Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) is an Indian public central university. It was originally established by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan as Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College in 1875. Its Chief Engineer was Nawab Sarwar Jung. The Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College became Aligarh Muslim University in 1920. The main campus of AMU is located in the city of Aligarh which spread over about 468 hectares. AMU offers more than 300 courses in both traditional and modern branches of education. In addition to this it has its three off-campus Centers at Malappuram (Kerala), Murshidabad (West Bengal) and Kishanganj (Bihar). The university comprises all castes, creeds, religions and genders. The university’s formal head is the Chancellor, though this is a titular figure, not involved in routine affairs of the university. The Chancellor is elected by the members of University Court, a body with members drawn from all walks of life. The university’s Chief Executive is the Vice-Chancellor, appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of the Court. The Court is the supreme governing body of the University and exercises all the powers of the University, not otherwise provided for by the Aligarh Muslim University Act, the Statutes, the Ordinances and the Regulations of the University.
Like student bodies of other universities or education institutions, Aligarh Muslim University Students Union (AMUSU) is the university-wide representative body for students of AMU. It is primarily responsible for building and preserving a healthy political culture and an atmosphere of open debates on the campus. Students are kept informed about the public meetings, discussions and other issues through pamphlets and notices. Public Action, an objective forum, invited a variety of journalists, politicians, and academics, to debate and to discuss various topics. It is mentionable here that Mahatma Gandhi was the first life member of the union and was conferred upon him on 1920. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sarojini Naidu, C. V. Raman, E. M. Forster are also life members of the union. AMU, for decades, has seen a photograph of Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah adorning one of its walls. However, a controversy has broken out over the demand for the removal of the photo. Jinnah was granted a lifetime membership of the Aligarh Muslim University Students Union (AMUSU) in 1938. As a customary practice, his portrait was hung in the office of AMUSU along with other honorary members. Jinnah having played a pivotal role in the India-Pakistan partition is not a popular figurine among Indian sentiments, therefore anything to do with Jinnah gets an auto-connect to Pakistan.
AMU, having historic significance in the struggle of Muslims of sub-continent for independence, has remained a thorn in the eyes of chauvinistic Hindus since ages. Since the Modi government, Muslim students as well as populace have been subjected to organized violence on different pretexts. In AMU fire broke out when VC turned down the plea of AMU “RSS activist” namely Amir Rasheed to organize a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh `shakha’ (Hindu Vedic/information promoting gathering) in the campus.In a reaction to the rejection, BJP Lok Sabha MP from Aligarh Satish Gautam, opened another Pandora box and through a letter to Vice Chancellor (VC) of AMU objected to Pakistan founder’s picture on the walls of the AMU student union office and enquired from the VC Tariq Mansoor why the portrait of the said gentleman was present in the college room? AMU spokesman Shafey Kidwai defended the portrait, apparently hanging there for decades, saying that Jinnah was a founder of the university and granted life membership of the student union. The local BJP leadership played the negative role and mobilized Hindu Yuva Vahini (RSS affiliated student wing) activists to target Muslim students of AMU and create unrest.
As a consequence, on2 May 2018, RSS affiliated activists / extremists disrupted an event at AMU Aligarh in which Muhammad Hamid Ansari (Indian Vice-President from 2007 to 2017) was invited. Around 30 activists of the Hindu Yuva Vahini accompanied by uniformed policemen had reached the main gate of AMU, where they shouted slogans like ‘We will not let such respect for Jinnah in India”, “If you want to remain in India, you must say Vande Mataram’, “Vande Mataram, Jai Shri Ram”. They resorted to violence and disrupted the gathering. Over two dozen students, including student’s union President Mashkoor Ahmad Usmani were injured. Students of AMU believe that the intruders were from the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a militia established in April 2002 by Adityanath (current CM of UP). Ironically, UP police remained spectator to the hooliganism of RSS student wing and even resorted to baton and tear gas charge against the peacefully protesting students of AMU who wanted to lodge FIR against Vahini activists.AMU students went on boycott of the academic activities and have started org protest demonstrations against extremist Hindu student wing elements. Moreover, Aligarh Muslim University Teachers’ Association said: “We strongly condemn the brutal action taken by police against AMU students. Instead of taking action against criminal aggressors, AMU students who were victims were re-victimized by baton-charge.” They also demanded arrest of the Vahini activists.As students continued to boycott academic activities at AMU and organized widely protest demonstration, President of Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union, Geeta Kumari while addressing the sit-in asked RSS and different saffron groups to “stop interfering in the internal affairs” of different educational institutions in the country. Addressing the protesting AMU students at their sit-in site, Geeta Kumari said, “She also asked the saffron groups to stop taunting Muslims and repeatedly asking them to “go to Pakistan”.
