A person aged 62, born and lived in Pakistan, having witnessed India and Pakistan involved in a mad race to accumulate the most lethal arms and attaining status of atomic powers at the expense of extreme poverty, having fought three wars, transformation of East Pakistan into Bangladesh and Kargil debacle is forced to draw a few conclusions:-
1) There is a growing perception, particularly in Pakistan that India is not a secular country. Over the years its policies have been driven by ‘hawks‘ who have not accepted 1947 partition and are not willing to resolve Kashmir issue on the premise, “we will not accept another division of Hindustan on the basis of religion”,
2) India has been accumulating arms from its friends (changing with the passage of time) with the sole purpose of creation of its hegemony in the region,
3) The US and former USSR supplies arm to India during the cold war era to enable it to fight China,
4) Even today India enjoys full support of the US, which prompted it to desert Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline in exchange for nuclear technology,
5) India continues to be one of the biggest buyers of Iranian oil and the US has not imposed any sanctions on it,
6) And on top of all the US is patronizing India in actively participating in the construction of Chabahar port in Iran and road and rail network to link it to Central Asian countries via Afghanistan.
Discussion about the contours of Indian foreign policy under Narendra Modi is too premature but one point is very clear that it is focused on creating Indian hegemony in the region that now comprises of South Asia, Middle East and South Africa (MENA). India is fully supported in this endeavor by the US having the eye on oil rich Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Central Asia and Afghanistan. The US has replaced USSR (now symbolized by Russia) as the best friend of India, particularly after the recent imposition of economic sanction on Russia. India joined Chabahar port and allied infrastructure project on the encouragement of the US to construct an alternative route that could undermine importance of Pakistan. Lately two ports, namely Gawadar and Chabahar, have emerged on Makran coast that are located at a distance of about 70 kilometers. One is located in Baluchistan province of Pakistan and other is situated in Sistan-Baluchistan province of Iran. Both the ports have been constructed with the stated objective of finding efficient and cost effective routes to energy-rich Central Asian countries passing through Afghanistan. The point to be explored is that both the ports have been constructed by two rivals, China and India, one an accepted world super power and the other a self-proclaimed regional super power. On almost every forum India tries to prove that Chinese involvement in Gwadar is a threat for its (Indian) existence. It also pleads that Indian Ocean should remain ‗arms free‘. However, navies of almost all the major powers are present in the area to protect their maritime trade. It may not be wrong to say that in the name of protecting their maritime trade certain countries have deployed their submarines and aircraft carriers in the Indian Ocean, which could become a ground for proxy war. India has been over reacting about Chinese assistance extended in the construction of Gwadar port in Baluchistan province of Pakistan. It has been creating the hype that Chinese presence in Gwadar is not only a serious threat for India but would also give China extra leverage in the region. India also accuses that China has acquired management control of Gwadar to use the facility as its naval base. This mantra is aimed at seeking support of United States and Russia, who consider China a major threat to their hegemony in the region.
My words can be ignored on the premise of being a Pakistani but Indians and rest of the world must read a few lines from an article published in the journal of Foreign Affairs published in 2013 and titled ―India‘s Feeble Foreign Policy.‖ It says Indian policies are focused on resisting its own rise, as if political drift had turned the country into its own worst enemy. It also says that India — home to more than a sixth of the human race — punches far below its weight, internationally, it is a rule-taker, not a rule-maker. I have also read somewhere, ―Since the Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago; the world has witnessed the most profound technological, economic and geopolitical change in the most compressed time frame in the history. Unfortunately for India, despite its impressive economic growth overall, much of its last 25 years has been characterized by political weakness and drift.‖ In another article it has been written, ―The result of the prolonged leadership crisis has been a sharp erosion in India‘s regional and extra-regional clout. The gap in power and stature between China and India has widened significantly. After all, this was the quarter-century in which China took off. More troubling has been India‘s shrinking space in its own strategic backyard. Even tiny Maldives had the gall to kick India in the chin and get away with it. It kicked out its Indian airport operator from the capital Male and publicly dressed down the Indian Ambassador without fear of consequences. In Nepal, India found itself competing with China. And in Sri Lanka, India became content to play second fiddle to China.‖
Domestic media is trying to create a perception that Modi faces major regional challenges due to failing states around India. The media demands that this tyranny of geography demands India to evolve more dynamic and innovative approaches to diplomacy and national defense. It is also being said that the political rise of Modi — known for his decisiveness — could be a potential game changer as he is focusing on revitalizing the country‘s economic and military might. Modi is being praised for wining over the US support by shaking off US visa-denial humiliation heaped on him over nine years. It is also boasted that the US conducts more military exercises with India than with any other country. And in recent years, the US has quietly overtaken Russia as the largest arms supplier to India. Whatever Indian media try to portray, Modi‘s actions talks louder that include his moves to engineer stronger partnerships with Japan and Israel (countries critical to Indian interests but which also courted him even as the US targeted him) to his mortars-for-bullet response to Pakistani ceasefire violations.
Modi has earned lots of praises for his act at the opening of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit coinciding with the anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks. He extended a cold shoulder to his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, who had taken all the time to attend Modi‘s oath taking ceremony, despite opposition by many Pakistanis. As a staunch believer that India is no longer a secular country, being ruled by hawks, I read these lines with exception, ―Modi faces major regional challenges, exemplified by the arc of failing, revanchist or scofflaw states around India. This tyranny of geography demands that India evolve more dynamic and innovative approaches to diplomacy and national defense. India must actively involve itself regionally to retrieve the lost ground in its backyard.‖ SAARC is likely to remain a stunted organization because India being the largest country in terms of population and both economic military might is often alleged for intervening into the affairs of feebler neighbors. According to the stated objectives of Modi‘s foreign policy, he wants to develop stronger bilateral linkages with other neighbors by focusing on ―Look East‖ policy. Indian policy makers believe that there is little choice as west is troubled. They believe that the entire belt to Indian west from Pakistan to Syria suffers from instability and extremism. Modi‘s supporters say that his foreign policy is aimed at promoting India as a more competitive, confident and secure country aimed at gaining its rightful place in the world. However, his critics have a contrary view as they believe that India can sustain itself only on the foundation of a strong domestic policy. His war mania and indulgence in arms race can eat up the benefits of those responding to his invitation to make India an ‗economic might‘. To conclude, please allow me to say that Indian foreign policy is greatly influenced by the US foreign policy. A closer look at the ongoing crises in various countries clearly indicate that first the US facilitates creation of rebel groups, supply them funds and arms to fight with the regime and then unilaterally take action against the same rebel groups. A person with average wit fails to understand the motive but the reality is that these crises are created to keep the US arsenal factories operating at full capacity. It may sound too big an allegation but India is following the same policy of supporting rebel groups in the neighboring countries to further them, the sole objective is to prove that it is a regional as well as world super power and others should remain subservient to its grand plan.
Shabbir H. Kazmi is an economic/ geopolitical analyst from Pakistan. He has been writing for local and foreign publications for more than quarter of a century. He completed his MBA from Institute of Business Administration, Karachi as back as 1977. For his prolific writing he was twice declared runner up for Pan Asia Journalism Award sponsored by Citibank in 16 countries. He also has his own blog shkazmipk.com and he can be contacted at [email protected]
Article was originally published in www.fprc.in Journal No.21