Pranav Kishore Saxena
The Arthshastra mentions four main threats that a state faces: internal
threat, external threat, internally aided external threat and externally
aided internal threat. South Asia, as a dynamic region, has seen more
tragedies than dynamism ever since India and Pakistan gained
independence in 1947. But, especially in the past few decades, the
situation has worsened. From the everlasting Kashmir issue to the 2015
Nepal blockade, issues have intensified in India’s neighborhood as it
progresses as a regional power, if not global.
As the founder of NAM, an active member of the United Nations, a
relentless supporter of cooperation among South Asian nations with its
current motto being “neighborhood first”, and a pillar bearer of BRICS,
India’s diplomatic shift has been observed from a highly multilateral
centric to a bilateral one during the Modi government’s leadership.
India’s foreign policy shift from multilateralism to bilateralism started
when Prime Minister Modi visited President Barack Obama in
Washington DC, USA. Ever since that visit, he’d been visiting various
nations to discuss economic, nuclear, energy and military strategies.
Another important aspect of the Indian foreign policy is the
deterioration of the Non-Alignment Movement which has been the
Indian diplomacy’s ‘core value’. India’s policy of NAM was seen eroding
when it signed the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation
with the USSR in 1971 to counter the Pakistani influence in the
Bangladesh Liberation Movement, who apparently was an ally of the
USA. India’s silence during Russia’s invasion of Georgia when it annexed
Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008 again showcased India’s
diminishing, yet glorious policy of NAM. These two incidents were
preludes of what I would call the ‘Neo-Diplomatic Game’.
Russia’s diplomatic shift towards Pakistan, an old arch nemesis of India
in the region was a result of India’s intense cooperation with the USA in
the ‘Quad’ group and other military exercises which became the
moribund of NAM and India’s old diplomacy. This transition had some
implications for India. First, It brought Pakistan closer to Russia, Second,
although the US blocked aid for Pakistan, it shares close ties with China
(India’s another dreaded neighbor) who now has almost encircled India
militarily by constructing its military base at Gwadar Port in Pakistan.
And third, it has raised a question on a healthy continuation of the
Indo-Russian bilateral relationship, considering Russia being India’s
largest military hardware exporter.
Anatol Lieven in his book ‘Pakistan: A Hard Country’ says, “Pakistan is
quite simply far more important to the region, The West and the world
than Afghanistan: a statement which is a matter not of sentiment but of
mathematics”. A large community of Pakistanis reside in the US,
Canada and the UK, significantly affecting its internal politics.
Pakistan has been an important key player in America’s ‘War on Terror’
and has assisted both the British and the American forces providing
intelligence to counter the Taliban in the FATA (Federally Administered
Tribal Area). However, recently the US has pulled back its funding from
Pakistan accusing them of sponsoring terrorism. The former US
Secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, assertively told Pakistan to take
actions against terrorism before “Washington’s tough decision”. The
much awaited tough decision entered the game when the US pulled off
funding from Pakistan. In March 2018, FATF (Financial Action Task
Force) listed Pakistan, just like its ally Turkey in its ‘grey list’. However,
Ahmed Rashid, an internationally acclaimed journalist brings up a
rather different and contradicting story from India’s northwest, about
the West. In his book ‘‘Taliban: The story of the Afghan Warlords”, he
describes how in the 1980s the NLC (National Logistic Cell), a joint
endeavor of the Inter Service Intelligence and the Pakistan Army
channelized the US arms to the Mujahideen from Quetta.
When Pakistan freed Hafiz Saeed under its Anti-Terrorism Act, India
was taken a back and condemned this judgment. Hafiz Saeed is the
leader of Lashkar-e-Tayiabba and Jama-ud-dawa and for India, the
master mind behind the 26/11 Mumbai attack. Lashkar-e-Tayiabba has
also been involved into the insurgency in Kashmir. Ahmed Rash in his
account discusses about Pakistani military training camps in eastern
Afghanistan that trained militants to eventually become the face of the
India’s new challenge is now to deal with the geostrategic
developments at its gates. Since months it has been discussed among
the Indian intellectual fraternity that the CPEC (China Pakistan
Economic Corridor) is a threat to India’s borders. It connects China’s
Xinjiang autonomous region from Gilgit-Baltistan to the Gwadar Port,
which China has recently aimed to militarize. CPEC gives both China and
Pakistan a geographic access to the African and the West Asian market.
India’s only option is now to enhance its cooperation with its South
The recent visit of the Nepalese Prime Minister Oli marks a significant
turn in the bilateral relations of India and Nepal after the Economic
blockade tragedy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the
Bangladesh Bhavan to enhance cultural ties between India and
Bangladesh. An old South Asian disaster management companion,
Bangladesh’s refugees in India has forced the latter to indulge in
deciphering cultural ties between the two countries. India recently
signed the BBIN (Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal) motor vehicles
agreement. The BBIN intends to connect Bhutan, Bangladesh, India and
Nepal which would decrease the otherwise poor connectivity among
eastern South Asia and promote intra-regional trade.
India’s weapon to safeguard its Achilles heel for the next few decades
would be self-reliance on production of goods, especially military
hardware and efficient and integrated diplomacy with its two most
volatile neighbors- Pakistan and China.
Pranav Kishore Saxena is the Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ‘The