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South Asia

The Other Frontline: South Asia in the emerging great power competition

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The collapse of the Soviet Union sealed the fate of the realist-bipolar world order and the United States of America (USA) – the leader of the so-called free world – ascended triumphantly. Afterwards, the sole superpower asserted itself as a liberal hegemon and instituted the rules-based liberal world order, which synchronized the globe for more than two decades. Nonetheless, as opposed to the liberal imaginings – which John Mearsheimer brands as “delusions” – the rules-based order proved to be even evanescent. While the liberal hegemon was engaged in costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, China – the onetime sleeping dragon – steadily transformed its latent potential into tangible economic power and by the end of the first decade of 21st century, elevated itself to supplant Japan as world’s second-largest economy only preceded by the USA.

As China’s economy– an element considered central to the overall national power – underwent astonishing growth, it started translating its economic might into military power and by using the trump card of geo-economics, sought to expand its geopolitical influence; thus, aiming to establish its own order by replacing the US-led order. The Chinese aspirations were unveiled after the Xi Jinping’s rise to the power and post 2013,the dragon in effect repudiated the famous dictum of Deng Xiaoping, “hide your strength and bide your time” and embarked upon the mission to project the power beyond its borders and shores. Unsurprisingly, the upsurge of China and its grand ambitions resulted into a security dilemma for the USA and as a classic manifestation of Thucydides Trap, a geostrategic competition is quickly unfolding between the status-quo power USA and the revisionist power China.

Nevertheless, the geostrategic competition between China and the USA is improbable to culminate into a direct military confrontation, albeit, an intense security competition has already started, a reality manifested by a reinvigorated global arms race in nuclear and conventional realm. This competition, however, is not limited to military realm only and its manifestation can be discerned in; economy – where a bitter trade war has just waned after the conclusion of trade deal; diplomacy – where both the giants are vying for influence in various parts of the world; and most importantly, technology – where both the countries are competing for dominance in Artificial Intelligence and 5G technology.

For decades, South Asia remained an important geographical arena for the great power politics and traversing into the 21st century, the region’s geostrategic significance has just multiplied. It is home to roughly a quarter of world’s population; two generally hostile nuclear powers evoke intermittent great power interventions; the USA still maintains its two-decades-old presence in Afghanistan, which may end soon; resource-rich the Middle East and Central Asia are located next-door; revisionist China is the immediate neighbour and has direct stakes in the region; and above all, South Asian landmass forms the littoral of the warm-waters of Indian Ocean, through which pass some of the world’s most crucial Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs).

Competing Strategies of the USA and China in South Asia

At the dawn of the 21st century, the USA found itself directly involved in the South Asia region. At one hand, the superpower was waging a sanguinary war against terrorism in Afghanistan that necessitated a close partnership with Pakistan, while at the other hand; it entered into a strategic partnership with India after the two countries signed a groundbreaking civil nuclear deal in 2005. In 2011, President Obama announced the “Pivot to Asia” policy, which envisioned shifting the USA’s attentiveness to the Asia-Pacific – the region prophesied to host the most consequential geostrategic competition in the 21st century – after the relative oblivion of more than two decades.

However, it was in all probability too late. China – which emerged as the prime beneficiary of the rules-based international order and relished a “free ride” – had already acquired the wherewithal to challenge the liberal hegemon and redesign, if not remould the international order.

In 2013, newly installed Chinese President Xi Jinping announced Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – a multitrillion-dollar economic plan that envisions connecting China with rest of Asia, Europe and Africa by building a network of highways, railway, and ports. Pakistan –China’s all-weather friend and geopolitical pivot on the Eurasian chessboard – became a destination to BRI’s flagship project, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which contributed towards the further strengthening of the decades-old relationship between the two countries. Besides, China also reached out to the smaller countries of South Asia such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Maldives, while regional giant India – because of its geostrategic rivalry with China – continued opposing the scheme.

