Dr Muhammad Khan
Indian Prime Minister Narindra Modi envisioned modernisation of Indian armed forces in a period of less than one decade (by 2025). According to ‘The Economic Times’ (published on April 19, 2017), “Modi has pledged to spend $250 billion by 2025 on weapons and military equipment for a nation that has territorial disputes with Pakistan and China.” It is worth mentioning that, as per SIPRI, the Stockholm based think tank, India is the biggest arms importer at the global level. In its annual report, SIPRI wrote, “India remained the world’s biggest arms importer over the past five years, and increased its share of global arms imports from 9.7% in 2007 –11 to 12.8% in 2012–16.” 70% of Indian defence purchases are from abroad. Previously, most of these purchases used be from Russia (former Soviet Union). However, over the years, India has diversified its arms purchases and in the new modernization plan, US, EU and other developed countries have been identified as the major source of arms imports for the Indian armed forces.
For this massive arms purchase, the Modi led BJP Government need to satisfy two fronts; the Indian masses, suffering from extreme poverty (over 40% of total population) and the international community which includes, defence production industries, their governments and international organizations. Since both components needed genuine explanations for these massive arms purchases, therefore, India has created border escalation and tension both with Pakistan and China. Ever since, Modi took over as Indian Prime Minister in 2014; there is a continuous cross LoC firing from Indian side, in violation of 2003 Ceasefire Agreement. Simultaneously, Indian military has created tension all the Indo-China border all along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). This all is being done to create an excuse in front of domestic audience and to convince international community that, India is facing a real time security threats from its neighbours.
In order ovoid negotiations for the resolution of core issue, the Kashmir dispute, the Modi led Indian Government has not conducted even a single meaningful dialogue with Pakistan, rather enhance tension, by firing across LoC with multiple allegations. There have been a number of border escalations, initiated by Indian Army since 2014. These include Indian incursions into Chinese areas and firing along the LAC.
The recent Sino-Indian stand-off over the Doklam area in Sikkim region has started ten days prior to Modi’s visit of United States. Since the new US administration under President Donald Trump had already started a war of words against China, therefore, Modi thought it the most appropriate time to initiate a tactical military campaign against China. This time, Indian military infiltrated into an area which is jointly claimed by China and Bhutan (the Doklam area), rather along its 3,500km (2,174-mile) shared border shared border (LAC) with China. India moved its military into Doklam region to stop the construction of road by Chinese Army. The Doklam plateau, situated between China, Sikkim and Bhutan, is being claimed by both Beijing and Thimphu. Chinese foreign ministry has clarified that, ‘the border in Sikkim was settled in 1890 through an agreement with the British India. Therefore, this is a serious violation of Indian Army.
The blatant Indian concern is that, upon completion of this road, ‘China will have greater access to its strategically vulnerable “chicken’s neck”, a 20km (12-mile) wide corridor that links the seven north-eastern states to the Indian mainland.’ Besides, India will lose the year’s old domination over the landlocked tiny Kingdom of Bhutan, which borders India and China. Currently India has strict control over foreign, defence and economic policies of Bhutan, which itself are a violation of UN Charter. Except Pakistan, India has hegemony over almost all countries of South Asia. Regional countries of South Asia see relationship with China and its One Belt-One Road (OBOR) as a blessing in disguise, indeed to come out from Indian imperialism.
In the current conflict, Doklam, India had no right to stop construction of road and incursion of its troops into Chinese area. The only objective, India intends achieving to oppose Chinese OBOR and keeping these states under its domination. Today, forces of India and China are in an “eyeball to eyeball” position. Through its foreign office and all diplomatic means, China has emphasized India to “unconditionally pull back troops”. Since India has a strategic advantage over China in this particular region, therefore, feels to have serious security and domestic implications, if it pulls back.
Since there is no direct diplomatic relations between Beijing and Thimphu, therefore Bhutan cannot take an independent decision and India would always try to gain its strategic gains. On their part, Indian leaders including PM Modi, constantly issue provocative statements like, “India of 2017 was not the India of 1962, and the country was well within its rights to defend its territorial integrity.”
Under this growing Sino-Indian tension, Congressional Research Service (CRS) of US is trying to further fuel the situation. The CRS report says, “Recent border tensions between India and China may be indicative of a new phase of heightened Sino-Indian rivalry. This rivalry is manifesting itself not only along the two nations’ 2,167-mile-long disputed Himalayan border, but also throughout South Asia and the broader Indian Ocean littoral region.”
The Indian strategy of massive procurement of modern weapons and equipment for its all three services find logic in creating a security situation in the region, particularly with China and Pakistan, an aspect to satisfy its masses and US led west. However, the real objective of India is to attain the status of a major power at international level. While successive Indian leadership has made India as an acceptable state internationally, the Pakistani political leadership have not been able to sort out their personal political issues in last 70 years.
— The writer, Professor of Politics and International Relations, is based in Islamabad.
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Dr Muhammad Khan