The South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) has not made any progress because states like Pakistan and Bangladesh have unwarranted fears arising out of asymmetry of power between them and India.
The Chinese military budget hides much more than what it reveals and can be conservatively placed between US $50 billion to US $80 billion. Its military spending is rising in double digits every year. India’s military budget is less than half in comparison. Two consequences flow for India from this. One, India stands out as a much weaker nation militarily before China. Second, the People’s Liberation Army of China will always try to influence Chinese party leadership to remain jingoistic towards India. That is why Chinese official media often displays a tough and uncompromising attitude towards India.
While China remains a potent danger to India on its eastern and northern flanks, many dangers abound in South Asia itself. An anarchic security environment prevails in it, driven by the flow of history and individual state systems which have developed. The nature of relationship among states of the region is influenced by internal ideologies and power equations. Foreign policy remains a hostage to internal environments and the urge for regional cooperation recedes to the background. Efforts at power balancing with India sends regional co-operation to the bottom of the list of priorities.
The South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) has not made any progress because states like Pakistan and Bangladesh have unwarranted fears arising out of asymmetry of power between them and India. Absence of common democratic norms and desire for collective security also creates hurdles. Many of the states in the region have so far failed to develop an orderly state of governance and enlightened polity. Until all states of the region adopt a minimum set of guidelines for governance such as democracy, secularism and welfare for the people, co-operation in the region will remain elusive and problems of security will keep on surfacing.
Since these states emerged as independent entities after the departure of the British colonial power, an environment of conflict, major or minor, prevails in the region. The most serious of this conflictual situation is between India and Pakistan, dating from partition itself. Militant ethnic identity and extremist religious ideology account for some others. Authoritarianism and mis-governance have also spawned a whole lot of them. These conflicts have led to security deficits and political disasters and most of the region has failed to grow to its potential unlike the nations of South East Asia and Far East. What is worse is that they harbour deep suspicions about India’s motivations.
Islamic terrorism, it should be understood clearly, is a joint project of Pakistani establishment and extremist organizations in Pakistan like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohd, Harkat-ul-Jehadi Islam etc.
The security situation on the Indian borders, therefore, remains perpetually problematic. Except for Maldives and Bhutan that have no issues with India, the remaining four, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka feel unease about India and are capable of taking steps, potentially harmful to the security of India.
Most of the states on India’s borders including Afghanistan can be designated failed or failing states. The most dangerous region in the area is Pak-Afghanistan, characterized as ground zero by leaders and security experts of the world. An insurgency, powered by confusing strands of nationalism, misguided religious fanaticism, abiding hatred for the West in general and US in particular, historical mis-governance and repression and absence of credible civil society institutions, rages there. Pakistan was the prime mover of this phenomenon and now is turning out to be its prime victim. Its duplicitous policy of clandestinely supporting Taliban in Afghanistan and battling Pakistan Taliban in its North West is splitting its polity and armed forces and causing militant religious extremism, to spread into its hinterland such as Southern Punjab.
Pakistan is imbibing more and more of the virus from Al Qaida whose leaders are still holed in safe havens in Pakistan. As Pakistan totters on account of its internal contradictions it represents a flash point for India and truly speaking for the world itself. The irrational and unthinking leadership of Pakistan has often displayed keenness in the past to go nuclear against India. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that they could share their nuclear technology with Al Qaida and other extremist entities. Pakistan, in the past, has proved to be the worst proliferator of nuclear technology and material. Since leadership there does not bind itself to any ethical or moral code, history can repeat itself.
It is a moot question whether India knows how to deal with Pakistan. It has relied in the past on the dialogue process but though romanticized, it has always proved to be essentially without substance. Experience of many years show, Pakistan is unable to deliver on Kashmir and terrorism. Kashmir is its objective and terror its tool. There is plenty of evidence now that Pakistan also seeks to subvert the Indian Muslims by appealing to their Islamic instincts. Such propaganda does work as several cells have been discovered in the US, Europe and elsewhere where young natural born Muslim citizens respond to their religiously activated instincts and turned disloyal to the countries of their birth and upbringing.
North Korea has hugely damaged Indian interests in the past by supplying long range nuclear capable missiles and missile technology to Pakistan against receipt of nuclear weapon technology in return.
The threat from Pakistan is not just a territorial threat: it is also an ideological threat and is, therefore, to be combated at that plane. It should also be noted that Islamization is growing in the North East region of India, thanks to the collaboration of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi intelligence services. This development offers an easy tool for exploitation by evil-minded powers in the region.
There are many scholars and security experts who think that Islamic religious extremism has now got converted into an ideological movement which cannot be controlled by military means. Even in moderate Muslim countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Maldives, its onward march has become a cause for concern. If it is a valid and true assessment, the US and NATO efforts in the Pak Afghan region can be expected ultimately to end in fiasco. This should be a cause for anxiety to India as it is investing heavily in Afghanistan in the hope that a stable and democratic order will emerge there.
Islamic terrorism, it should be understood clearly, is a joint project of Pakistani establishment and extremist organizations in Pakistan like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohd, Harkat-ul-Jehadi Islam etc. for training, financing and operating jihadis all across the world against US, Jews and India, wherever Muslim interests have come under pressure and to establish Muslim Caliphates worldwide. Lashkar trained Mujahids have fought in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Chechen, Dagestan, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Only recently a rift has arisen between the Pakistani Establishments and Pakistan terrorist organisations over the former’s military actions against Taliban in the North West region due to US pressure. In the eyes of the leaders of the Lashkar, the current leaders of Pakistan have turned un-Islamic and need to be punished. The latter are, therefore, fearful and will not call off terrorist operations in Kashmir and other parts of India.