In pursuance of BRI, China acquired a series of ports along the Indian Ocean littoral besides securing direct land access to the Arabian Sea via Pakistan. The projects, operational, are likely to enable China to mitigate its Malacca Dilemma and assuage its strategic vulnerabilities vis-à-vis the Indian Ocean.

Though China has been accentuating the economic outlook of BRI and negates any geopolitical angle associated with the scheme, it is irrefutable that economic influence always wields geopolitical influence and unquestionably, BRI has implications far beyond economics. Arguably, the BRI appears to be a grand geopolitical strategy camouflaged as a benign geo-economics venture, which aims to displace the USA as the dominant power in China’s immediate neighbourhood and defy its global dominance elsewhere necessary; thus, establishing a bounded Chinese order at the cost of the USA’s liberal order.

In response to China’s BRI, the USA intensified its “rebalancing towards Asia” efforts. In 2016, Uncle Sam sponsored Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)– which was to cover the 40% of world trade – and sought to strengthen regional alliances, but the election of President Trump led to a reversal in the policy. In 2017, the USA withdrew from TPP, sending shockwaves among its allies in the Asia-Pacific region and casting dicey shadows over the liberal hegemon’s global commitments.

However, Asia-Pacific was not a region to be overlooked such conveniently. In 2018, Trump administration presented the Indo-Pacific Strategy, which came as another formal acknowledgement of the China’s revisionist status – a threat to rules-based international order necessitating containment at the earliest.

From a South Asian perspective, the term “Indo-Pacific” emphasized India’s augmented significance for the USA in the Asia-Pacific, and further reinforced the beliefs that the USA is strategizing to use India as an offshore balancer to counterbalance China. Furthermore, some efforts were made to revive the Quad –a group of maritime democracies belonging to the Indo-Pacific rim– with a perceived common objective to contain China. However,as opposed to BRI – which has already made considerable progress – the USA’s initiatives without any real strategy, policy frameworks and implementation mechanisms, flaunt as aspirational set of goals.

Certainly, China’s BRI has challenged the USA’s long dominance of Eurasia and South Asia is no different. The status-quo power has yet to come up with something as impressive and tangible as BRI, which– despite facing hurdles and setbacks – is flexible enough to adapt to the regional requirements and accommodate the aspirations of host countries; thus, sprouting as more acceptable and omnipresent.

Implications for South Asia

A shift in the alliances and intensification in regional competition

South Asian regional order is undergoing a transformational shift in the alliances as regional powers realign with great powers according to the emerging trends in the global distribution of power. Pakistan – the transactional ally of USA – has become China’s most trusted ally, while India – the Soviet bloc country during the Cold-War – has entered into a strategic partnership with the USA. Afghanistan – the third-largest country in the region – is the arena for the power struggle between the regional and extra-regional countries and as the imminent US withdrawal from the country approaches, the power struggle is only expected to intensify. At the other hand, other smaller countries of South Asia have a little consequential relationship with the USA but are trying to maintain a delicate balance between the USA’s offshore balancer, India and the revisionist power China which by the spectacle of unmatchable economic enticements– enjoys a competitive edge.

The alliance shift and the emerging regional power structure imply that South Asia will be an important battlefield for the global geostrategic competition between the USA and China. In fact, in Pakistan, this battle for economic, diplomatic and military influence is already underway. The USA is hypercritical of CPEC and considers the Chinese financial ventures a debt trap for Pakistan, while China has branded CPEC as the flagship of BRI and successful implementation of CPEC projects in Pakistan will be a major confidence booster for the grand plan of BRI. Moreover, China – despite strategic anxieties and border disputes – has expanded its trade relationship with India and is a major economic partner of other smaller South Asian countries. Antithetically, Trump’s isolationist USA – with nothing tangible to offer in economic realm – is only circumscribed to expanding its defence cooperation with India.

