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Almost to the brink: India and Pakistan during the Pulwama crisis

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The wreckage of one of its aircraft exhibited in enemy’s Air Headquarters; a pilot thrashed by not so friendly mountain dwellers only to be detained by the enemy; a helicopter downed owing to fratricide; an Air Marshal “retired” under mysterious circumstances; and finally, an inadvertent confession from top echelons– though presumably aimed at domestic opposition – about adversary’s superiority. These were the ultimate outcomes of Indian PM Modi’s well-thought-out bid to capitalize at the opportunity created by Pulwama attack for his electoral advantage. Astonished and undeniably taken by surprise, he went even more desperate and almost pushed South to the brink of nuclear holocaust –definitely a cataclysmic imminence that was averted just at the last moment.

It all triggered on February 14, 2019. A despaired Kashmiri youth – once humiliated by the Indian occupied forces – sought revenge and rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into the convoy of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). The outcome was the most gruesome and ferocious attack at Indian forces in the occupied valley since1947. As per local media reports, nearly 750pounds of explosive material was used that resulted in the death of around 44 CRPF soldiers while many others received serious injuries.

Unquestionably, it was a massive intelligence and security failure but instead of beholding inwards, Indian officials were quick to blame their neighbour Pakistan and its spy agency ISI for the attack. All they had in terms of proof was a video statement purportedly recorded before the attack by the alleged attacker in which he pledged his allegiance to Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), a proscribed group allegedly based in Pakistan and with a long history of struggle against the Indian forces in the occupied valley. Despite the acknowledgement by Lt Gen D.S. Hooda that it is not possible to transport such heavy quantity of explosives from across the LoC and it was managed locally, Indian officials continued to lay blame on Pakistan for the attack.

Forty coffins of CRPF personnel was exactly the opportunity that India’s warmonger media and right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP, were looking before the general elections. While Indian media whipped up the war hysteria calling for “revenge” and inflicting “punishment” on Pakistan, BJP tactfully used the occasion to overcome its declining support base and soon “Pakistan bashing” was the core theme of election rallies with PM Modi – the person with proven extreme divisive credentials – taking the lead.

Pakistan’s response was composed and serene in nature. Unlike the past, when the military used to handle affairs related to India, Pakistan’s newly elected PM took the lead and in a short address, Khan offered India any help in the investigation of the Pulwama attack besides cautioning about any armed adventure against his country from the Indian side. In case of an Indian attack, he affirmed, “Pakistan will not just think about retaliating, it will retaliate. There will be no way to respond other than to retaliate.”However, this offer attached to the caveat was to go unheeded in India.

During the early hours of February26th2019, Indian aircraft crossed the de-facto border between Indian and Pakistan administered Kashmir and delivered ordnance in the Balakot area of Pakistan’s KPK province. In response, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) scrambled its jets but there is sufficient credence that the intruders made their way back unscathed.

From an Indian perspective, it was a daring venture. After 1971, it was the first time that Indian Air Force (IAF) violated the archrival’s airspace and that too, during the time of heightened tensions, and ordnance was carried to mainland Pakistan. The bravado provided India with the ground to resort to symbolic chest-thumping platitudes and cash the boldness in the war of narratives. However, things took an opposite turn and in information realm, Pakistan took the lead via its ever-active Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR).

Well before any official word from India, Pakistan’s DG ISPR took to the twitter and claimed that Indian planes intruded3-4 miles into Pakistani territory and after being challenged by PAF hurried back while dropping their “payloads” in a forest without causing any casualties. Later media reports would revealthat a person was injured close to the point of impact in Blalakot and few nearby houses were damaged. Only casualties, however, were the innocent Pine trees, which Pakistani PM Khan has been accentuating to plant in an attempt to counter climate change.

Interestingly, the recipient denied any damage before the inflictor could have taken responsibility and given the track record of Indian Government in making false and over-exaggerated claims, the Indian narrative was to pass through tough scrutiny.

The Indian side, however, spent some hours to present their account and in a press conference during the day, Indian Foreign Secretary confirmed that “in response to imminent threat”, India took a “preemptive non-military strike” against the alleged JeM camp in Balakot in which “a large number of JeM terrorists” have been eliminated. He also claimed that the aversion of civilian casualties was especially ensured and only target was alleged terrorist training camp. There was no follow up Q&A session and curious journalists eager to barrage questions were left disgruntled.

