South Asia: Stability & instability dilemma
Dr Raja Muhammad Khan
In the post World War-II history, the nuclear flashpoint, South Asia has been “most trouble prone in the world”. Whereas, the South Asian giant, India has its geographical contiguity with all regional states, it does have issues and unresolved problems with almost all of them. In this short history, India has tried to downplay its neighbours. With Pakistan it has serious dispute over Kashmir, water, Siachen and Sir Creek. It has border and water dispute with Bangladesh. India has supported insurgencies in Nepal, Sri Lanka, and former East Pakistan. It is keeping Bhutan and Maldives under a strict control and manages their domestic politics.
Since 2001, it has gripped over Afghanistan, a new addition in the family of South Asian and using its soil for further ingress into Central Asia for economic gains and against Pakistan to promote and fuel terrorism.
Outside the region, it has supported the Tibetans dissidents against China and has serious border issues with this rising global power. For years, it remained engaged in the destabilization of Myanmar (Burma).
While the other regional countries has almost accepted Indian hegemony, Pakistan is the only country which refused to surrender and decided to be a peer compotator of this South Asian monster.
The problems arose during the struggle for independence of India from British Empire have continued thereafter. In the postcolonial epoch, the South Asian politics has been mostly revolving around the Indo-Pakistan relationship. There has been uneasy relationship between these two major players of the region throughout the cold war, where India despite having an apparent character of non-alliance, remained part of Communist camp under former Soviet Union, whereas, Pakistan became part Capitalist block, under United States for its security reasons.
Both countries went to war for four times, and never enjoyed cordial relationship throughout their independent history. The dark part of the story is neither of them learnt a lesson that, bilateral tensions, conspiracies against each other, accusations, wars, and attempts of over powering each other never bore the fruits for either party nor could bring stability in the region. Rather, the peer competitors while overlooking the economies and poverty of their people opted to go nuclear, besides stockpiling huge amount of conventional arms at the cost of socio-political development.
As a result, after sixty-five years of independence, the region is more fragile and unstable, than it was in early years of independence. The regional conflicts and bilateral mistrust, are “undermining South Asia’s efforts towards socio-economic development and poverty alleviation by hampering governance and vitiating the investment climate.”
The level of mistrust and fragility has reached to a level where on sporadic incidents of minor nature, committed by none-state actors, the nuclear-armed neighbours are being propelled to opt for an all out war or a limited armed conflict. This has happened thrice in the recent history, in the first twelve years of 21st century. First, after an attack on Indian Parliament in December 2001, Indian fully mobilized its forces for an all out war against Pakistan. After Mumbai attacks of November 2008, India took some provocative acts, which could have led to war, had Pakistan not being patient. More recently over the killings of four soldiers (two from each side) on LoC in January 2013, Indian civil and military leadership issued provocative statements, Indian media, and strategists created war hysteria.
Whereas, none-state actors initiated the initial two incidents, the last one was an offensive act of Indian regular army of attacking an isolated Pakistani post in Hajipir sector, along LoC.
On the charges of abetting the militants, who attacked Indian Parliament in 2001, where all assailants were killed without hurting anyone or the Indian Parliament, Indian Government executed Mr Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri from Indian Occupied Kashmir in February 2013. The execution was kept so secret that neither his family was allowed to meet him nor there was any prior intimation to his family about the execution. As this was not enough, the body of Afzal Guru was not handed over to his family, and buried in the premises of Tihar Jail, where he was mysteriously hanged.
These acts of Indian Government; the world’s biggest democracy and a so-called secular state are a grave human rights violation, condemned by international community and even the acumen of India. His execution is considered as the political murder. After the political execution of Guru, there remained curfew imposed by Indian Government in the Occupied State of Kashmir for weeks.
The Kashmir people were seriously hurt and enraged over this inhuman act of Indian Government. They staged demonstrations in various parts of the state. In order to avenge the death of Guru, some freedom fighters resorted to attack a heavily guarded camp of Central Reserve Police Force in Sri Nagar on 13 March 2013. The attacked resulted into killing of five Indian soldiers and two attackers. Following the attack, Indian Home Secretary RK Singh has accused Pakistan as behind the incident. Mr Singh said that, “prime facie evidence suggests that the militants who attacked the members of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were from across the border, they were probably from Pakistan”.
Pakistani Foreign Office rejected the allegation made in haste. Pakistan also rejected a statement made by Defence Minister AK Antony in the Rajya Sabha accusing the Special Services Group of Pakistan Army of beheading two Indian soldiers on the Line of Control on January 08, 2013. As per the statement of Foreign Office of Pakistan, “We feel that this trend of making irresponsible statements and knee-jerk reactions by senior Indian government functionaries have the potential of undermining the efforts made by both sides to normalise relations between the two countries.”
How India could imagined that the political murder of Afzal Guru would go unnoticed in Occupied Kashmir. Indeed, this attack may be a beginning; there are all the chances of retaliatory attacks against this Indian act and its occupation forces in India occupied Kashmir in the days to come.
India knew this all and sensing a backlash; it kept the decision of his execution in pending for years. The political reasons after all compelled the ruling UPA Government to criminally execute the Guru, before it could be ditched by its political rival BJP in the forthcoming elections. After having known all these facts, there was no fun of accusing Pakistan for its political blunders and juvenile acts by India.
After this incident, through another impulsive decision, India has stopped operationalizing the group visa facility, agreed between both countries after so many years through hectic negotiations. According to Indian officials, “We are not going to operationalize the group visa facility to be offered to Pakistani nationals from Friday (March 15, 2013.” It appeared that India was looking for an excuse to act upon this visa agreement and as the Indo-Pak history of bilateralism indicates, sometime excuses are deliberately planned and executed. Indeed, India is aspiring for a greater power status, at the global level. It is looking forward for a permanent seat of the UN Security Council.
At the global level, it has the backing of US; EU and Russia, who really matters in the international politics. Deliberately and all together these power centres ignore what India does with its neighbours in South Asia. After all India is a great market for their goods, and their strategic ally in containing China.
India needs to resolve its all-outstanding issues with its neighbours, if it is interested to embark upon a mission of global politics. There is a long list of unresolved regional issues, India needs to pay attention.
While looking for a way forward and better future of South Asians, let us be realistic and practical in our approaches to handle and resolve the cause of disagreement.
Since neither side, gained anything from a series of wars, clashes, accusations and unrelenting tense environment of the region; therefore, India and Pakistan must resolve the core issue (Kashmir), to end the source of conflict.
Sixty-five years of Indo-Pak history is the testimony of the fact that, this disputed state is the real source of all problems in the region, thus need to be resolved immediately.
The key to end the tension and distrust in South Asia lies with India.
There may be wisdom among the Indian leadership to indentify the cause, but so far, there has been lacking of political will and determination.