Reportedly, it has remained a recent pattern of extremists’ Hindu student wing to provoke the Muslim student on any pretexts to unleash violence at university campus. Former students’ union president, Faizul Hasan recalled that Hindutva groups constantly provoke them and through local media statements, all AMU students are labeled as Pakistan supporters or terrorism supporters. Another Hindutva group (Hindu Jagran Manch) demanded renaming of AMU as “Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh University (the person who had “donated land” for AMU). Addressing a press conference Ghanshyam Singh, state President of Hindu Jagran Manch (HJM) also alleged that Jawaharla Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) were “used” by anti-national forces. Adding fuel to the fire and wading into portrait controversy, Indian Union Minister VK Singh said that “If you are a Muslim and want Jinnah’s portrait on your walls, then this is a huge insult of your forefathers who had rejected his ideology. You are an Indian today because of them.”
The violence in AMU and other parts of the country against minorities especially Muslims depict that India is witnessing darkening episodes of rise of Hindutva or Bhagva. Religious minority groups in India are consistently subjected to inhuman and intolerant treatment at the hands of growing violent and extremist Hindu majority. Violence and denial of constitutional rights are the usual tools with which Indian minorities are preyed by extremist Hindu majority. With the growing influence of Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), comfort and freedom of action for affiliated Hindu extremists groups like Rashtriya Sevak Sangh (RSS), Shiv Sena, Vishv Hindu Parishad (VHP) etc.have also increased. Sangh Parivar proclaims an ideology of “Hindutva,” with an agenda of subjugating or driving out Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and other communities. VHP International President Ashok Singhal had described the Gujarat carnage as a “successful experiment” and warned that it would be repeated all over India. In 2014, Dharm Jagran Smiti (DJS) leader Rajeshwar Singh had threatened to Hinuize India by 2021 by expelling or re-converting Muslims and Christians people.BJP, its functionary organizations, groups etc are carrying out the same threat methodically throughout the India. Since ascension of Modi in New Delhi, the threat has started its manifestation in many shapes. Schools and other educational institutions including Curriculum is being systematically Hinduized, followed by ban on “Beef”, despite being the biggest beef exporter country. The hate campaigns are becoming frequent and violent as evident from lynching of Muslims over Beef controversy, blackening the face of Muslim parliamentarians in IOK, desecration of Sikh religious books erupting into widespread unrest in Indian Punjab and violence against Christians and Dalits. Muslims face massacres, Christians are subjected to vandalism of Churches and rape of elderly Nuns, Sikh community is being suppressed in the name of Khalistanetc and denied separate socio-religious status, whereas, Scheduled castes and other communities face different intimidating tactics at the cruel and barbaric hands of upper class Hindus.
Organized violence at AMU is also continuation of the same tactic of unfolding Hindutva or Saffronized India. A Hindu extremist country in a progressing region will pose serious threat and challenge to the regional peace and security. International community should end its slumber and remain cautious for another kind of looming threat in the shape of Hindu fanaticism. It should be understood that any kind of support to India will be in adverdent support for Hindu extremism. International Players need to take cognizance of the situation and initiate measures to control “Hindu extremism” as a potent threat to the peace, stability and progress of the region. Otherwise, India is likely to emerge as unmatchable threat to the global security due to ever increasing power of fanatic Hindus.
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor: Justifications and Refutations
This commentary discusses about the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) where Chinese and Pakistani perspectives on CPEC have been highlighted along with India’s strong refutation of those perspectives or justifications. The commentary mentions that while both China and Pakistan have underlined the economic-developmental aspects of CPEC, there could be an interesting case for empathising with India’s argument that CPEC has unmistakable strategic-security aspects that has certain consequences for India’s national interests which need to be seen.
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor is an initiative under China’s Belt and Road initiative which aims at providing connectivity, infrastructure, and promotion of people to people exchanges. The BRI has been seen as a tool for promoting the Chinese Dream, which had a purpose of promoting free trade, economic cooperation,mutual benefitin member countries. China through the BRI, is trying to ensure regional stability through economic growth eventually trying to make its presence felt in the region.
