s issues, and its successful operation would require meticulous planning and execution. Nevertheless, this system could potentially provide a glimpse of sustained stability in Pakistan’s political landscape, and it is incumbent upon the authorities to consider this system as a viable option to circumvent further obstacles.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Trending