The choice of words used in the Indian statement was strikingly paradoxical. The country had violated the sovereignty of its nuclear-armed neighbor using the even abstruse cover of “preemption” and was now classifying the blatant aggression as “non-military strike”. As customary, Indians were devising their own rules and deducing their own interpretations of diplomatic and military terms.

Bizarrely, even the Indian media did not pay much heed to the official Indian narrative marked by ambiguity and generalizations. Soon, various Indian news channels were up in the frenzy and started broadcasting the different figures of 250 – 350 terrorists died adducing to sources in “India’s official circles”. The preposterous claims were nothing more than typical Indian fake news dissemination campaign, a domain already conquered by hundreds of notorious Indian news channels representing the most distorted versions of North Korean propaganda outlets.

Later that evening, DG ISPR held a press talk and besides putting forth the details of India’s aerial incursion, promised a “surprise”. An attention-grabbing mention in DG ISPR’s statement was the convening of the meeting of National Command Authority (NCA), the body responsible for overseeing and operationalization of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, a clear case of nuclear signaling.

However, mere repudiation to the Indian claim by Pakistani authorities was grossly insufficient for the Pakistani public which could still recall the infamous OBL attack. Soon, revengeful populace started raising eyebrows followed by the pouring on of direct and indirect criticism – the last thing Pakistan’s government & armed forces could afford.

With DG ISPR pledging a “surprise”, everyone waited with his fingers crossed as now it was the time for Pakistan to respond to India’s blatant aggression. Finally, the response came the next morning and the Pakistan Air Force delivered ordnance across the LoC in broad daylight. In response, IAF scrambled their jets, which were soon outnumbered and outgunned by technologically superior and high in number PAF jets. The dominance of electromagnetic spectrum by means of the better AWACS systems empowered PAF to create a communication gap between ground controllers and IAF jets leading to the crossing of LoC by an ill-fated Mig-21 Bison of IAF, which immediately facing an aerial ambush. Another Su-30 – as per the recognition of even Indian media – faced a lock and was in all probability, shot down only to tumble across the LoC in Indian Occupied Kashmir.

Pakistan’s Ministry Foreign of Affairs (MOFA) announced the strikes and DG ISPR again took to the twitter to claim that Pakistan had shot down two IAF jets and two pilots have been taken into the custody – an exaggerated figure regarding pilots that later had to be revised and formed a little but a noticeable flaw in the whole account of remarkable accomplishments for Pakistani side. Later he held a press conference and asserted that PAF jets without violating the Indian Airspace deliberately targeted the uncovered areas adjacent to Indian military installations across the LoC in a bid to display “capability”, “will” and “resolve”. He maintained that in the ensuing dogfight PAF shot down two Indian jets with the wreckage and pilot of one aircraft in Pakistani custody confirming at least one kill.

Not surprisingly, the Indian side had a contrary view. India’s MEA spokesperson appeared for a press talk– which again did not follow a Q&A session – escorted by an IAF representative, and read a written statement claiming that PAF jets violated the Indian airspace and tried to target Indian military installations. The attempts – as per his claim – “were foiled” due to high state of readiness by IAF. The MEA spokesperson confirmed the downing of one of their aircraft and admitted that one pilot is “missing in action”, but he came up with a still unsubstantiated claim that the captured pilot had shot down one Pakistani F-16 before his Mig-21 Bison was taken down. He further insisted that the wreckage of F-16 fell on the Pakistani side of LoC and asserted that Indian troops close to LoC witnessed the Pakistani aircraft going down.

The assertion of F-16 downing based on flimsy grounds was undeniably an inefficacious attempt by India to secure some face-saving in the wake of audacious military action by PAF & ingenious information campaign by DG ISPR. The claim – besides repudiated by Pakistan – would also receive rebukes from scores of non-partisan media outlets and observers only adding to the embarrassment of Indian Government. 

Pakistan had manifested its capabilities in the combat and the wreckage of IAF Mig-21 along with the pilot – who was saved by Pakistani forces from the wrath of angry villagers in Bhimber– Pakistan was to enjoy an upper hand in the ongoing information war.