This has been seen as a project which could ensure job opportunities, inclusivity and also a connectivity to the People’s Republic of China.The complete distance of this project is 3218 km. China is investing USD $64 billion in this project.[i]CPEC is useful for Pakistan, where many rail projects, power plants and special economic zones have been promised by China therefore making it attractive to foreign investments.
As part of this initiative, $11 billion was initially invested on transport infrastructure and a fibre optics link from Kashgar in Xinjiang to Gwadar in Balochistanis being established plus $ 33 billion was to be spent on power plants supplying solar, coal as well as wind energy.[ii] Also, ten Special Economic Zones have also been included in this project where they are being constructed in Mirpur, Muqpandass both situated in PoK.
China needs another base after Djibouti, where Gwadar has potential due to its strategic geographical location. This could provide an easier alternative to the Malacca Strait , which could be seen as a strategic chokepoint where two thirds of global oil trade passes through and Gwadar is a strategic point for China to exert itself in the Indian Ocean.
CPEC could be seen as an opportunity with respect to Pakistan’s high debts, weakening economy, state instability. It could prove beneficial even for Balochistan which is prone to many separatist movements plus also including it for development since it is left out from the rest of the region. Here, this article discusses about the Pakistani views on CPEC and how does it benefit Pakistan with respect to territorial disputes such as Kashmir and Balochistan. Will this project be useful at a time bad reputation which Pakistan has with respect to terrorism?
Rationale Of CPEC From Pakistan and China’s Points Of View
This initiative is not the first time Pakistan has approached China for any assistance. A common threat brings countries together in order to tackle a rising threat from any power. In Pakistan’s perception, it always had historical political and strategic issues with India since independence with respect to the Kashmir problem which has caused a deadlock between India and Pakistan ever since, where the two countries witnessed three wars in1965,1971and 1999.
The CPEC passes through the disputed areas of Mirpur, Gilgit and Baltistan where Pakistan and India are disputing for territorial claims.Immediately after the 1962 India-China war, Pakistan illegally gave away Shaksgam Valley to China as a part of a friendship agreement. Ceding of Shaksgam valley to China in a way led to increased involvement in the India-Pakistan dispute on Kashmir by providing Pakistan defence and economic assistance.
China believed that the Kashmiri people should have right to self -determination and make a wise choice, whether to join India or Pakistan. Slowly, along with improving ties with India, China started keeping a neutral approach on this issue with respect to India’s growing economic strength as well as its ties improving with the United States.China perhaps realised that it could not afford to lose out on India even though it has Pakistan’s strategic value in mind. However, the advent of CPEC has forced the veneer of formal neutrality to drop off.
CPEC could also be useful in providing vocational training skill development for students staying in the areas which are covered and need such basic facilities. The Chinese government is providing scholarships for the students staying in the areas of GilgitBaltistan, whose fate is still uncertain about which country to join.[iii]
Pakistan’s Growing Economic Interdependence on China
Historically, China-Pakistan relationship has been driven by strategic-security considerations. Except for defence trade, basically Chinese arms export to Pakistan, economic aspects of the ties were really weak. However, in last one decade, and particularly with CPEC, their relations have developed significantly. Seeing China as a strategic threat, US is counting on India for security and economic initiatives.
US ever since 2008, is seeing a decline in its economy which leads China having an edge afterwards. The two countries are in the middle of a trade war which has led to GDP growth fall in both the countries therefore impacting manufacturing.Assistance was stopped being given to Pakistan under the Donald Trump regime and reduction in US FDI inflows since 2011have led to estrangement between two countries.