Appeasement of Fascist Modi regime by the USA and increased chances of military confrontation in South Asia:

India under the fascist Modi regime is undergoing a massive transformation. Apart from pursuing divisive policies at home, Modi has been very keen to portray itself as a strongman against Pakistan and the tensions between the two arch-rivals have recently soared after India unilaterally abrogated disputed Kashmir’s special status and high ranking Indian officials hurled unveiled threats to militarily take over the part of Kashmir under Pakistani control. Given Modi’s hyper-nationalistic rhetoric, his fixation to engage in dangerous brinkmanship to earn domestic political mileage and threats of an invasion of Pakistan Administered Kashmir, the risk of a major military confrontation in the disputed Himalayan region has increased manifold.

The worrying trends in India, however, fail to constrain the USA to continuously appease the fascist Modi regime, and owing to economic and geopolitical expediencies, the USA has turned a blind eye towards India’s bellicosity. In the absence of any international rebuke and USA and other Western powers providing subtle support, India has emerged as more assertive and domineering than ever and immediately poses a grave threat to the stability of whole South Asia region.

After the launch of CPEC, Pakistan Administered areas of disputed Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan have assumed strategic significance for both Pakistan and China. The region connects the two all-weather allies and is home to various infrastructure projects planned under CPEC. This creates direct Chinese stakes in the disputed region and the recent assurance by Chinese President to safeguard Pakistan’s “core interests” – which admittedly include Kashmir – the dragon has made no secret of its intentions. Therefore, it is safe to argue that in case India embarks upon a military adventure in Pakistan Administered Kashmir, the response may not be from Pakistan only and the situation may drift away to uncontainable limits.

Intensified Arms Race in the region

India is already the world’s second-largest importer of arms and as its geostrategic competition with China intensifies and tensions with Pakistan soar, the country is likely to further intensify its arms procurement and military modernization. Convincingly, it will create a security dilemma for Pakistan and country will be left with no other option except to increase its own arms procurement to deny India any significant advantage and ensure arms race stability in the region, which forms an important component of Strategic Stability. Consequently, the country’s already crippling economy is likely to come under further pressure and less allocation to the Human Development Index related domains means further increase in the impoverishment in the world’s sixth most populous country.

An upsurge in proxy wars and increased instability in the region

Theory of Nuclear Deterrence proposes that two nuclear-armed states avoid engaging in a direct military confrontation. Consequently, Nuclear Weapon states became proficient at obtaining their political objectives using proxies. Although, because of the regular nuclear brinkmanship of the leaders of India and Pakistan, South Asia provides a paradoxical case study for Nuclear Deterrence, yet the countries here have also mastered the art of proxy wars and have been employing irregular warfare to inflict damage upon their adversaries.

In the wake of intensifying regional tensions and global powers getting more involved in South Asian affairs, the fomentation of subversive activities by regional states against each other with the patronage of global powers is expected to further intensify and Pakistan can be the most immediate victim. Given the common interest of the USA and India to disgruntle Chinese designs linked with CPEC, connivance between the two strategic partners to foment destabilization inside Pakistan is the most opportune strategy to counter growing Chinese influence.

The trend of proxy wars is also expected to escalate in war-torn Afghanistan and in addition to USA and China, India and Pakistan – which have long been fighting an undeclared indirect war for influence in the country – are likely to further intensify their exertions once a power vacuum is created after the proposed US withdrawal.

Ironically, if Pakistan and China decided to respond India in the same coin and launched schemes to exploit the internal fault lines within Indian society– which are deepening owing to divisive politics played by Modi regime –it can lead towards an ultimately nightmarish scenario and the whole region may be propelled into the whirlpool of instability.

Ever decreased Chances of Regional connectivity

South Asian countries have tremendous economic potential and if the regional giants Pakistan and India can sort out their differences and become more economically integrated, it can not only reduce the risk of wars but can also usher into anew era of economic progress and advancement. However, given the imminent scenario in which geopolitics is all set to dominate the region, chances of any regional economic interconnectivity are likely to diminish further, even appalling scenario for the region’s impoverished masses.

