India's Security Environment: Turbulent and Uncertain
As the year 2006 is nearing an end India's security environment is marked by turbulence and uncertainty on all its peripheries. It seems to be an uncommon coincidence that at the same time South Asian countries on all the flanks of India seem to be politically disturbed, politically restless and with internal conflicts dominating their domestic scenes.
The political turbulence and internal conflict that is rearing its head in these countries predominantly arises from the political dynamics that prevail in each of these countries. It also arises from a combination of external influences that intrude into their political affairs ranging from religious, ideological and ethnic reasons.
Notwithstanding the above, the point that needs to be made strongly is that India cannot be averse to such an adverse security environment on her peripheries. It also needs to be pointed out that India too is responsible for this worsening security environment. This arises from either directly from some Indian policies or even more importantly from the lack of Indian policies towards developments in her neighborhood. Such Indian policies are either determined again by a strange combination of external factors , minority vote-bank considerations, and pressures of political partners of the ruling Congress Government coalition . Having said that let us now survey the South Asian scene in light of the preceding observations.
Pakistan on India's Western flank has been in perpetual conflict with India ever since 1947. It has displayed a marked propensity to generate armed conflicts with India and Afghanistan. It has been involved in proxy war and terrorism against both its neighbors. What have been India's responses to Pakistan's provocations? India has all along adopted soft responses and a reluctance to meet head-on the military provocations from Pakistan. In every war with Pakistan when Indian Armed Forces were on the of total victory over Pakistan, India's political leadership of the day caved in to pressures from the United States to desist from the ultimate objective.
The scene with regard to Pakistan at the close of 2006 is the same. With clear evidence of Pakistan's involvement in Mumbai's 7/11 bomb blasts in July this year and involvement of Pakistan-affiliated Indian organizations like the SIMI in the Malegaon bomb blasts thereafter, the Indian Prime Minister still wants to visit Pakistan in search of an elusive peace. Pakistan's wayward provocations towards India required direct responses of carrying proxy war back into Pakistan as a terrorism deterrence measure. India's lack of policies has been exhibited by the present Government's scrapping of the Anti-Terrorism Act POTA and its reluctance to reenact a similar stringent law necessitated by the string of Pakistani connected bomb incidents that have taken place during the tenure of the present Government. This reluctance is generated by considerations of Indian Muslim vote banks.
Moving Northwards one comes to Nepal. I have already written enough in this column earlier highlighting how India has by the lack of foreign policies determined by its national security considerations has gifted away Nepal to the Maoists and China. India has not only lost a buffer state between it and Tibet but also has allowed the extinction of the only Hindu Kingdom in the world in the process. India laid an over-emphasis on democracy in Nepal but remains totally oblivious to democracy in Pakistan-a case of blatant double-standards. The mess that has taken place in Nepal endangering India's security has arisen because the Congress Government let the Communist Party (Marxist) hijack and handle its Nepal policy to the benefit of Nepal's Maoists with whom they are ideologically inclined.
Bangladesh on India's East is in political upheaval in the run-up to its elections due in January 2007. The struggle ongoing in Bangladesh is fundamentally driven by the outgoing Government supported by Islamic fundamentalist parties wishing to retain power by manipulating the Caretaker Administration and the Election Commission. If India had been firm some years back it could have prevented the emergence of Islamic fundamentalist parties coming into political power. India also has been woefully weak in responses to Bangladesh being used as a Eastern springboard by Pakistani intelligence agencies which have been active in destabilizing India's North Eastern States. Here again the impediments were the compulsions of India's Leftist Parties not wishing to endanger their Muslim minority vote banks and the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants on fake voting cards supporting them.
Lastly, moving to the South to Sri Lanka which has cried itself hoarse requesting a Defence Pact with India and seeking Indian intervention to neutralize the Tamil separatist organization, the LTTE. It is in Indian national interests that Sri Lanka exists as a unified country well disposed towards India. Once again, India's domestic policy compulsions in humoring its coalition partner in Tamilnadu State has prevented India from assisting the Sri Lanka Government and thereby creating a strategic vacuum which can be filled by Pakistan and China.
India aspires to be a global power but it cannot become one until it first exhibits the will and capacity to first control its own neighborhood. India's neighborhood must learn to respect India's strategic sensitivities and be mindful of the fact that India as the predominant power in South Asia can enforce its writ. But that status can only be reached provided India displays the will to enforce its writ.
To be a global power, the currency is to use India's hard power concurrently with its Soft Power. Soft Power alone cannot move India towards the global power status that it seeks.
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Dr. Subhash Kapila
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