Despite India’s pretensions of an emerging great power, its influence is shrinking -both, internally as well as on its external periphery. Internally, Naxalites and insurgent outfits control more than forty percent of the Indian Territory. Similarly, its borders are volatile with neighbours nibbling into its territory as well influence.
Arrival of militaries of great powers to battle terrorism and secure energy resources has led to rivalry to dominate India’s surroundings creating additional complications. Besides, inability to work out a viable initiative to enhance its geo-political influence in its immediate vicinity, and seize the initiative internally from the disruptive forces by the instrument of good governance, could lead to unraveling of the great Indian dream by 2030, if not earlier.
If China remains strong and India becomes weak, China will overwhelm India. The reverse will not happen if India is strong and China is weak. This bottom line must always be kept in mind by New Delhi.
These negative and divisive trends tearing the Indian state from within need to be firmly arrested and reversed immediately. At the same time, viable strategy to enhance its strategic footprints in the vicinity must be initiated; otherwise India may face the prospect of reverting to its pre-independence status (or more appropriately pre-British) of splintered territories, principalities and fiefdoms ruled by feudals and their private militias who may well seek outside military support to subjugate their kith-turned-adversaries.
The external strength and posture of a nation are dependent on internal cohesion. Are we moving towards a cohesive society and nation? The answer is ‘no’ – the scenario is increasingly looking dismal. Regionalism, linguistic differences, religion and caste differences are being exacerbated for purposes of vote bank politics. The trend is certainly not towards integration and consolidation of the nation – state. The psychological fragmentation and regionalism primarily due to vote bank politics has resulted in overwhelming regional pressures in determining our foreign policy.
The primary objective of sound foreign policy is to enhance security and economic prosperity of the country in which every citizen has critical and equal stakes. Looking at Israel solely through the prism of Muslim population – Sri Lanka through Tamil prism – or Bangladesh (illegal migration problem) through political prism, are self imposed constraints that inhibit India’s growth and influence.
The writ of the state governments are being rolled back towards their respective state capitals by Naxalites, insurgents, and crime mafia. The Union’s external influence is shrinking due to shortsighted policies and self-inflicted wounds. India has become net importer of negative influences instead of acquiring power projection capabilities to achieve dominance in its vicinity. A State or a Union whose writ on its own territory and geo-political influence in the vicinity is shrinking, cannot ever measure up to requirements of a great power unless it reverses course!
The stated Indian population of 1.3 billion today reportedly consists of 30 million people from Bangladesh. Demographic patterns stand subverted and changed in Assam, West Bengal, and the lowly populated states of the Northeast. Dhaka’s influence (and Islamic fundamentalism) extends into large Indian chunks of territory diluting New Delhi’s hold.
The difference between China and India is that the former builds roads beyond its borders and the latters roads stop short of reaching its own borders.
However, the amazing part is that it is a self-inflicted wound by New Delhi that enacted IMDT for vote bank politics totally disregarding agitation by its local citizenry.
The damage was done by the time Supreme Court struck down this unfair act 22 years later. Indians were expelled from Burma a long time back and New Delhi practically did nothing. Later, Myanmar, a land bridge to the ASEAN in our neighbourhood stood isolated by New Delhi. While India perched itself on false high ground moralizing on democratic norms, China indulged in realpolitik and made huge inroads at our cost. Our recent attempts to engage Myanmar while laudable are yet to pay dividends. Very recently despite ONGC’s investments in the oilfield there, the military junta under Beijing’s pressure has allotted the entire produce to China. The Foreign Office, in this shrinking influence syndrome will require running many extra miles to merely remain in the competition.
The difference between China and India is that the former builds roads beyond its borders and the latter’s roads stop short of reaching its own borders. Practicing realpolitik the Chinese spread their influence by building bridges across Asia. Indian policy makers coin words like defensive-defence and disallow even roads to run up to their own borders, lest the adversary use it to travel inland. Chinese also appear to have an unwritten law that restrains its vassal states under its influence to share oil and gas wealth with India unless its own demands are met. Whereas we, with our appeasement policy do not tire of proposing that China and India should jointly exploit and share the energy resources. On the energy front India is being successfully muscled out from Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Central Asia – as a result of insecure, tentative and inward looking policies, premised on ‘carrot’ and ‘appeasement’.