Conclusion:

South Asia region is all set to become one of the most important battlefields for the emerging geostrategic competition between the USA and China. The region is already home to ever-hostile nuclear-armed neighbours and the emergence of new great power politics in the region is all set to lead towards further instability. To add to the precariousness is the rising fascism in India and due to India’s strategic efficacy, USA’s continuous policy of appeasing the fascist Modi regime. Absolute impunity for its tyrannical moves and hysteria has rendered India ever more assertive and aggressive, and there are chances that country may instigate a war over the disputed region of Kashmir, which can escalate to cataclysmic levels. Soaring regional tensions are probable to enhance the Modi regime’s romance with arms buildup and an unrestrained arms race in the conventional and nuclear domain is very much on the cards. Furthermore, soaring geopolitical tensions leave no space for the toning-down of the trend of proxy wars and once adversarial countries are bent on exploiting each other’s fault lines, it will just augment to the instability and volatility in the region. Grownup instability and ratcheting-up of hostilities are likely to condense the chances of any economic cooperation between India and Pakistan, and South Asian economic integration would remain a dream unfulfilled.

Hamdan Khan is an alumnus of National Defense University Islamabad. He has previously worked for Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) & is currently associated with Pakistan Council on China (PCC). His major areas of interest include Geo-politics, Great Power Competition, Nuclear Affairs and Revolution in Military Affairs.

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South Asia

Why Nepal’s Maoist finance minister is talking about legalizing black money?

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Despite being the oldest sovereign nation in South Asia, Nepal is also the most unstable nation of the subcontinent. For example since Nepal’s republican era of 2006, Nepal has got 12 Prime Ministers in 15 years. Even during multiparty democracy and constitutional monarchy from 1990 to 2006, Nepal saw 15 Prime Ministers in 16 years. This tendency is reflected even in times of nondemocratic and transitional periods of past. If constant political history is an indication, Nepal is prone to repeated governmental build-ups and break-ups.

Nepal’s volatile governments naturally mean volatile plans and policies, which is reflected in the budgetary announcements. Interestingly, it is only Maoist and Maoist-background Finance Ministers in Nepal who have introduced budgetary provisions making provisions whitewashing black money.

Recently, Janardan Sharma, the Finance Minister representing CPN (Maoist Center) party of the coalition government led by Sher Bahadur Deuba, the President of Nepal’s oldest surviving party Nepali Congress, introduced a controversial provision for black money. On 10 September, while presenting his replacement bill to replace budget announced by erstwhile Government led by KP Sharma Oli, Finance Minister Sharma said investments in mega projects  such as international airports, tunnels, roadways and railways do not necessarily require to disclose their sources of revenues.

Such provision, main opposition CPN-UML leaders and majority of Nepal’s economic experts say, would whitewash all black money assembled by Nepal’s power elites and comprador capitalists.  Nepal’s largest-selling English daily The Kathmandu Post has termed it the ‘Thief’s Route’.  Post editorial has talked about its domestic and international implications. It has written, ”this move comes at a time when the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), a regional, inter-governmental, anti-money laundering body of which Nepal is also a member…. The ramification can be disastrous for Nepal.”

This budgetary provision of incumbent Maoist Finance Minister Sharma has gained critical uproar from all quarters. However, this gains vocal support from Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, the Maoist ideologue and former Vice-Chair of Maoist who defected Maoist in 2015 to form his party. During his tenure as Finance Minister when the Government was led by Maoist’s Chair Prachanda for the first time in Nepal in 2008, Bhattarai has also introduced similar provision. He had legalized illegal property of individuals by self-declaring the worth of their property. This specific program was called ‘Voluntary Disclosure of Income Source’ (VDIS).

Though not implemented owing to widespread ire, Dr. Bhattarai had introduced plans of hydropower investments with no mandatory provisions of revenue source disclosure. Supporting the provision of his former comrade, Dr. Bhattarai has said, ”It is nice to legalize black money. Here is the tendency to do illegal works by black money. Whether it is black or white, it is right to invest in productive and employment-generating sector.”

