R Sai Venkatesh | Chennai: More than halfway through the year of catastrophe, especially with COVID-19 and other numerous internal border scuffles, India crossed its 74th Independence Day. However, with over seven decades of Independence, India still has two hostile neighbours on its sides. While the relationship with China has turned towards a steep decline due to recent events along LAC, the relations between India and its branched out yet hostile neighbour, Pakistan, have always galloped down an anticline, except for a few notable moments of a friendly partnership. The path ahead seems bleak and tantamount to a deep trench.
The Pakistan Trust Factor
A noteworthy factor is perhaps the inherent lack of trust between India and Pakistan that has traversed over time, carrying the history of all wars and scrimmages, etching the image of hostility among its citizens. India’s non-reciprocation to Imran Khan’s extension of friendship in the year 2018 raised eyebrows among a few who, in their opinion, equated the effort to a plausible chance of rejuvenation. However, on deeper scrutiny, it becomes evident that there are plausible surreptitious intents behind the seemingly friendly gesture. Despite a need for an improved relationship, the trust factor must remain firm for any two countries to bridge their gap. In Indo-Pak case, this has hardly existed.
The recent events in the past also bring to light similar tales. The unhindered, uninterrupted and untapped consular access to Khulbushan Jadhav, who has been detained in a Pakistani prison for four years, was not provided by Pakistan despite the ICJ ruling which mandated the same. Their new political map, which claims ‘Sir Creek’, the tidal estuary in the western region of India, has once again shown their aberrant nature, by going against an already resolved issue. The new political map also claims the entire region of Jammu & Kashmir, reaching as far as the edge of Ladakh, covering Junagadh, a place where 91 per cent of the people decided to remain with India as per the plebiscite of 1948.
Such events portray only an obsession by the nation and its quench for power and territory, clearly violating all the established precedence. Trust, thus remains a farfetched ambition.
Dragon Eyes a Wider Span
Hitherto, the love-hate relationship, which India had shared with China for a long time, has now shifted strongly towards the side of hate on account of the recent skirmishes and violent clashes along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that claimed the life of 20 Indian Jawans. China, even in the past, has been known to expand its influence, not only in New Delhi’s backyard, but also along with other parts of the world. Be it the Maritime Silk Road or the String of Pearls or even the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, they all have far-reaching implications. The Panchsheel Treaty of 1954, at present, has become a mere document and the Informal summits, which are greatly encouraged, have done little in terms of providing long term resolutions.
Direct confrontations have increased over the course of time. Though India prefers to take an individual stand in matters related to China rather than aligning with the interests of USA or EU, it has not missed a chance to hint at the expansionist policies of its neighbour, which it says is deplorable. Even the president, Ram Nath Kovind on the Independence day hinted at China’s expansionist tendencies.
The recent National Education Policy (NEP), approved by the Union Cabinet, has taken mandarin off the list of languages that are offered as electives. While the intent behind the same is debatable, one cannot brush aside the adverse effect it has on the people-people relations.
The Give and Take Factor
Quid Pro Quo, an eternal concept of give-and-take, is paramount for transiting to the windward side in any relationship. For this, one must be rid off their inherent intransigence and an obstinate nature to see any progress. However, in this regard, the Indo-Pak relations appear to have traversed far away to point of no return.
From netizens to their respective governments, the tension in the atmosphere between the two remains to this day, perhaps worsened since the Pulwama attack of 2019, where the Jaish – e-Mohammed (JeM) terror outfit killed 40 CRPF personnel that aggravated tensions.
Pakistan’s advocacy of terrorism, hailing terrorists as national leaders and providing asylum for terror promoting groups have been jokingly cited as their ‘export’ policy and product by netizens. No one shall respect a country that establishes ties with terror outfits. The country’s reputation in the international forum has suffered a great dent, as the Financial Action Task Force (FAFT) retains it in the grey list for its failures to curb terrorism and terror funding. Unfortunately, nay knowingly, Pakistan has done little to counter terrorism emanating from its soil.
Such events have caused India to largely refrain from any give or take and diminished bilateral talks with its branched-out neighbour.
China, on the other hand, plays the give and take game via trade and investments, which also have been hampered amid the pandemic. Much before the pandemic, too, there have been downs, which aggravated when clearance was made mandatory during April for all Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) coming in from border sharing countries, which exclusively is for China. The banning of the 59 Chinese apps, that came as a counter to the scuffles along LAC also has raised eyebrows and brought the ease of give-and-take business under questioning.
The new world order
COVID-19 pandemic has just been another day in the long-standing tensions between the triad. The new world order calls for a multilateralist approach by various nations, which India is also looking to explore. In this regard, India will look to reduce its tensions and extend the hand for greater cooperation in all the fields. India, however, has to shift to this approach at a time when its relations are at worst with not just Pakistan, but also with China. Experts have opined that though India must remain wary of China, it should not take China out from the picture. Subramaniyan Swamy, a veteran politician and an economist, rightly points out the pivotal role that China plays, citing the need for India to aim a trilateral partnership with the US and China, provided China changes their international policies. The statement holds a lot of depth, but at the same time, requires a scrupulous approach from the Indian side.
With a truculent nation on one side and an expansionist on the other, there lies a challenge in front of India that calls for a slightly nuanced approach ahead.