Provoked tensions in the Indian Subcontinent

The world is so interconnected and networked now that events happening anywhere have the potential to affect everywhere, with impacts that may be of social, political, and economic nature.

As a small country our destiny is closely linked to that of the big powers and the relations they entertain, and whatever happens in this regard is a matter of interest and concern to us.

This is the case with the current situation in the Indian subcontinent. Presently the Indian Prime Minister is on a visit to China, and in a press conference there he has said that ‘when India and China shakes hands the world notices.’ At the same time, the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has met with President Obama in Washington, and has expressed his country’s strong opposition to the drone strikes carried out by the US in Pakistan to flush out terrorists, especially the Taliban.

When Nawaz Sharif was democratically elected as Prime Minister of Pakistan earlier this year, there was great hope that he would follow up on the declarations he had made regarding the normalization of relations with India. Sadly, it is the contrary which seems to be taking place. This validates the cautionary approach of seasoned diplomat KC Singh during debates on the victory of Nawaz Sharif at that time. He had rightly advised that India should wait to see whether the declarations of intention would materialize. They haven’t.

In fact, over the past several months there have been repeated and sustained incursions by Pakistanis, both military and terrorists, across and all along the Line of Control that separates the two countries, in gross violation of the ceasefire agreement that dates back to ten years. One of the most serious engagements has taken place in what is known as the Samba sector, and the scale on which it has been carried out is testimony of the involvement of the army in consort with terrorists, according to Indian military experts. Further, they have evidence that there are at least 700-800 militants who are well-armed, and waiting in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), ready to invade at any time.

In fact, the irony is that even as Nawaz Sharif and Manmohan Singh were meeting in New York in the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, infiltrations were being pursued across the LoC. The paradox is that, in spite of measures announced and agreed upon by the two Prime Ministers during that meeting, the incidents have increased. Only last week, for example, there were seven incursions in less than 48 hours. It would seem that terrorists are acting both independently and in collusion with the army and the Inter Services Intelligence. Omar Abdullah, Chief Minister of Kashmir, has taken a very strong stand as these incidents are in his state, and has urged that the Central government must respond with more than just talking.

This attack on a broad front, all along the LoC, seems to be a new strategy to engage a large segment of the Indian military and keep them engaged, in a bid to weaken them and sap their morale, especially when army personnel or those of the Border Security Force are killed. So far the Indian side has held up, but many in the Opposition feel, like Omar Abdullah, that the Central government is being too impassive and is displaying weak leadership in tackling the situation.

On the other hand, despite the goodwill meetings with the Chinese leadership, there also it seems the People’s Liberation Army, PLA, has got a stranglehold on the new leadership that took over power recently. They are in constant provocation mode at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and it would seem that they have encroached on a few thousand kilometers of Indian territory with the Indian leadership taking a soft stand on the matter. Besides, China has been staking claims on the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, creating visa issues with the Indian government. In the MoU that Manmohan Singh has signed with his counterpart during the current visit, this matter is not included, again leaving the Opposition and other stakeholders on in doubt about the leadership.

A weakened India is no good for India, for the region and for the world. India has the potential to be much stronger and to do better. Unless this happens, its future looks bleak. One wonders if that is what the current dispensation in India truly wants?

* Published in print edition on 25 October 2013

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