A drift between US and Pakistan is making Pakistan more dependent on China for economic aid. Here,CPEC aims at bringingeconomic development along with cultural and people to people connections are bringing two powers closer. CPEC aims at building inclusivity in the country where radicalism, poverty, unemployment is a key concern. According to Xinhua, 75,000 small jobs have been created in the country along with 100 small and medium enterprises being involved. This project aimed at creating 2.3 million jobs between 2015 and 2030.[iv]
The areas around GilgitBaltistan are rich in resources such as uranium, silver plus it also houses the K2 and Nanga Parbat peaks.[v] Important hydropower projects such as dams are coming up in this area through which important rivers such as Jhelum pass some examples of energy projects include the Kohala hydropower project, which produces about 1100 MW of power and the Phandar hydropower station, producing 80 MW of power. Other hydropower plant projects are also being constructed in Bunji, located on Indus river,will provide 7100 MW of power along with the Diamer- Basha dam, whose estimated cost is about US$12-14 billion also has a capacity of providing 4500 megawatt of power.[vi]
Important railway connections are also being put into place under this initiative. The Karachi Peshawar railway line is also coming where the project is expected to be complete by 2022. The railway line covers 1872 km and the maximum operating speed on this railway line could be 160 km/hr. Railway tracks would be upgraded,new signalling systems will be setup and new safety provisions will be provided for passengers.[vii]
The Karakorum highway is one of the highest road infrastructure projects which are coming up, situated at height of 4714 m. This highway starts from HasanAbdal and goes till Kashgar, in Xinjiang Autonomous region, where the distance covered is 1300 km. This highway will cover HasanAbdal, Thakot, Havelian, Raikot, Gilgit and Skardu.[viii] The highway construction was difficult due to high altitude and terrain. Its redevelopment and up gradation is an essential portion in context to this initiative.Other projects include development of an oil refinery and a new airport in Gwadar, also the Multan Sukkur motorwaywhich is under construction is an important part of the Karachi Peshawar motorway covers 392 km and this aims at reducing the distance between Multan and Sukkur by 3 hrs. This project was inaugurated in November,2019.[ix]
These projects as a part of the CPEC would provide easy connectivity between two countries and also be useful in the infrastructure development in Pakistan. The initiative could be useful for Pakistan’s power supply and economic growth.
Indian hegemony, in Pakistan’s perception, can be seen as a common problem for both China and Pakistan, as it is said that a common threat, a common goal or interest could lead to countries getting together and forming a balance against a threat from a rising power that could coerce weaker countries in the near future. This is the case with CPEC being seen as a tool to counter India’s rise and influence on the Kashmir issue.
This project has been based on geopolitical considerations rather than strategic interests since Gwadar is prone to many pro-independence movements and Kashgar being a question due to Uighurs issue which the Human Rights Watch is questioning with respect to human rights violations, radicalism plus also the Kashmir issue. Incidentally, ever since Article 370 was abolished in August 2019, China feels that by including the Aksai Chin under Indian domain could be a contentious issue, which China took over in 1962. The same also went for Gilgit and Baltistan where the CPEC flows. According to a press statement China is in view about India posing a challenge to its territorial sovereignty and interests.[x] That’s why efforts are being made to speed up this project keeping India under check with respect to its claim on Kashmir.
Thus, there are genuine case of India reading strategic implications for itself. As per press statements of MEA, India had shown reservations with respect to joining BRI where many reasons were stated. Some of them included environmental protection and project costs. India prioritises its sovereignty and territorial integrity at the first place.[xi] Another statement states that connectivity is based on important factors which include rule of law, transparency.[xii]
Finally, one would point out that it is not only India that has raised concerns about CPEC. Countries such as US are also flagging concerns about Chinese influence in Pakistan with respect to any infrastructure or other projects since these initiatives are being seen as a tool being used by China in order to bring smaller countries into a debt trap.[xiii]
In case this project is implemented at a rapid pace, then the two all -weather partners can tackle secessionist movements taking place in Balochistan. Due to this about 10,000 troops have been deployed throughout the corridor since Chinese firms are slowly getting wary about these movements which they feel are against the national interests of both countries, creating further divide in the near future.
CPEC can only move at a proper pace for Pakistan if there is a stable administrative body and organising proper methods to tackle terrorism and also by putting India on loop while organising these projects instead of using force or coercion. Negotiations will play an important role with respect to achieving national interests. Putting projects on disputed territory could be seen as route to war instead of negotiating and proper demarcation of boundaries.
Economic development has played an essential role with respect to countries indirectly taking over territories from competitors instead of using coercive measures directly which will lead to further war mongering. Economic development has been seen as a tool of soft power, where through giving employment, loans and infrastructure strong countries set preferences of smaller countries. For India, these projects are seen as a power game where two countries are trying to counter the fast growing economy by using economic development in the areas which are disputed with respect to territorial claims. Actually economic infrastructure is not meant for catering to economic interests but for fulfilling geopolitical interests! Therefore, Pakistan will benefit from this project.
