Countering Sino-Pak Axis
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Issue Vol 25.4 Oct-Dec 2010 | Date : 22 Dec , 2010

Harsh V Pant who teaches at King’s College, London describes Obama’s foreign policy as ‘courting America’s adversaries while ignoring friends and potential allies.’ India, which has tried to establish a strategic partnership with the US, now finds itself adrift in a hostile environment. Ours is arguably the most dangerous neighbourhood on the planet.

Two-thirds of our land borders in the north and west are abutted by two inimical, collusive and nuclear-armed neighbours. Encouraged by perceived American disinclination to protect US strategic interests, China has flexed its military muscles and laid expansive claims to oil-rich South China Sea.

China has also reopened the Sikkim question and escalated tensions in Ladakh. PLA intrusions have gone up by about 52 percent”¦

ASEAN nations are justifiably nervous about the Dragon’s designs. In the Indian Ocean, she is pursuing a string-of-pearls strategy – ostensibly to safeguard her energy-vital sea-links, but equally designed to bottle-up the Indian Navy.

Following the Indo-US civilian nuclear accord, China upped the ante in confronting India. The latest Pentagon report unveils her rapid accretion of nuclear weapon systems and staging some of them forward into Tibet. In close collaboration with Pakistan, PRC is attempting to strategically invest India through her northern and western frontiers. It has now expanded its claim over the Tawang Tract to include all of Arunachal, even protesting Asian Development Bank loans for the State. China has also reopened the Sikkim question and escalated tensions in Ladakh. PLA intrusions have gone up by about 52 percent over last year and its soldiers are more aggressively staking out territory across the LAC.

Meanwhile diplomats continue to parrot ‘peace and tranquillity’ platitudes. PRC is raising its profile in Maoist-afflicted Nepal and extending the railway from Lhasa to Khasa on the Nepalese border. She has already built a strategic road through eastern Nepal close to our sensitive Siliguri corridor. To the west, China is provocatively constructing surface communication links and hydroelectric projects in POK. Another provocation is issue of stapled visas to Indian Kashmiris for visiting China; encouraging them to defy our travel laws. She has consistently ignored our protestations on both issues.

In a further boost for Pakistan, she is committed to build two civilian, unsafeguarded nuclear reactors for its ally, which will help to augment its N-stockpile.

Also read: Defence Procurements : Time for Radical Reforms

Meanwhile, Pakistan has spurned our US-mandated initiatives to repair the post 26/11 rupture in dialogue. Qureshi precipitated a new low in relations by his offensive remarks at the press conference following the recent Foreign Ministers meet. This surpassed even Salman Bashir’s media coup in Delhi after Foreign Secretary level talks. General Kayani, disturbed by India’s disclosure of Headly’s damming confession, is believed to have ordered the sudden freeze. Then, following the global outcry over Wikileaks, Pakistan has changed tack in Kashmir. Apparently putting terror-sponsorship on a temporary leash, ISI has instead started instigating an Intifada-style stir, which mainly targets the ‘soft’ civil administration.

As regards China, for a nation nurtured on “˜power grows out of the barrel of a gun we can gain respect only if we possess and wield credible military and strategic power.

Benazir Bhutto’s revised biography, ‘Daughter of the East’ has a remarkably forthright additional chapter which details the Pak military and ISI’s fixation with hoisting Pakistani flags in Srinagar and Kabul. Kayani, ISI chief during the Wikileaks episode, is revealed as an implacable foe of India. Commissioned in 1971, he is presumably obsessed with avenging Pak Army’s Bangladesh debacle by conquering Kashmir. As ISI Chief, he was instrumental in attacking Indian targets in Afghanistan, where he covets ‘strategic space’, so dear to the Pak military.

Obama probably failed to comprehend the damage he would do to US Afpak strategy by indicating a date for commencing withdrawals from Afghanistan. This was music to the ears for both the Taliban and Pakistan. Later clarifications that America was not abandoning the region; only confirm the Taliban and Pak in their core conviction that ‘soft’ western democracies lack the stomach to stay the course till the job is done. After all, had not the Taliban defeated another super-power, one belonging to the region. The question now in their minds is how soon will the west abandon the great game, cut its losses and run? Faced with an economic recession and electoral pressures, their will appears to be already crumbling.

Also read: Military Power

So the contours of external security challenges facing us are clear: investment of our land frontiers by the Sino-Pak axis; a fresh and more potent challenge in Kashmir — this time aimed at an inept civil administration; re-invigorated string of pearls to challenge our Indian Ocean presence and India’s complete exclusion from a post-NATO Afghanistan — all this in a heightened N-threat scenario. Meanwhile, one Chinese think tank has famously advocated fragmenting India by stoking internal dissensions. Is China actually pursuing such a strategy? When we recall that Sun Tzu advocated ‘supreme excellence lies in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting’, we may conclude that she is. A recent disclosure that ISI is reaching out to the naxals through Dawood Ibrahim’s underworld network, confirms this belief. Pakistan is actively doing Beijing’s dirty work in dismembering India and colluding with Chinese strategy.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Maj Gen Pushpendra Singh

Maj Gen Pushpendra Singh, former GOC, MPB&O Area.

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