It was the 180-degree departure in Maoist principle coined by its ideologue Dr. Bhattarai himself.  Before launching 10-year-long Maoist violent armed insurgency in 1996 which resulted in killing of more than 17 thousands Nepali, Bhattarai had handed over 40-point demand to the then PM Sher Bahadur Deuba on 4 February. In 39th. point, Dr. Bhattarai had written, ”Corruption, smuggling, black marketing, bribery and the practices of middlemen and so on should be eliminated.”

This starting demand opposing black money and ongoing defense of the same in the name of ‘productive investment’ displays how Nepali Maoist comrades have deviated from their own principles. Another coincidence is that they are the coalition partner of the Government led by the same Prime Minister Deuba to whom they have put forth their 40-point demand before launching violent Maoist armed insurgency before coming into mainstream politics in 2006.

Why Maoist and Maoist-background leaders are vocal supporters of black money?

Revenue nondisclosure provision mainly comes in tenures of Maoist Finance Minister like Janardan Sharma and Baburam Bhattarai. Other political parties have not vocally supported such malicious programs in Nepal.

Many suspects Maoist have huge illegal money grabbed in times of their 10-year-long violent armed insurgency when they did loot banks in capital Kathmandu and other economic centers of Nepal. Maoist had levied their ‘revolutionary tax’ to all working people and business activities in their vast swatches of base area. Forced donations and extortion further increased their revenues.  Bartil Lintner, a famed Swedish journalist-turned-author, in his Oxford University-published book titled ‘China’s India War’described Nepali Maoists as ‘one of the wealthiest rebel movement in Asia.’

Maoists, even after their entry into mainstream politics after Comprehensive Peace Accord of 21 November 2006 and terrorist delisting by State Department of the US on 6 September 2012, have not disclosed their party transactions. Nor there is any extensive research about net worth accumulated by Maoist during their underground violent armed insurgency in Nepal.

This legislation, if implemented, will force Nepal to sleepwalk towards money laundering, black money funneling and possibly terrorist financing. If big chunk of black money is invested in big income-making and employment-generating productive sections, its long-term impacts would be skyrocketed. This results in opaque financial activities.

 As an aid-dependent and remittance-receiving country from almost all economic powers of the world, legalizing black money  does not bode well not just for Nepal but also for its immediate giant neighbors-India and China. Nepal does not deserve to be the South Asian heaven of black investment and terrorist financing in the name of mega infrastructural projects.

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Kabul: Old Problems are New Challenges

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Source: Twitter

It has been some three months since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, precipitously and without large-scale bloodshed. This came as a complete surprise for the global community—but for the Taliban just as well, although this was what they had long been striving for. Perhaps, this could explain the contradictory situation in the country as of today.

On the one hand, the Taliban leadership is supremely confident in their ultimate victory, and they are determined to keep the power at any cost. The Taliban proceed from the premise that the way the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) existed throughout 1996 to 2001 never ceased to exist, with the last two decades marked by the fight against foreign military intervention and a puppet regime. Accordingly, this is the basis for the Taliban to consolidate their power through rigid theocratic institutions. There is hardly reason to believe they would take a different approach, which means foreign actors could only advocate a certain “liberalization” of these institutions, accounting for the current trends in international development.

On the other hand, the Taliban’s activities tend to ignore the economic aspects, which are still of fundamental significance as they are instrumental to resolve the pressing problems that the Afghani face, while having an impact on the country’s domestic stability and the long-term viability of the regime. So far, the Taliban have mostly been “patching up the holes” welcoming relief efforts from abroad. The recently announced “food for work” programme requires material support rather than mere slogans.

This can be explained by the following reasoning. Caught in the grip of conservative religious, ideological and political views, the Taliban lack any meaningful experience in modern state-building. As for the subjective circumstances that need be accounted for, these include the Taliban’s heterogeneity, contradictions between orthodox believers and pragmatists in the movement’s leadership, and close to none of sufficient control over the Taliban’s “rank-and-file”. The confrontation between the conservatives holding key offices in the government and the pragmatists continues, and it may even grow worse. Further changes in the government’s configuration will testify to the dynamics of Afghanistan’s overall domestic evolution amid the new circumstances.