The project has witnessed a lot of doubts whether it is ethnic turmoil, corruption, lack of transparency, improper terrain and an increasing debt which Pakistan has. There has been doubts in the minds of the Baloch , who feel that the Punjabis are the main beneficiaries as far as job opportunities go and there have been many protests in opposition of infrastructure projects because the areas in Balochistanare rich in resources such as natural gas copper and gold, many residents in those areas feel that human development will get impacted.Balochistan is a needy region which has a long lasting demand for drinking water, electricity, roads, proper healthcare and education facilities. 2400 families have been displaced in Balochistan due to these projects, so there could be a chance of rise in Baloch insurgency if the residents in the region are not properly consulted.[xiv]
The CPEC has always been in India’s mind because of threat to national sovereignty and strategy. China and Pakistan both have a common threat which leads them to be together. The US is becoming dependant on countries such as India, Japan because there is a slow decline in its role in the global scenario. The US has its own reservations with China whether it’s the trade war or South China Sea Dispute so there is a reason for US to be wary of China to contain smaller countries in a debt trap, as suggested by Alice Wells ,in November 2019.[xv]
As far as India goes, it is still particular about joining BRI behind which the CPEC is a major reason when its national interests, security, territorial sovereignty is at stake. China in order to pressurise New Delhi for looking into its national interests is counting on Pakistan for support through this project since connectivity and infrastructure development will prove useful for China to get access to Pakistani soil and at later stages in the name of providing economic development for Pakistan, it could create a sense of dependency on China. Construction of dams, hydropower projects in PoK could in the near future lead to easy divergence in river flows taking place.
India’s tension is Pakistan’s gain which means that if China objects any move which is in India’s interest and China tries to bring Pakistan in whenever there is a common concern with respect to any development in India , whether it’s the NSG or the Maulana Masood Azhar issue. Pakistan will always be an all weather ally of China.
[i]S. A.Zaidi, “A Road Through Pakistan, and What This Means for India”,Strategic Analysis Journal, 43(3), 2019,p. 218.
[iii] Muhammad Khurshid Khan, “Balancing Relations With China and the United States In The Backdrop Of The CPEC” ,The Korean Journals Of Defence Analysis, 30(4), December 2018, pp. 577-590.
[iv]Liu Tian, “How One US Official Got It Wrong on China-Pakistan Economic Cooperation”, Xinhua, November 23,2019, at http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-11/23/c_138578254.htm
(Accessed November 27, 2019).
[vi] D Jorgic,“Pakistan Eyes 2018 Start for China-funded Mega Dam Opposed India”, Reuters, June 13, 2017, at https://in.reuters.com/article/us-china-silkroad-pakistan-dam/pakistan-eyes-2018-start-for-china-funded-mega-dam-opposed-by-india-idINKBN1941P9 (Accessed November 29,2019).
[vii] “China Pakistan Economic Corridor: Expansion And Reconstruction Of Existing Line ML-1,2019,CPEC Official Website, at http://cpec.gov.pk/project-details/30 (Accessed November 28, 2019).
[viii] “Lisa Heilscher ,Karakorum Highway, Belt and Road Initiative”,2018 , https://www.beltroad-initiative.com/karakoram-highway/ (Accessed November 28, 2019).
[ix] Give full name (T. N. S.) Correspondent, “Light Traffic can Use M 5”, Dawn, November 5,2019, at
https://www.dawn.com/news/1515372 (Accessed November 28, 2019).
[x]“Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Gen Shuang’s Regular Press Conference, Ministry Of Foreign Affairs of the PRC Website, October 31,2019, athttps://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/2511_665403/t1712371.shtml (Accessed November 29,2019).
[xi]“Official Spokesperson’s Response to a Query on Participation of India in OBOR/BRI Forum”,Ministry Of External Affairs (MEA), May 13,2017,at https://mea.gov.in/media-briefings.htm?dtl/28463/Official+Spokespersons+response+to+a+query+on+participation+of+India+in+OBORBRI+Forum, (Accessed January 3, 2020).
[xii]“Official Spokesperson’s Response to a Query on Media Reports Regarding Possible Cooperation with China on OBOR/BRI”, MEA, April 5 2018,https://www.mea.gov.in/media-briefings.htm?dtl/29768/Official+Spokespersons+response+to+a+query+on+media+reports+regarding+possible+cooperation+with+China+on+OBORBRI (Accessed January 3,2020).
