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.