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Caught between Pakistan’s claim on Kashmir and China’s OBOR, India must stand on its own | Opinion

India should prepare for a two-front military deterrent capability, and reach out to Japan and South Korea to strengthen its position in Asia



Leaders of India, Pakistan, China, and Russia meet pose for a photograph during the 2015 SCO summit in Ufa.(PTI file photo)

Updated: May 20, 2017 16:38 IST

By Shishir Gupta

When Pakistan National Security Advisor Nasir Janjua met his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval in Bangkok on December 6, 2015, he was told that no less than 79 Pakistani nationals were languishing in Indian jails on terrorism related charges.

Doval told Janjua that there were documented records, including valid passports, to prove they were Pakistanis.

While Janjua tried to fob off the charges as irrelevant to the discussion, one of the delegates in the meeting asked him to show one Indian incarcerated in Pakistani jail on terrorism-related charges.

At that time, Gen (Retd) Janjua had no answers.

Three months later, former Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav was picked up ostensibly from Balochistan on charges of abetting terrorism and spying. He was sentenced to death by a Pakistan military court on April 10, 2017, suggesting the Rawalpindi GHQ will go to any lengths to spite India.

The sentence now stands stayed by International Court of Justice (ICJ), thanks to deft moves by the Modi government.

On April 26, 2017, the Pakistan military released confession of arrested Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan saying that his organisation was being funded by “Kafir” RAW — the Indian external intelligence agency — for carrying out terror operations in Pakistan.

While India may mock at the ham-handedness of Pakistan Army in extracting so-called confessions from both Jadhav and Ehsan, within a span of 15 months of the Janjua meeting, New Delhi had been placed at parity with Islamabad for sponsoring terrorism in the neighbouring country.

India may cry foul over coercion of Jadhav till kingdom comes, but it is our word against Pakistani army’s for the rest of the world.

Simultaneously, with the Jadhav card, the Pakistan army scuttled Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s December 25, 2015 peace initiative by orchestrating the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist strike at Pathankot airbase on January 2, 2016, and followed it by pushing in as many infiltrators as possible into the Kashmir Valley.

Capitalising on the public anger over the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani last July 8 in a police encounter, the deep state of Pakistan achieved a remarkable objective of orchestrating a hate-Kashmiri campaign in hinterland India, where even the India supporters in the Valley were tarnished by the same brush and subjected to ridicule.

Forgotten were the 88,951 Kashmiri voters who had the remarkable courage to vote in the April 9, 2017 Srinagar Lok Sabha election amidst all mayhem and affirmed their faith in Indian democratic process.

As if this was not enough, Pakistan has now virtually become a client state of China by joining the one belt, one road (OBOR) initiative amidst much fanfare this month. The $62 billion economic corridor goes through northern areas and occupied-Kashmir to Gwadar in Balochistan.

Three years after he assumed office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today faces a daunting challenge to national security from Pakistan through terrorism and internal subversion, and from China, which is choking New Delhi through encirclement diplomacy or OBOR in South Asia.

To be fair to PM Modi, he made huge efforts to reach out to both President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, but both moves were shot down by powerful army leaderships in those countries.

Be it the Peoples Liberation Army or Pakistan Army, any peace initiative from perceived adversary India will be scuttled by military stand-offs like the 2014 Chumar or the 2016 Uri attacks.

The security challenge to Modi government is getting severe as its newfound ally US is being ruled by a temperamental President, who is now being investigated on charges of blocking an FBI inquiry into his former NSA leaking secrets to India’s old ally Russia.

Despite Indian overtures at the highest level, its tried and tested ally Russia is now playing the piano to Chinese tunes.

The situation may appear tight for India but those who recommended to New Delhi to participate in OBOR initiative to appease China must not forget the February 22, 1994 Parliament resolution of getting Occupied Kashmir vacated from Pakistan. Signing on OBOR with CPEC running through PoK would have been political suicide for Modi government.

While India must now prepare for a two-front military deterrent capability, given the umbilical relationship of Pakistan and China, the new challenges also gives New Delhi an opportunity to come out on its own.

The global high table has no free lunches and to believe that Indian rise would be largely benign and uncontested is a fallacy.

India should push for stronger engagement with China and even Pakistan, but such a move should be dictated by long term national interest, not weakness.

Time has come for PM Modi to engage the politicians in Kashmir linked with Indian democratic processes to find lasting peace in Valley as well as empower those whose aspirations lie with India like Lt Ummer Fayaz.

On a global front, India needs to look beyond its immediate neighbours and diplomatically engage countries like Japan, Korea and economic power houses of West Asia. If the Modi government can bring peace and connectivity to North-East, then the southern silk road, linking South East Asia to Moreh in Manipur, could be an answer to China OBOR


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