[xiii] Liu Tian, November 2019
[xiv]ZahidShahab Ahmed, “ Impact of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor On Nation Building “, Journal Of Contemporary China, November 5, 2018, pp. 409-413
[xv] Liu Tian , November 2019
The Dragon Elephant Tango: Indo-China relations under Modi
India and China have a demonstrated history of border tension since Independence, once even leading to war. Yet, a simultaneous effort to establish “Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai” has persisted parallelly. Every subsequent government that has come to power has had a strategy of establishing ‘mutual trust’ and a ‘shared vision’ with their Chinese counterpart. The diplomatic efforts almost turned into a blossoming ‘friendship’ under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Both countries have been carving out their space in the international arena and have commanded global attention. In their mission to establish a global footing, the neighbours have recognised each other’s importance. In 2010, after a bilateral talk, they even released a joint statement saying “there is enough space in the world for both China and India to grow”. China started displaying an interest in India since the beginning of the 21st century. India too, recognised China as a potential strategic partner, owing to its economy and geographical proximity.
Efforts from both sides since 2004 led to a chain of favourable events that helped cultivate the strategic relationship. The BRICS conference held at New Delhi in 2012, saw the two countries unite to condemn US action in Libya and Syria and asserting the importance of respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states. By the next BRICS meeting in Durban in 2013, the countries had grown significantly closer, and border disputes were pretty much put on the back burner.
However, since the shift in leadership to the NDA alliance there has been a visible deterioration in the trajectory of the relationship. Gradually leading to the current heightened tension in the Galwan Valley region.
The retraction of evolving relations under the Modi regime can be attributed to three primary changes in India’s foreign and domestic policy:
1. India’s shift towards joining the US camp
The UPA government had set the stage for a grand visit by Xi Jinping in September 2014 to be carried forward by a newly anointed Prime Minister Modi. However, the Modi government treated the visit “more as a bilateral mending of fences… rather than as the culmination of a long and patiently sought rapprochement.”. Additionally, Xi Jinping’s visit was preceded by a visit to Washington by Modi and followed by a surprise visit by President Obama as the chief guest for Republic day celebrations in 2015.
The Obama visit culminated in the signing of the ‘U.S.–India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region’. This demonstrated move to the US camp sent a clear signal to China against any kind of strategic relationship with India.
In 2016, under intense tension between USA-China in the South China sea, the Modi government sent four warships with the US-Japan task force that were docked in Vietnam and Philippines ports for over two months. This was clearly seen as “a blatant assertion of India’s freedom of navigation (under American protection of course) in the South China Sea.”
Furthermore, China is concerned about India’s participation in the Quad, trilateral, and military exercises such as the Malabar naval drills which China considers a quasi alliance.
More recently, Trump’s visit to India in February’20 and the Indo-US ‘Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership’ in the support of free navigation in the Indo-Pacific, all contributed towards a retaliation from China.
2. India’s refusal to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
India has expressed concern against joining the BRI, as it breaches its territorial integrity. A portion of the BRI passes through POK- which India considers an illegal occupation by Pakistan -directly threatening India’s sovereignty. Additionally, India is wary of China’s debt-trap diplomacy that offers favourable loans, indebting the member states to China.
The primary concern, however, is that the BRI expands China’s unilateral power, threatening India’s position as an alternate power in the Indo-Pacific region.
This has invited retaliation from China through repeated vetoing of India’s membership into the Nuclear Suppliers Group and obstruction of permanent membership into the UN security council.
The 2018 Doklam standoff was a push back from India against China’s construction of a road in the disputed region with Bhutan, whose claim India supports.
3. India’s reforms in Ladakh
Another significant transgression by India, in the eyes of China, are its reforms in Ladakh and Jammu Kashmir. Part of the new territory of Ladakh contains land that Pakistan gave to China in the agreement in 1963. China made their objection to the revocation of Article 370 and 35A clear, in August last year by issuing a statement that asked India to ‘exercise restraint’ and calling out their ‘unilateral’ attempt to change the status quo in Ladakh. India dismissed these accusations by calling them ‘misplaced’ and having no bearing on the LAC or the external boundaries of India. However, soon in September, PLA troops started blocking Indian patrol in the region.
In the Chennai Connect informal summit in October, President Xi Jinping suggested an India-China-Pakistan trilateral dialogue “free from the influence of third parties”, but Modi ignored the suggestion.
Indo-Chinese border clashes have occurred before, but the difference this time has been the changed context in domestic as well as international circumstances.
