Of problematic neighbours
NEW DELHI: Last month, India observed the 23rd anniversary of victory against Pakistan in the Kargil War of 1999.
It marked over two decades of the Indian Army’s successful removal of Pak forces that had illegally occupied a hilltop at the Indian side of the LoC at Kargil, Ladakh.
As many as 527 Indian soldiers were martyred in the three-month long conflict, which erupted when Pakistan attempted to cut off Ladakh from Kashmir, drive Indian forces from Siachen Glacier and deprive locals access to essentials, thereby mounting pressure on India to accept Pakistan’s terms and conditions in the then-ongoing Kashmir issue.
The conflict was possibly one of the two instances of direct military engagement involving two nuclear armed nations.
The other episode was the seven-month-long Sino-Soviet border conflict in 1969, an undeclared military altercation between the world’s two largest communist states, which brought them to the brink of war.
Within the subcontinent, following the Indo-Pak War of 1971, the period upto 1999 was marked by relative calm, with a few armed conflicts. Of course, India and Pakistan attempted to establish military outposts near Siachen, which prompted skirmishes in the 80s.
Following the Kargil conflict, Pakistan has engaged in brazen state-sponsored attacks on Uri and Pulwama, which witnessed India replying back with surgical strikes like the one carried out in Balakot, exposing chinks in the aggressor’s armour.
Two decades after the Kargil War, India has adopted a stance of forgive, but never forget, regarding the intrusions made by its problematic neighbours (including China).
Following the skirmish in Galwan Valley, India responded to China both via diplomatic means and economic sanctions.
Apart from boycotting Chinese goods and services, a few states such as Haryana cancelled tenders for multi-billion dollar projects involving China, while the Indian Railways cancelled an agreement with a Chinese firm.
Around 200 plus Chinese apps were also banned. In reality, experts pointed out such bans may be counterproductive for India, which is a comparatively small trade partner for China.
An example cited was how 70% of the active pharmaceutical ingredients used by Indian pharma companies came from China.
Economics and trade wars aside, the political dynamic that India shares with nations other than its belligerent neighbours have evolved significantly over the past decade. India is now part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD), a strategic initiative between Australia, India, Japan, and the US, which is in some ways, aimed at countering China’s expansionism in the East and South China Seas.
With regard to Pakistan, in 2019, the Indian Parliament voted in favour of a resolution to revoke the temporary special status granted under Article 370 of the Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir. A Reorganisation Bill was also introduced to divide the State into two Union Territories, and governed by a Lieutenant Governor. It is worth noting that Pakistan is on the gray list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
Pakistan will stick to its policy of bleeding India by a thousand cuts, bringing up the contentious issue of Kashmir at every possible forum.
Beijing will also require its ally Islamabad to maintain belligerence towards India, as it will be essential for China to keep up its strategy of uncertainty in Ladakh.
In the backdrop of the global balance of power tilting in unexpected ways, with Western dominance taking a backseat, and the rise of armed conflict in Europe, thanks to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, India is faced with the long term prospect of a tightrope act as far as its efforts to maintain peace within its borders is concerned.