Pakistan’s PM Khan was on air but not with a triumphant tone or with a provocative body language despite the fact that his Air Force had just guaranteed the aerial superiority over the enemy. Instead, his address was once again very serene and brilliantly composed. Khan elucidated the destructiveness associated with the war by referring to historical examples & once again, offered India to de-escalate the situation besides reiterating his country’s assistance for the investigation of Pulwama attack. Again, the desire for peace in Islamabad was to be received as a sign of weakness in New Delhi.

The desperate Modi and his fanatic lieutenants were not ready to get off the escalation ladder so easily and as confirmed by official accounts also, India not only deployed it nuclear submarine and aircraft carrier battle group to exert pressure on Pakistan but also edged towards launching missile attacks at multiple locations inside Pakistani territory. Pakistani authorities were quick to ascertain the gravity threat and in a do or die mode, resolve in Islamabad was to reply with three missiles for each incoming missile from India. The imminent exchange – that could have easily spiraled out of control to reach cataclysmic levels – was only averted after the interference by high-ranking US officials and leaders from other regional countries. Indubitably, Pakistan and India were ever close to the brink and an imminent nuclear holocaust in South Asia – whose impacts were going to be detrimental for the whole world –had just been circumvented.

The Pulwama crisis highlights the sheer precariousness associated with the ever-hostile relationship between Pakistan and India. Indian PM Modi played a dangerous gamble just to save his skin in the face of eroding popular support before the general elections and his inbuilt fanaticism and relentless greed for power nearly prompted the South Asian nuclear volcano to erupt and that too, with massive lava eruption. Although, the timely external intervention ensured that Modi’s fanaticism did not cost the South Asia region in particular and world in general, the cessation of India’s institutions to the fanaticism of BJP is menacing and can be a precursor to a vicious predicament in South Asia. For all intents and purposes, zealots – completely unmindful of the nuclear revolution and oblivious of the concept of nuclear deterrence – have taken charge of nuclear weapons in India and the way Indian institutions are caving into the zealotry, an already precarious nuclear equation has gone even perilous; thus, significantly enhancing the chances of failure of nuclear deterrence in South Asia.

Hamdan Khan is currently working as Research Officer at Strategic Vision Institute Islamabad. He is an alumnus of the National Defence University Islamabad and has previously worked for the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) and the Pakistan Council on China (PCC). Hamdan studies Global Affairs with a focus on Great-Power Politics, Programs and Policies of Nuclear Weapons States, and Emerging Military Technologies.

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South Asia

Rohingya repatriation between Myanmar-Bangladesh

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Rohingya refugees fleeing conflict and persecution in Myanmar (file photo). IOM/Mohammed

Refugees find themselves in a situation of limbo because of the prolonged refugee scenario. They are neither eligible for repatriation nor do they qualify as citizens of the host nation or a third country. However, they must deal with the harsh reality of the nature of vicious politics because of the complexity of state systems and the institutional weaknesses of international institutions.

Prolonged refugees, according to UNHCR (2004), are trapped in an impenetrable and protracted condition of limbo. Despite not being in danger or facing threats, they significantly lack access to basic rights, financial aid, and support for their psychological and social needs. As they are pushed toward outside help, they feel unable to escape the core of forced dependence.

Are Rohingya refugees in some way contributing to an ongoing, serious refugee crisis? In relation to the Rohingya crisis, statistics from UNHCR shows that more than 0.7 million Rohingya fled to Bangladesh in 2017. There are 1.1 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, the prime minister of Bangladesh stated in 2018 during the 73rd United Nations General Assembly.

For this South Asian emerging nation in 2017, the flow of this deluge was nothing new. These migrants have been entering Bangladesh since the 1970s after being forcibly uprooted by the military dictatorship.

According to a survey, there were around 0.25 million refugees in Bangladesh throughout the 1990s. Nearly 0.02 million people were returned after the 2000s, but the SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) and the Bangladeshi government’s inability to settle their differences has made this process difficult to complete.

The world’s most persecuted minority, who is clearly stateless and has strong proof of persecution and genocide on account of race, ethnicity, and religion, is currently being cared for by Bangladesh. The responses of international organizations like the UN and its branches like the ICJ and IOM are not positive enough for Bangladesh in this regard to produce a permanent solution.

West African nation Gambia filed a 35-page application with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in November 2019 against Myanmar. The ICJ’s extraordinary victory in the Gambia v. Myanmar case regarding the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Rohingya people is the first of its kind. This was founded on an “erga omnes” premise, which periodically reports on the situation of the Rohingya.