China has turned more assertive in the face of international backlash for its handling of the virus. They have implemented stricter security laws in Hong Kong despite international condemnation, cautioned Taiwan against their independence and have made assertions in the South China Sea. China has been subjected to a supply chain reshuffling due to US tariffs on Chinese products and an unofficial China-boycott leading to overproduction and fall in demand.
India on the other hand has been dealing with a deteriorating coronavirus outbreak as well as a severe economic downfall. India’s relations with its neighbours are also at a decline, Bangladesh has not been pleased with the NRC policy implementation, Bhutan is not eager to join the BBIN, ties with Nepal have hit a rough patch since the blockade in 2016 and “with Rajapaksha in power, Sri Lanka will have no love lost for India”.
The ‘Dragon Elephant Tango’ has reached a heightened climax with the growing hostilities in the Galwan Valley. The rising US-China tension has led China to diversify its trade away from the US. In this regard, India serves as a perfect market. However, the growing Indo-US ties have triggered China against India. India is stuck in a bind regarding the Huawei 5G investment, as it keeps prices down but also does not want to enter into US-China trade tensions. China’s assertions in the Galwan Valley could be China’s attempt to pull India away from playing a central role in US-Japan ties. Whatever the case, it is clear that both countries have more to lose than gain from an escalation of hostilities. Instead, there is ample scope for a quid pro quo from either side.
Expanding Dimensions of India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy
“You can Change Friends, but not neighbours”-Atal Bihari Vajpyee, Former Prime Minister of India
With the changing dynamics of international politics and global equations metamorphosing from bi-polar (post the collapse of Soviet Union) to a Multi-polar world, India has been playing a vital role in the region. India’s foreign policy was always non-muscular, non-interventionist and un-exploitative. But in the altered scenario India is facing stiff competition from China over the superiority in the region and growing Islamic fundamentalism affecting the entire South Asian nations. The genuine questions that arise are what should be India’s foreign policy towards her immediate neighbours and how to tame the Pakistan-China axis?
India and the region
National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s commitment towards India’s immediate neighbourhood was visible when the leaders of all SAARC nations were invited for the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi as India’s Prime Minister in 2014. Immediately after assuming the office PM Modi visited Bhutan in his maiden foreign visit and had also travelled to Nepal on multiple occasions. He even stopped at Pakistan and met the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sherif as a good will gesture to enhance peace and mutual cooperation in the region. The government had also committed itself to various projects in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Iran and Maldives. Friendly summits were also organised along with China to strengthen diplomatic relations between the hostile neighbours.
India’s interest in the region traces back to the Nehruvian days. In the days of cold war, India’s position of Non-Alignment was aimed at stopping any form of Colonisation. Foreseeing a possible conflict with China even a ‘Panchsheel’ (The five principles for peaceful co-existence) doctrine was mutually agreed but the expansionist tendencies of China had cost India 1962 war and the Aksai-Chin territory. India had fought 4 wars with Pakistan in the years 1948, 1965, 1971 and 1998, even though India could defeat Pakistan in all successive wars this constant conflicts reflect the unstable relationship between the both nations. India’s involvement in the 1971 war eventually resulted in the formation of Bangladesh but the rising Islamic fundamentalism has created anti-India sentiments among the common people.
For a greater economic and cultural cooperation South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was founded in 1985 comprising of India’s immediate neighbours. But the organisation failed to achieve its target since the two major powers within SAARC i.e. India and Pakistan couldn’t come to an agreement on almost all the occasions. This jeopardizing of dialogue process has pushed India to further strengthen another initiative called Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectorial Economic and Technical Cooperation (BIMSTEC) virtually excluding Pakistan. The advantage of India in the region is the historical and cultural ties between India and these nations.
India’s Neighbourhood worries
China had always been a threat to India’s geo-political interest in the region. With a booming economy China is able to roll out financial assistance and ambitious projects to smaller economies. The Belt Road Initiative (BRI) envisioned by China aims at connecting all the nations of the region by road. The peripheries of this project including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor poses challenge to India since it passes through the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). China also invested heavily in Nepal, India’s longest standing ally. It needs to be noted that the agenda behind issuing large scale grants to poorer counties is ‘debt trap’, a neo-colonising strategy of China to which these counties fall prey to.
