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India's Imperatives to Assert Regional Power
|by Dr. Subhash Kapila|
India is on an ascendant trajectory towards global power status and its foreign policies seem to be geared towards that aim. However, while pursuing this aim India seems to have lost track of an important imperative that would reinforce the aspirations that seem to lie in the heart of every Indian. The important imperative that must receive over-riding precedence is that India has yet to assert its regional power in South Asia. Countries in South Asia which are a fractional in size and power attributes as compared to India have been ignoring India's strategic sensitivities and acting in a manner detrimental to India's security interests. The main reasons seem to be that they tend to be encouraged by the Pakistani example and further that India has been timid and soft in dealing with the purveyors of proxy war and terrorism against India.
India's strategy to assert its regional power in South Asia must begin with a wholesale reorientation and restructuring of its foreign policy approaches and formulations towards Pakistan. For far too long has India displayed an unending tolerance of Pakistan's proxy war in India and also Pakistan's use of third countries to launch its destabilization attempt against India. A country the size of India and military predominance should have in the past struck hard against Pakistan's military rulers for their military adventurism against India. But India all along despite the loss of thousands of innocent civilian lives displayed a timidity beyond belief.
Pakistan therefore all along was emboldened by the timid attitudes of the Indian political leadership and merrily went along with its proxy war and low intensity warfare strategies against India knowing fully well that India would not react with punitive actions or reciprocal proxy war against Pakistan which has enough number of insurgencies and disaffection within its territories.
Pakistan today is facing an explosive political situation with Pakistanis up in arms against the military regime of General Musharraf. Pakistan whenever it has been faced with explosive domestic unrest has in the past initiated aggressive activities against India to divert domestic attention. This has been particularly true of Pakistan's military rulers. It is therefore once again likely that this strategy may once again be repeated against India.
India as a rising power can no longer afford to be seen as a fumbling giant unsure of its power and reluctant to put the military regime in Pakistan in its place. India must draw the red lines for General Musharraf in that it would no longer tolerate military pin pricks from Pakistan and that it would strike hard against any provocative activities arising from there.
India as a regional power in South Asia also has a vested strategic stake in Pakistan's political stability and therefore the restoration of democracy in Pakistan is a strategic imperative for India. India's foreign policy should start reflecting this vital requirement in declaratory terms. India as a regional power cannot be seen to be getting away with escapist statements that the unrest in Pakistan is an internal affair of Pakistan and that India would deal with any Government that is in power in Islamabad.
If that be the yardstick that India wishes to follow, would it tomorrow deal with an Islamic Jehadi Government if it comes to power in Islamabad?
In the same vein it is in India's strategic interests to rein in the Nepali Maoists whose backdoor entry into Nepal's political mainstream was facilitated by India. They are once again becoming a menace for the peace and stability of Nepal and seem bent on aborting the Constituent Assembly elections because they are unsure of winning political power through the ballot box and seem to be reverting to the bullets strategy.
In Sri Lanka too the Indian Government should assist the Government there in quelling the LTTE insurgency however distasteful it may be for India's domestic political reasons
Power does not come cheap and power is not only to be created for existential reasons. Power must be used as an instrument of foreign policy and used with a WILL by India's political leadership both to secure India's national interests in the region and also to act as a deterrent for those tempting to dare India
Then only can India win the respect and recognition of being a regional power in South Asia.
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