However, Bangladesh continues to push for international organizations to take humanitarian action through the UN. Though this worry might attract their attention and drive them to consider ensuring human rights for these forcibly displaced persons, it has instead placed a heavy load on Bangladesh.

Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur on Myanmar, issued a warning to the international bodies regarding the Rohingya crisis just a few days ago during his visit to Bangladesh in December 2021. Bangladesh “cannot and should not bear this duty alone,” he said, urging foreign groups to express grave concern. He went on to say that Myanmar, not Bangladesh, was the origin of the conflict and where it will ultimately be resolved.

Bangladesh, a developing nation with a population of 160 million, is being horribly impacted by the Rohingya people in terms of social, economic, and political spheres. Rohingyas have been in a condition of limbo since at least 2017, which is now more than five years ago.

They have been relocated, assisted, and given security by Bangladesh and several international organizations, but they still yearn for a long-lasting solution.

Bangladesh has been taking every action imaginable to bring the Rohingya refugees’ home. Since the 2017 refugee inflow, the Bangladeshi government has worked with various international groups to promote peaceful voluntary repatriation; however, the Myanmar military junta has consistently resisted these efforts. Refugees from the Rohingya minority are currently suffering greatly as a result of the political unrest in Myanmar.

As Cox’s Bazar’s refugee camps are already overflowing with 1.1 million Rohingya refugees, the Bangladesh is moving them to Bhasan Char in order to provide for them improved living conditions.

International organizations had doubts regarding the safety and security of the Island; however, Bangladesh eventually persuaded them to cooperate. Bangladesh was left with no choice but to relocate some Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char. Bangladesh now faces a security danger from overcrowded camps. The Rohingya camps in Bangladesh are home to numerous terrorist and armed rebel organizations. One of them is the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). Despite the issues, Bangladesh has continued to push for bilateral discussions while also applying international pressure to the junta.

Myanmar, on the other hand, is a lawless state that disobeys international law and order. The arrangements established for the peaceful return of Rohingya refugees were broken.

In Myanmar, the regime has been increasingly hostile since the military takeover. Myanmar is utterly unwilling to help the Rohingya refugees develop a strong sense of desire for return. There is no “supranational” authority in anarchy, which is advantageous for Myanmar. It is now time for the international community to recognize that the Rohingya refugee crisis has grown into a regional security issue.

Myanmar-related news indicates a new genocide. the country’s rebel and protest groups are being repressed by the military junta with violence.

The Myanmar military is still buying new weapons from China and Russia, including the SU-30SME multi-role heavy fighter, the YAK-130 light attack advanced jet trainer, the K-8W advanced trainer, and Ming class attack submarine, among others, despite an arms embargo. The world community is concerned that these weapons could accidentally attack defenseless populations. A peaceful voluntary return will face further obstacles as a result of internal unrest in Myanmar.

The Rohingya catastrophe, which forced 1.1 million individuals to leave their country of birth due to state-sponsored persecution, was of a size that is easy to comprehend. When the state commits the crime, the environment becomes more hostile. The main duty of the state is to uphold the rights and interests of its citizens.

Refugees are currently skeptical of the military junta in Myanmar. They have a long and painful history of persecuting people. Therefore, persuading the refugees to return home voluntarily won’t be simple. Myanmar must extend their hands in mutually beneficial ways. More discussions between international parties, including the Rohingya, will build confidence and facilitate a peaceful voluntary return of the Rohingya refugees. Humanity and peace should ultimately triumph over all other factors.

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Why the implementation of the CHT peace agreement is still elusive?

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When the “Top boxer” of Bangladesh, for the past eight years, Sura Krishna Chakma raised the national flag of Bangladesh in the first-ever professional boxing tournament held in last month, it reminds the contribution of the UK Ching Marma and other minority people who fought valiantly in the Liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971.

Bangladesh began its independence journey with a population that is ethnically homogeneous, with less than 1% of the population being ethnically diverse. However, Bangladesh had struggled to deal with Chittagong Hill Tracts’ (CHT) tribal people as they have been waging an insurgency movement for autonomy. Later, Peace Accord was signed aiming to end the conflict in 1997. But, after 25 years of its signature, the treaty is still failing to instil trust among national political parties and factional groups. Currently, the situation in the CHT area is a complex mix of conflicts and negotiations. The area is also beset by ethnic tensions between indigenous communities and groups, interferences from neighbouring states, widespread poverty, resource scarcity, and low literacy rates.

