India: In search of lasting peace with China and Pakistan

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The Prime focus of India’s foreign policy has always been to maintain good relationship with neighbours. The issues before our policy makers are to satisfy the national needs of peace, security and development and at the same time to face the challenges posed by our neighbours like Pakistan and China. Kashmir problem and border issues are yet to be resolved. Cross border terrorism at the instance of Pakistan and regional imbalance because of China’s ‘Leap forward’ attempts are, no doubt, matters of great concern for Indian strategic policy and diplomacy. This is why India had to invest a lot in defence cooperation with certain nations. India’s internal security. This factor is playing a crucial role in shaping India’s foreign policy.

Dangers from China

India-China relations are influenced by too many variables. They have had the longest uninterrupted existence as civilizational nations. They have almost common geographical and human resources on the planet. There are links between the two nations in cultural, religious and trade. However, India -China war of 1962 and China’s role in 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak war again added fuel to make already estranged relations between these two nations more toxic.

After the dissolution of USSR, the whole world became unipolar, with the US enjoying unrivaled supremacy. The pattern of relationship between these two nations was to be viewed through the new prism of emerging world order. Undoubtedly, both India and China are two most important nations in Asia. The role and impact of these two Asian nations can not be ignored in the regional politics of both South Asia and Pacific Rim. Their decisions have influenced international affairs. So naturally to get more importance in world politics, both the nations try to assert their independence from US supremacy.

However, China’s growing influence in Burma (Myanmar) in 1996 caused India to take new initiative for making new regional pacts with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Thailand to promote regional cooperation in 1997 but it failed to restrict China’s ambitions. Now China is much keenly trying to keep control strategically over Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Its consistent claim on the north-east part of India proved that despite its so called cooperation in United Nations with India, its sole aim is to prevent rising India in regional and global power politics.  In fact this strategy proved so successful that some observers feel India is on China’s diplomatic radar. This situation induced US to support India get importance in world politics. US-India Civil Nuclear agreement is reported to be testimony to it.

According to an analyst, ‘India–China relationship has, over the years been shaped by deep and enduring geo-political rivalry.  He further says that the rivalry is rooted in the decades–long, multi–layered, and frequently in sharp conflict over two states’ relations with lands and peoples lying around and between them.  The fact is that whether India likes it or not, the inherent competition for regional influence and interplay of international forces will always underpin the realities of the relationship and therefore, India needs to shape its foreign policy accordingly.

On Kashmir, China has changed its earlier stand in which it treated the problem as a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. Recently the Chinese embassy in New Delhi began stapled visas in a separate sheet to applicants from Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh in November 2009. It denied a Chinese visas to North Command Commander Lieutenant General B.S. Jaiswal, who was nominated by the government to visit China as part of the regular high level exchanges between the defence establishments of the two countries. On the issue it is felt that China had gone even further than Pakistan in defining the Kashmir issue.  ‘While Pakistan insists that Kashmir is disputed territory, Chinese positions have made it clear that Beijing believes Pakistan occupied Kashmir is Pakistani territory, while India’s Kashmir is the only part of the province that is disputed. China wants to make Kashmir a trilateral issue and forging majority in favour of Pakistan and keep India in a position of disadvantage. In addition the increasing influence of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) creates potential threat for India. Chinese are way ahead of India in terms of strategic missiles, artillery, development of indigenous military hardware and acquisition.

Vexed issues with Pakistan

 Next to China, the biggest challenge for India has been to balance its relations with Pakistan. A prospect worthy of realisation remains dissuading Pakistan from using terrorism as an instrument of its foreign policy. Pakistan’s needling of India in Kashmir remains a core concern for India. India sought constructive engagement with Pakistan. It aspires for meaningful dialogue to reduce tension. Lahore Declaration, Agra Summit and many such initiatives of composite dialogue were taken by India to achieve this objective. But the peace process produced limited results. Some de-escalation of tensions occurred on the Kashmir and nuclear–risk related agreements were signed between the two countries, but Pakistan did not follow up the Indo-Pak joint statement issued after the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Asif Ali Zardari on 8 September 2008. After the terror attacks in Mumbai on 26 November 2008, India put on pause the institutional dialogue and it took relations to the lowest ebb.

In this context, facts remain standstill as even in today’s Pakistan the army permeates the social political and economic fabric of the nation. Right from its inception Pakistan has been under military for about half a period. Whenever there was civilian rule the army called the shots, ‘Throughout the 1990s, a period of nominal democracy, the army still held sway over critical national security and foreign policy portfolios, including the direction of Pakistan’s nuclear programme and the management of relations with Jihadi outfits in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Apart from this,  US blind faith on Pakistan and latter’s collusion with China against the Indian interest has been a regular concern for Indian security perception.

Still India is effortful

Transformation of idealistic fervour to realistic tone is treated as a challenge for the policy makers. The new leaders of India have adopted some sort of ‘Power Politics’ and still want to continue with giving due consideration to old traditional norms of foreign policy. India is located in a volatile neighbourhood system where political system is yet to be stable. Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar are suffering from internal disturbances. Nepal has come out of the Maoist insurgency, but its political system is still under strain. Although Sri Lanka had got victory against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009 but still the humanitarian crisis is there which caused anxiety to India as coalitional constraints from Tamil Nadu parties bind the option in the wake of ethnic fraternity. Likewise Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar are suffering from other kinds of problem. The momentum in the India–Afghanistan relations has been maintained in post 9/11 period and several thousand Indians are engaged in development works in Afghanistan.