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India “Dancing with the Wolves” of China-Pakistan Axis

Paper No. 6074                                    Dated 11-Feb-2016

By Dr Subhash Kapila

United States pressures on successive Indian Prime Ministers of different political dispensations in the last few decades to accommodate American China-centric and Pakistan-centric strategic sensitivities have led to Indian foreign policy distortions amounting to “Dancing with the Wolves” as China and Pakistan for decades have indulged in predatory moves against India’s very national security.

Coinciding with the emergence of BJP Government II with the redoubtable Prime Minister Narendra Modi in command, it was hoped that India’s foreign policy approaches towards China and Pakistan would be radically transformed in acquiring firmness and will to use power to defend India’s national security interests. Regrettably, the course of events in Modi Government’s foreign policy in relation to China and Pakistan seems a replication of the ten years of Congress Government’s policy of unabashed appeasement of China and Pakistan under American pressures.

India with its professed and much-vaunted ‘strategic autonomy’ and as an emerging global power cannot be perceived as outsourcing its external policy formulations to foreign capitals and the least being in relation to Indian foreign policies towards China and Pakistan. In 2016, a strategic reality check would unambiguously illustrate that neither China nor Pakistan have ceased their predatory forays against the Indian Republic. Both China and Pakistan continue to reinforce the Indian threat perceptions of  them being India’s ‘Prime Military Threats’, endangering India’s national security, singly and now jointly.

The ascension of Prime Minister Modi to power in New Delhi with his formidable reputation as a strong and decisive Indian Prime Minister who would take any of India’s military adversaries by the horns seems to have imposed no deterrence either on China or Pakistan to desist from their adversarial and conflictual –heavy approaches to needle India. China continued with its increased military stand-offs on India’s Northern Borders and Pakistan commenced launching terrorist strikes against Indian security forces in Gurdaspur and the Pathankot Air Force Base within a week or so of Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Lahore.

Notably, the China-Pakistan Axis has acquired firmer strategic and military contours coincidently with Prime Minister Modi assuming the leadership of India. In 2016 , the China-Pakistan Axis is a potent military threat as discussed in Chapter 8 of my recent Book   (China-India Military Confrontation: 21st Century Perspectives ) under the head  “Pakistan: China’s Force Multiplier in the China-India Military Confrontation”.

With such a contextual setting it beats all strategic logic and political reasoning as to what impelled and who in the policy establishment advised Prime Minister Modi to make an unscheduled visit to Lahore to meet Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on December 25 2015 and also who cleared the China-India Joint Military Exercise recently, of all the places on India’s Ladakh Border where China is in adverse possession of over 38,000 square kilometres of Indian Territory.

In international relations where perceptions count overwhelmingly and even the minutest and most insignificant policy initiative or deviation is minutely scrutinised, the word has gone around that contrary to earlier expectations, India continues to be strategically timid and stuck in the rut of China and Pakistan appeasement, despite the emergence of Prime Minister Modi at the helm.

What has been done cannot be undone but lessons must be learnt for the future in terms of India’s policy formulations on China and Pakistan. A realistic strategic check in this direction would throw up the following major deductions for India’s policy makers:

  • China and Pakistan continue to be implacable military adversaries of India more potently in 2016. There are no indications to the contrary to suggest otherwise.
  • The China-Pakistan Axis has emerged and solidified last year with the commitment on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor under fast track implementation. Not only does it pass through Indian territories under Pakistan’s adverse control, this strategic corridor poses grave complications for India as India’s entire Western Flank stands enveloped by China through Pakistan’s connivance.
  • The Chinese President was dismissive of India’s concerns on this issue when the Indian Prime Minister broached India’s objections on this subject. So much for China’s respect for India’s sensitivities.
  • Pakistan Army has established an entire military division for the security of this corridor, highlighting its significance in Pakistan Army’s calculus against India.
  • Contrary to India misperceptions, foreign policies of both China and Pakistan especially in relation to India are controlled by the Chinese PLA and Pakistan Army military hierarchies. Both count India as an enemy state.

For India to believe that diplomacy and confidence building measures could soften the Chinese PLA and Pakistan Army’s DNA would be a preposterous proposition and flying in the face of strategic logic and political realism. The major problem for India is that both China and Pakistan have cultivated and nurtured a large tribe of China-Lobbies and Pakistan Lobbies in New Delhi who may be well-meaning otherwise but fail to see through Chinese and Pakistan machinations against India. Such Lobbies do not decipher the politico-strategic dynamics of the China-Pakistan Axis and persist in applying Indian templates of liberalism on Chinese and Pakistani political apparatuses heavily determined and dominated by their respective military hierarchies. They tend to skew Indian policy formulations on China and Pakistan with their unsolicited advisories.

Before concluding, it needs to be recorded that Indian Prime Ministers should not bow to American pressures to modulate Indian policies on China and Pakistan  to suit American strategic agendas, The United States needs to be countered as to how much strategic sensitivities has America accorded to India’s legitimate security interests on Afghanistan. United States has completely side-lined India on Afghanistan in favour of The China-Pakistan Axis.

In conclusion, one would like to suggest that while jingoistic impulses towards China and Pakistan are not advocated, it would be in fitness of India’s emerging comprehensive power status and in keeping with the dignity of Indian Prime Ministers NOT to “Dance with the Wolves” of the China-Pakistan Axis. Maintain minimum diplomatic niceties with both China and Pakistan, exercise vigilance on the borders and more significantly build Indian Armed Forces war-preparedness to meet the Threats likely to emerge from the China-Pakistan Axis, including proxy threats. These should be the cardinal principles of Indian policy approaches to counter the China-Pakistan Axis.