Persisting historical contradictions between the Taliban (mostly ethnic Pashtuns) and the many ethnic minorities (Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras) are potentially dangerous for the new regime in Kabul. With the Taliban being reluctant to form a truly inclusive government rather relying on one that only purports to be such and with ethnic minorities willing to establish something like a front of resistance to the new authorities, these contradictions are becoming ever more visible.

Both the new government in Kabul and the global and regional communities are increasingly concerned with the spike in subversive activities in the country perpetrated by militants of various ethnic backgrounds affiliated with ISIS and Al-Qaeda. All this negatively affects the domestic situation, with a potential to undermine the Taliban regime itself, while posing additional risks for regional stability. The situation is gravely exacerbated by the deplorable state of Afghanistan’s economy, which could lead to famine in the very near future. Taken together, these circumstances demand that the Taliban take decisive steps to normalize the situation. As Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, recently noted, events in Afghanistan may lead to a catastrophe if the Taliban do not act in a timely manner.

At the same time, it is obvious that such an Afghanistan would not survive without external aid and assistance. Internationally, the situation is rather favorable for the new Afghanistan regime, particularly with the Taliban engaging in dynamic international activities. It is crucial for today’s Kabul to handle three principal tasks:

  • establishing working relations with the neighbouring states as well as regional and global powers with a view to having the Taliban struck from UN sanctions lists and obtaining official international recognition for the new authorities;
  • securing a positive international image of Kabul under the Taliban;
  • receiving large-scale foreign humanitarian aid.

The Taliban miss no opportunity to make statements at all levels, claiming they are ready to engage with the global community in comprehensive cooperation, abandoning support for international terrorism and extremism and willing to attract foreign investment from a wide range of countries into Afghanistan’s economy.

If we explore the stances taken by various members of the international community as regards the new regime in Afghanistan, we will notice that their positions have several points in common, all of which are important for a peaceful and stable situation in the region. These principles include preventing instability in Afghanistan from exacerbating, the need to form an inclusive government that represents the interests of all ethnic and political forces, building a state on the foundations of respect for contemporary human rights, putting an end to terrorism and extremism proliferating outward from Afghanistan, etc.

At the same time, countries demonstrate significantly different approaches to the Afghanistan profile. The United States and the European Union have taken the toughest stance with regard to the Taliban, although both are ready to launch relief efforts to avoid a humanitarian disaster that is fraught, among other things, with new waves of refugees. Unlike Europe, Washington regards the Taliban issue as more complex and complicated. First, the United States needs to “come to grips,” both politically and psychologically, with the shock and humiliation brought by the inglorious end to the Afghanistan escapade, which delivered a huge blow to the image and reputation of the U.S., both among its allies and worldwide. Washington also needs to resolve the issue of Afghanistan’s assets being relieved as quickly as possible—something that the Taliban, as well as many members of the international community, including Russia, insist on.

As far as Moscow and a number of other countries are concerned, the United States should be the one to provide a significant amount, if not the bulk, of foreign financial aid to Afghanistan moving forward. We should keep in mind that the practical steps taken by the United States concerning Afghanistan will largely serve as a model for the entire collective West. Everyone in Washington is aware of this. However, the United States is still pondering as to the best modes of interaction with the Taliban, exploring the possibility to participate in humanitarian and other programmes in Afghanistan. This is evidenced by the contacts that have already taken place.

Unlike the leading Western nations, many countries in the region, primarily Afghanistan’s neighbours, have de facto begun to foster active and dynamic links with the Taliban. Pakistan has become the main lobbyist for the recognition of the new regime in Kabul, as Islamabad hopes to ensure its place as the primary external influence on the new government in Afghanistan. Beijing has taken a similar stance. Many experts argue that China may come to be the leading external force in Afghanistan, seeing as it is ready to develop economic ties with Kabul provided the latter prevents anti-Chinese Uyghur Islamist militants from penetrating into China from Afghanistan. A stable Afghanistan accords with Beijing’s long-term interest in actively involving the country in implementing its strategic Belt and Road Initiative.