Why peace in the CHT is still elusive?

In recent years, remote areas of CHT have become more prone to violence due to the involvement of various active groups in the area. The four ethnic political groups – PCJSS, Jana Samhati Samiti (Reformist-MN Larma), United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF) and UPDF (Ganatantrik) – in the region appear to be at odds with one another. They have no ideological disagreements but are involved in inter-conflict for narrow self-interest rather than protecting the minority rights. All factions have specific armed wings with advanced weapons such as rocket launchers, automatic sniper rifles, and heavy machine guns, according to law enforcement. They extort wood trade, cooking markets, livestock markets, transportation, and a variety of other services, each on their own turf. Ransom for the abduction of ethnic groups and Bangalis are also a major source of income. Contractors also have to pay at the rate of 10 percent of the original budget. To stay safe, locals were forced to maintain good relationships with all parties. They are compelled to pay monthly tributes to remain in their homes. There are even reports of indigenous women being abducted and raped by rival groups. They are so vulnerable and frightened that they do not even move after the sunset. The inter-group conflicts have claimed more than 1100 lives since the signing of the peace accord. Although according to the terms of the accord, the guerrillas were to surrender and surrender their weapons but many haven’t surrendered arms yet.

What’s to blame for the present unrest?

The agreement’s lethargic implementation has reignited separatist tendencies among the Paharis. Recently, the Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF), an insurgent organization of small ethnic group, demanded a separate state in CHT with full autonomy and threatened strict armed movement. Prior to this, The UPDF, a breakaway group, continues to oppose the treaty and seeks full regional autonomy.

The most pressing concern in CHT, however, is extensive Christianization among the tribal population. ‘Evangelization’ is generally carried out by the missionaries through a number of NGOs operating under the umbrella of “development partner.” Christian missionaries use money and other worldly trappings to entice poor tribal people to become Christians. So far, 4344 families in CHT became Christian in the last two decades and the number of churches increased dramatically from 274 in 1998 to 644 in 2022. It’s worth noting that more than a third of the Bandarban district’s tribal population is now Christian.

Impact of the Peace Accord on the Situation of ethnic People

Certainly, the Peace Accord made room and rendered opportunities for the CHT’s development. In these 25 years, comprehensive and systematic development efforts have contributed to the socio-economic development of the Pahari people, which immensely contributed in reducing the gap between the Pahari and Bengalis. Many tribes are well-integrated into mainstream middle-class Bangladeshi society, with officers and ambassadors serving in Bangladesh’s military and diplomatic corps.

With its contrasting topography of hilly terrains, immense lakes, wide-open spaces, as well as rich ethnic and cultural diversity, tourism industry flourished in the CHT. Tourism boosted due to the infrastructural projects connecting the remote and mystic parts with the main areas of the country and security ensured by the law enforcement agencies from the precarious hilly terrain to the remote bordering area. The treaty also integrated the CHT people into the mainstream economy, while permitting them to retain their specific ethnic and cultural identities.

The ‘Small Ethnic Groups Cultural Organisation Act 2010’ was passed in order to safeguard and foster the cultural expressions of Bangladesh’s small ethnic groups. Small ethnic groups’ rights are now more recognized by the government in Bangladesh than before. The development allocation per capita in the CHT districts is significantly higher than in the rest other districts. The government has amended some laws to allow for the implementation of the peace accord mainly the formation of the ‘CHT Regional Council’ and the ‘Ministry of CHT Affairs’, establishing the ‘Land commission’ to deal with conflicts over land and natural resource rights. The government is also gradually reducing military camps. The number decreased from 546 to 206. Another feature of post-agreement development in the hills has been the influx of development partners and the extension of NGOs and INGOs in the CHT area.

Way Forward

The first and foremost, the Bangladesh Government must take into cognizance the factors behind the failure of establishing peace in CHT areas to ensure peace in the hilly region. Secondly, the implementation of the remaining articles should also need to be prioritized. So far, out of 78 provisions, 48 provisions of the Accord have been implemented. Hill people strongly believe that the implementation of the Accord is the key to solving problems in the CHT. Thirdly, it is crucial to control the armed factions to evict violence and restore peace to CHT on an urgent basis. Fourthly, both the Hill and the Bengali people emphasize that land disputes need to be resolved immediately. And finally, there is a need for consolidating the progress achieved so far.