Pakistan first expelled or subjugated its own minorities. Its agents then extended their reach by conducting ethnic cleansing in the Valley to obtain and secure a launch pad to seize the writ from the Indian state and subsequently threaten the Indian heartland. The ill-conceived demand for demilitarization can only boost the expanding designs of the terrorist state across the border. Many in India are seduced by the belief that Islamabad finally wants to talk peace with New Delhi – which is absolutely flawed.
If one monitors the jehadi chatter with a discerning ear, the message coming out is clear i.e. to defeat the Western forces led by America. This for the time being has acquired primacy over the anti-India agenda.
Unfortunately for Pakistan, its policy of jihad and export of terror worldwide after 9/11 have come home to roost. Internally Pakistan’s Army is overstretched between Afghanistan-Pakistan border and internal security duties. With clear multiple vertical divides within Pakistan’s populace and society, the jihadi factory, and different echelons of the Army – it is in some difficulty in keeping the Indian borders on the boil as hither-to-fore.
If one monitors the jehadi chatter with a discerning ear, the message coming out is clear i.e. to defeat the Western forces led by America. This for the time being has acquired primacy over the anti – India agenda. India, they seem to be confident, being an utterly soft state can be dealt with subsequently. However, the anti – India cause they reckon must be kept alive through their lobbies and sleeper agents, lest New Delhi becomes too comfortable! It’s a well thought out tactical ploy as it struggles on multi-fronts.
India has extended major aid to Afghanistan in its reconstruction programme. Millions of dollars of the taxpayer’s money along with manpower is being poured into Kabul as a sensible strategy. However, with resurgence of Taliban in Afghanistan with the backing of Islamabad, this taxpayer’s money may well go down the drain. The problem with New Delhi’s policy in its geopolitical arena is characterized by strange self-doubt. The policy invariably consists of only the ‘carrot’ and omits the ‘stick’ which is vital for success in exercise of international relations. If New Delhi is not willing to flex its military, intelligence, and diplomatic sinews, jointly with Western forces or individually, to defend the gigantic re-construction work it has undertaken, it will be muscled out once again.
Nepal culturally is a mirror image of India and faces virtually similar problems. Maoists, notwithstanding their participation in the interim government continue to control and run parallel government. Kathmandu’s writ does not run in major chunk of Nepal’s territory, particularly the hill districts.By humiliating its national army and making them surrender their weapons, the Koirala government has opened itself to Maoist blackmail.
China’s naval reach stands enhanced, through ports like Sitwe in Myanmar, Gwadar in Pakistan and Hambantota in Sri Lanka that provide new maneuvering space into Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean lowering Indias maritime pre-eminence.
It is merely a matter of time before the gun-wielding Maoists throw Koirala and the rag-tag liberal political parties out of power. With 38 Gorkha Battalions in the Indian Army, and large number of Gorkha personnel in police and para-military forces, it poses grave danger to India. And the sole beneficiary of this churning will be China. In terms of India’s foreign policy, it is blunder of epic proportions. The stark question is, if New Delhi cannot handle Nepal then what exactly can it?
Our northern neighour China more or less has arrived as the new super power. While New Delhi’s influence continues to shrink due to divisive policies and indulgence in vote bank politics, Beijing with its calibrated and well thought out approach is extending its influence in Asia and consolidating it in South Asia. In Asia-Pacific, most of the economies including Japan’s are performing well due to the China factor. China’s proxy Pakistan has kept India on its toes.
Bangladesh and Nepal are likely to end up as China’s new vassal states. Saudi Arabia and other Islamic states are now tilting towards China and moving away from the West. The same is true for many countries in South East Asia, West Asia, Central Asia, and Africa.
China’s naval reach stands enhanced, through ports like Sitwe in Myanmar, Gwadar in Pakistan and Hambantota in Sri Lanka that provide new maneuvering space into Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean lowering India’s maritime pre-eminence. If China remains strong and India becomes weak, China will overwhelm India. The reverse will not happen if India is strong and China is weak. This bottom line must always be kept in mind by New Delhi.
America is “in” and can use the port facilities in Sri Lanka, to enhance its Indian Ocean presence. China in a mutually beneficial move also is tying up with Colombo. It appears that here too India is being muscled out from its backyard.
What surprises one is that the Indian Navy that wants to be the pre-eminent force in the Indian Ocean and the Indian Air Force that wants a transoceanic and aerospace capabilities could not monitor the LTTE rag tag air force taking off on the next door island, hitting out at the SLAF and retreating to their hide out without detection!
This is primarily India’s responsibility and is a litmus test for the mandarins of South Block, as break up of Sri Lanka is not in India’s interest.