Turkey is now eyeing the opportunities for bolstering its standing in Afghanistan. Central Asian nations, particularly Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, are visibly active in the area as well. Tajikistan is sounding something of a discordant note, openly proclaiming that it does not recognize Afghanistan’s regime in its current iteration. Dushanbe’s concerns are easy to understand especially if one recalls its negative experiences from the 1990s. However, the OSCE and the SCO cannot help but be concerned over the aggravation in Tajikistan–Taliban relations. India is also wary of the new regime in Kabul. Iran, like Pakistan, has long-standing historical ties with Afghanistan, and it is taking a “favourable pause” while striving to assist in advancing international cooperation in Afghanistan affairs. In the Islamic Middle East, the regime change in Kabul has been met with an equivocal response, ranging from enthusiasm of radical Islamists to restraint and certain wariness.

The way the situation in Afghanistan will evolve is a matter of fundamental importance for Russia’s national interests, primarily when it comes to ensuring security in Central Asia, within the SCO as well as in the greater Eurasian context. Long-term stability in Afghanistan cannot be ensured without a truly inclusive government and without the Taliban taking on clear commitments to counteract instability, terrorism, extremism and drugs flows spreading outwards and to prevent mass migration into adjacent regions. Kabul and the entire regional community need a peaceful, stable, and neutral Afghanistan, a country that lives in peace and harmony with its neighbours and a nation that is actively involved in economic cooperation in the region.

The international community may benefit from Russia’s experience in promoting domestic consensus in Afghanistan. Several international formats have great importance in this regard, such as the Moscow Format, the extended “Troika” (Russia, the United States, China + Pakistan), which was particularly highlighted by President Vladimir Putin in his recent address at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is particularly important that these formats complement each other rather than compete in terms of their influence on the processes.

From our partner RIAC

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South Asia

Is Nepal an Indian colony?

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photo: Wikipedia

In yet another dictation, India has told Nepal that nationals of other countries will not be allowed to use the new 35-km rail link between Jaynagar in Bihar and Kurtha in Nepal, due to “security reasons” (The Print, November 25, 2021). The 34.9-km narrow gauge section was converted into broad gauge by India and handed over to Nepal in October this year.  Nepal protested India’s dictation resulting in operational delay. Ultimately India softened its “order” to the extent that “third country nationals can travel on the railway within Nepal, but they won’t be allowed to cross over to India,”

Nepal is perhaps the only country where the head of India’s premier intelligence, Research and Analysis wing is accorded a red carpet welcome as he calls on the Nepalese prime minister (amid popular protests). Not only the RAW’s chief but also the external affairs minister and army chief often visit Nepal with a handy list of  les choses a faire (things to be done). For instance when the Indian army chief visited Nepal, he reminded the PM that there are 136,000 pensioners in Nepal whose pension bill is disbursed by India. The army chief freely intermingled with pensioners as if Nepal was a colony and he was viceroy.

There are about 32,000 Nepalese Gorkhas currently serving in the Indian Army’s seven Gorkha Rifle regiments (1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th and 11th), each of which has five to six battalions (around 800 soldiers each).

Nepal resents its image as a contributor of mercenary soldiers to India and Britain. So it wanted to stop sending Gurkhas for recruitment to the two countries by amending the tripartite In 1962, Sino Indian conflict, the Gorkhas stayed loyal to India though  the Chinese used loudspeakers daily against the company of Major Dhan Singh Thapa, PVC,  to withdraw as they were from Nepal. The Nepalese troops returning to their native villages were pooh-poohed on their journey back home.

The total pension bill for the 1, 27,000 pensioners (90,000 defence and 37,000 Central and State Government as well as paramilitary), and serving soldiers remitting home money is around Rs 4,600 crore. It works out to Nepalese Rs.  6400, which is larger than the NR 3601.80 crore defence budget of Nepal.

The Nepalese still resent India’s hand in assassinating Nepal’s king Birendra and his family (‘Indian hand in Nepal massacre’. The Statesman January 11, 2010).