Nevertheless, an established misconception is prevailing among the hilly people that their voices are not heard and they are treated differently from the rest of the Bengalis. To eradicate this misconception and build trust and harmony, more initiatives should be undertaken by the government.

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How the USA’s Bid to Pitch India as a counterweight to China is destabilizing South Asia?

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modi xi jinping

South Asia indubitably presents the most precarious case for strategic stability. Two contiguous and bitterly hostile nuclear-weapon states; a festering conflict in Kashmir acting as a permanent source of tensions; the absence of a robust and comprehensive mechanism to manage nuclear risks; occasional crises that push the two nuclear-armed states on the brink of catastrophic exchanges; India’s hegemonic regional and status-oriented global designs; India’s long obsession with military buildup; and whatnot.

Of the aforementioned, India’s interminable military buildup, which is attempted to be rationalized by citing various security threats, has been the primary factor responsible for disturbing the strategic balance in South Asia — compelling India’s regional rival Pakistan to take remedial measures to restore the strategic balance. Nevertheless, provided India’s interminable and unquenchable acquisitiveness for arms, the strategic balance in South Asia continuously remains susceptible to the unsteadiness, essentially giving rise to a vicious cycle of India’s destabilizing actions being followed by Pakistan taking counteractive measures aimed at stabilizing the equation.

As if India’s regional hegemonic instincts and linked military acquisitions were not enough, the USA is now aiming to pitch India as a counterweight to China — whose concomitant is India’s attempted elevation as a hegemon in South Asia. In pursuance of the objective, the USA is bolstering India’s military capabilities besides extending unequivocal diplomatic support to New Delhi on a host of issues with far-reaching consequences for South Asian regional stability.

On the military side, the USA is supplying India with cutting-edge weapon systems besides the signing of landmark four foundational agreements that enable the Indian military to access real-time and precise information about its adversaries’ military activities through state-of-the-art American intelligence-gathering platforms. Furthermore, relevant services from the militaries of the two countries are regularly carrying out joint exercises primarily aimed at increasing interoperability. The increased military cooperation between the USA and India has essentially entangled the two countries in a de facto military alliance.

The most immediate and direct result of the USA-India burgeoning military ties is the disturbed strategic balance in South Asia – which Pakistan has been endeavoring so hard to maintain, despite serious budgetary constraints and without resorting to a parity-driven arms race. With the USA also contributing to the expansion of India’s military capabilities, the power asymmetry in South Asia continues to increase, which can incentivize the Modi regime to pursue their strategy of fighting a limited war under the nuclear overhang driven by the delusional belief that escalation control can be achieved. Leaving out yet another lucky break like in the 2019 Pulwama Crisis and the 2022 ‘accidental’ launch of BrahMos launch in Pakistan, the most probable result of such a venture by planners in New Delhi would dangerously increase the risk of inadvertent escalation between the two countries, possibly culminating into a nuclear exchange amidst the ‘fog’ of circumstances.

On the diplomatic side, the USA is now India’s foremost backer on various international forums steadily moving to incorporate the Cold War partner of the former Soviet Union in various multilateral regimes and institutions. Resultantly, not only India’s global influence is increasing but the absence of fear of any international reprimand for its shenanigans at home and in the region has made Modi-led India adopt a more aggressive posture towards Pakistan — which supplemented by the Modi regime’s proven penchant for resorting to nuclear brinkmanship to score domestic gains has added a dangerous new dimension to South Asia’s strategic calculus fraught with the cataclysmic endangerments.

India has a decades-long desire to strong-arm Pakistan into submission but initially the attempted external balancing followed by the introduction of a nuclear equalizer offset India’s obvious military advantage vis-à-vis its smaller neighbor. The already unfolded and imminent bolstering of India’s military capabilities further enhances the asymmetry in comparative military capabilities between the two countries besides amplifying ‘India’s counterforce temptations’ — which are a congenital recipe for disaster. These factors in tandem with India’s increasingly aggressive regional posturing — also enabled by the USA — are unprecedentedly adding to the instability in South Asia with the risk of grave escalation more credible and higher than ever.

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