INDIA – WEST RELATIONS MUST CATER TO INDIA’s CONCERNS
The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war is forcing the world into clearly demarcated camps. India is being pressurized by the US to take an anti-Russia stand. India has responded in line with the UN Charter and its basic principles of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, though, without falling into either the West or the Russia-China camp. In this blog, an attempt has been made to explain why India’s stand is appropriate and what the way ahead is.
Wrongs Suffered by India to China-Pakistan Nexus
· Thousands of Chinese engineers and workers are deployed in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), for the implementation of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and specifically, China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which includes Gilgit-Baltistan, illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947-1948.
· Gilgit Baltistan is a part of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir which had acceded to the Indian Union on 26 October 1947. In November 1947, Pakistan illegally occupied it and later, through a controversial agreement in April 1948, the area was brought under the control of the Pakistan State, while the other part of PoK was allowed to maintain the façade of an independent entity with the so-called name ‘Azad’ Jammu and Kashmir.
· Chinese built a military road through Aksai Chin in the 1950s. The Indian objection to the Chinese presence in the sector was one of the major reasons which led to India facing defeat in the 1962 war with China. At the conclusion of the conflict, China retained control of about 38,000 square km of Indian territory in Aksai Chin. The area remains a point of contention between India and China.
· In 1963, Pakistan illegally leased Shaksgam Valley, an Indian territory in PoK to China in exchange for military and nuclear technology.
· Since the 2020 Galwan incident, a stand-off existed along the LAC. Disengagement between the Indian Army and the PLA of China has taken place recently. However, the status quo prior to Apr 2020 has not been restored. A buffer zone has been created which prevents the Indian Army from patrolling up to the traditionally patrolled areas in India’s control. This in simple language means a loss of territory.
West’s Expectations and Response to India’s Concerns
The US and the West expect India to take a stand in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. They, however, continue to ignore India’s territorial integrity even after China’s illegal occupation of Indian territory in 2020 in Ladakh.
In April 2022, US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar visited Pakistan-Occupied-Jammu and Kashmir. In October 2022, Donald Blome, the United States’ representative to Pakistan, visited PoK. Blome repeatedly referred to PoK as AJK (Azad Kashmir). China is making inroads into the territory and using this land to fulfil its ambitions.
The West knows the deep cuts and thousand wounds, yet there is no discussion about India’s territorial integrity. The Indian Army fights infiltration along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir from Pakistan as well as frequent assertive intrusions across the Line of Actual Control by China.
Notwithstanding India’s concerns, the United States in Sept 2022 provided USD 450 million F-16 sustainment package to Pakistan with no objection to the deal from the Senate. According to the US State Department, Pakistan’s F-16 programme is an important part of a broader US-Pakistan bilateral relationship, and this proposed sale will sustain Pakistan’s capability to meet current and future counterterrorism threats. The reality is that Pakistan has been sponsoring terrorism for a long time.
In October 2022, the global money laundering and financing watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) removed Pakistan from its list of countries under ‘increased monitoring’ after four years. Pakistan had been on the ‘grey list’ since 2018 because of ‘strategic counter-terrorist financing-related deficiencies’.
The West must realize that China and Pakistan’s policy towards India have always been based on ambiguity and deceit and that, not backing India militarily, will be an ineffective policy as regards Central Asia as well as the Indo-Pacific.
According to China, border disputes are natural between two neighbours and economic cooperation between India and China should continue regardless of it. This working solution seemed alright in the 1980s and 1990s, but now after the violent clashes in Galwan, and the recent military deployment across Pangong Tso, India is rightly apprehensive as to where the Indo-China relationship is heading.
It is accepted that every country works for its best interests first, including the US and the West. Pressure from the West upon India to not buy oil from Russia is not in accordance with that logic.
West’s relationship with India is improving but at a slow pace. It is marked with suspicion. The US in the past agreed to share nuclear technology with India, but only after fierce lobbying by rich and prominent Indian Americans.
When it comes to the transfer of technologies and co-production, the West seems reluctant. The outlook of ‘defence corporations and defence industries need to survive, and hence there is a need to sustain wars around the world’ will bring no peace.
1. The West needs to increase its defence cooperation with India, and supply advanced arms and ammunition, in the face of vivid aggression.
2. The attitude of ‘Either you are with the US or against us’ should change. India has its own diplomatic strategic autonomy; India maintains that multilateralism is the way forward. India has bilateral as well as trilateral arrangements for defence and economic cooperation.
3. Europe and the US, Canada, Japan, and Australia must provide India with the transfer of technology and train Indian engineers to modernize Indian military capability at a cost comparable to Russia to reduce our military dependence on Russia.
4. Agreed that Pakistan is too nuclear to be avoided and that Pakistan should not be made reliant upon China for weapons, hence, the bitter pill of maintenance package and technical assistance was digested by India. However, it would be in the best interests of the G7 countries to supply the best of the weaponry systems and military hardware to India instead of Pakistan, because Pakistan cannot be trusted when it comes to arming terrorist groups like JeM or TTP, or even supporting ISIS-K, a global threat.
5. The US and the West should increase cooperation to help reduce India’s dependence upon Chinese imports. India has got young, competent and large manpower. This offers great potential for foreign investments and manufacturing in India. Politically, India would offer a more reliable alternative manufacturing hub than China for the West in the long run.
6. The US and the West must take a stand in support of India as regards India’s concerns with China and Pakistan.
7. India is a trusted partner – its growth reflects a positive growth without posing any economic threat, its rise reflects the continuity of culture and civilization, and in its security lies the security and stability of the South Asian region, the Indo-Pacific and beyond.
–BY YOGITA KADU