Nepal’s predicament

Nepal is a landlocked country dependent on India in many ways. In the past India blocked supplies to Nepal at least four times forcing it to capitulate to India’s diktat to stave off starvation.

Nepal is contiguous to Tibet. So it has to balance its relation with both India and China. As China has influence on Nepalese communists so India can’t dare subdue Nepal fully. India always regarded Nepalese prime minister Oli a hard nut to crack. It was Oly who amended national map to re- exhibit areas annexed by India within Nepalese territory. India heaved a sigh of relief when Nepalese Supreme Court ousted Oli and appointed Sher Bahadur Deuba as the prime minister until the next general elections.   Deuba remained listless to popular protests against the Supreme Court’s decision.

Conspiracies to oust Oli

To topple Oli’s government, the Indian embassy in Nepal had been bankrolling corrupt politicians and other members of Nepalese society. Aware of India’s underhand machinations,  Oli

debunked India’s conspiracies during a ceremony to commemorate the sixty-ninth anniversary of the Party’s popular leader Madan Bandari. Oli “accused India of trying to destabilize his government” and alleged “Indian embassy in Nepal was conspiring about the same” He claimed, `Conspiracies were being plotted against him since the constitutional Nepali map amendment’.  He further added, `There is an open race to remove me from the post. No-one thought that a prime minister would be removed from office for printing a map’.

Be it observed that Nepal amended its map when its objections fell flat on India. India’s defense minister Rajnath Singh, went ahead to inaugurate an 80-kilometer-long road connecting the Lipulekh Pass in Nepal with Darchula in Uttarkhand (India). The Indian army chief insinuated that Oli was being prodded by China against India.

India’s ongoing annexation

Besides annexing the three new territories, India had already annexed 14000 hectares (140 km square) of territories in Susta, Tribeni Susta, Lumbini Zone, near Nichlaul (Uttar Pradesh).

Nepal being no match for India could not stop India by the use of force. But, to express its dissatisfaction, it printed 4000 copies of the updated version of the new map and distributed it to India, United Nations, and also Google. Additional 25,000 copies of the map were distributed throughout Nepal.

Concluding remarks

Gorkhas fought well in India’s post-independence wars (Indo-Pak 1965, 1971 and 1999 Kargil War, besides 1962 Sino-Indian War and peace keeping mission in Sri Lanka. Their battle cry is jai maha kali, ayo gorkhali. Three Indian army chiefs (SHEJ Manekshaw, Dilbri Singh and Bipin Rawat) served with Gorkha Rifles.

Nepali citizens have a right to apply for recruitment in Indian armed forces or civil services. Yet, they hate India and find more comfort with China as an ally. Whenever India blockades transit trade to Nepal, the latter fall back upon China for its economic needs. India also forced Nepal to grant citizenship to Indians illegally residing in Nepal.

Despite its economic woes, Nepal is ferociously independent minded. When Oli enacted a new map of Nepal, he was vehemently supported by most politicians including the present prime minister. India is unlikely to compel Nepal to toe its dictates fully. 

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Intelligence5 hours ago

ISIS-K, Talc, Lithium and the narrative of ongoing jihadi terrorism in Afghanistan

Chinese and Russian efforts are underway to strengthen the Taliban government economically and militarily, along with legitimacy and international recognition....

Health & Wellness5 hours ago

Left Ventricular Aneurysm Surgery

A heart aneurysm is a serious illness that causes impairment of the contractile activity of the affected area of the...

Middle East7 hours ago

Vienna Talks: US-Russia-China trilateral and Iran

Talks between Iran and other signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) 2015/Iran Nuclear deal regarding the revival...

Africa9 hours ago

Nigeria’s role in ECOWAS peacekeeping

ECOWAS is the 44-year-old economic community of West African states. “The evolution of ECOWAS from the level of an organization...

Africa11 hours ago

What a Successful Summit for Democracy Looks Like from Africa

The Biden administration is wrapping up preparations for its Summit for Democracy, to be held virtually next month. While the...

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