China is also posing security challenge to India by forming a strategy called ‘String of Pearls’ in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) extending from the Chinese mainland to Port Sudan in Horn of Africa. India enjoys a special benefit due to its 7,500 KM long coastline. Now, the Chinese wants to encircle India with its naval bases and ports operated by them in friendly countries, examples being the Gwadar port in Pakistan and Hambantoda port in Sri Lanka. The Chinese standoffs with the Indian army at Doklam, Ladakh and their unwillingness to recognise Arunachal Pradesh as a part of India are bone of contention between India and China.
The rise of radical Islam and the anti-India rhetoric associated with it is yet another major worry for India. With the possibility of Afghanistan falling to the hands of Taliban, the fear looms large. Pakistan has been using Jihad as a proxy weapon against India. The rise of Wahabbian ideas are even evident in Bangladesh as a result even several of the army men are radicalised. The killing of an Indian army man by Bangladeshi border security force proves this argument. Infusing of large amount of money and speedy commissioning of projects are also in China’s advantage.
Modi government’s Foreign Policy
Multiple domestic factors influence any governments’ international policy. Some of those factors are political stability, economic growth, technological advancement and the global political scenario. With the NDA getting simple majority of its own in 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections India’s global positioning has been constant and unaltered. The government also appointed S Jaishankar, a veteran diplomat as the External Affairs Minister to further professionalise India’s foreign approach.
Presently India’s foreign policy is crafted by the establishment keeping in mind the presence of hostile neighbours, Pakistan and China. It is therefore important to establish strong relation with the extended neighbours excluding the two. India adopted new strategies to resist the looming threat from China in the region. Modi government’s doctrine of SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region) is to counter the Chinese strategy of dominating IOR with ‘String of Pearls’. India is also releasing financial assistance to its neighbours for development projects as Line of Credit (LoC) through Export-Import (EXIM) Bank which facilitates India’s export and import activities.
Terrorism and religious extremism have been key challenges in the South Asian region. Afghanistan is worst hit with these crises. Due to its geographical location as gateway to Central Asia India has both strategic and economic interest in the nation. India financed and built a new parliament building for Afghanistan which was inaugurated by PM Modi in 2015. In 2016 he also inaugurated Afghanistan – India Friendship dam in the Herat province underlying India’s commitment to rebuilt the war torn nation. For the other projects India has provided a financial assistance of $ 3 billion over the years. India had also partnered with Iran to counter China’s access to Gwadar port of Pakistan. India pledged $85 million for the development of Chabahar port and a three way memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between India- Afghanistan – Iran worth $21 billion Chabahar – Hajigak corridor.
Myanmar has a key part in NDA government’s ‘Act east’ policy since the nation is India’s ‘land bridge’ to south east nations. During the 5 year tenure of NDA 1 a sum of Rs 1,300 crore was allotted for Myanmar for various projects. India is also wary of the proposed China-Myanmar Economic Corridor as part of BRI. NDA 1 extended 2 LOCs worth $6.5 billion to Bangladesh which goes into community level development projects, construction of educational institutions and so on. China has been trying to woo Nepal with multiple infrastructural projects away from India. Being an inevitable partner India spends on an average Rs 330 crore annually for various projects in Nepal. The government was quick to grand $1 billion LOC following the earthquake in 2015. India also highlights the cultural similarities of Nepal and India. Bhutan is a key partner of India and as a buffer state to China has its strategic importance. India has been developing hydropower plants in Bhutan and had also donated $4.7 billion dollar from 2000-2017 as aid for Bhutan. With the Change of government in Maldives and declaration of their ‘India first policy’ the relationship is projected to improve substantially. NDA 1 had also given a financial assistance of $1.4 in its tenure. India’s relationship with Sri Lanka had been in shady lines due to the latter’s pro-China tilt. But the geographical location of Sri Lanka is significant for India’s security and economic interests.
India was always been projected as a soft power in the global political discourse. But post 2014 it marks a transition of India to a hard power determined to position itself as an alternative to China. India is a key strategic partner of United States and its allies in the Asia-pacific region. It is also important from the part of India that the neighbourhood soil is not used for anti- India activities. To prevent any such adventurism India has done cross border military actions in both Pakistan and Myanmar to target terror camps. To counter China’s influence India should boost its own economy and strengthen its military might. China has been trying to appropriate the Buddhist legacy through propaganda. Buddha, Bollywood and Cricket can be effectively used for people to people connection in South Asia which eventually fosters diplomatic relations. With the government’s target of making India a $5 Trillion economy and reconstructing institutions to make it more competitive, India has the potential to ouster Chinese influence in the region.
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