In my last article, “India’s narrative; embarrassment into strategic opportunity”, it was underscored that the Indian government led by Modi was attempting to cover up the embarrassment suffered at the hands of the Chinese in Ladakh and earlier, from Pakistan after their military aircraft got shot down inside Pakistan and the captured pilot was released magnanimously by the Government of Pakistan. Although the Indian diasporas seem to be gradually succeeding in milking all possible cows; yet, at home, Indian politicians and opinion makers remain divided on openly aligning with America as a new strategic ally in the Asia-Pacific region. Nevertheless, bear-hugging Mr Modi is missing the point that Western cows are too expensive to milk as they flourish on fodder branded by the military industrial complexes that will soon show their harsh impact on the already dwindling Indian economy under Modi’s rule and ramifications for Indian foreign policy.
Of late, the Trump administration is looking to increase arms sales to India after the country’s deadly border clashes with China, opening a new facade of tensions between Washington and Beijing. Trump officially amended rules that restrict the sale of military-grade drones to foreign partners like India. The prospective US arms sale to India include longer-term weapons systems with higher levels of technology and sophistication, such as armed [category-1] Predators (MQ-1 Predator drones that can carry more than 1,000 pounds of bombs and missiles), transport and combat helicopters, as well as artillery that could be relevant in another high-altitude skirmish with Chinese forces. For the US Administration, enhanced ties with India, including a closer defence connection, are vital to countering China’s emerging superpower role. The United States often had high hopes for its defence ties with India, only to see them dashed by India’s mask of nonalignment and due to corrupt political elite and cumbersome bureaucratic hurdles. American military sales to India have also been snagged over the years by internal spats within the Indian military, and a desire for generous technology transfer agreements that would allow Indian companies to boost their manufacturing capabilities for high-tech systems. The George W Bush administration lifted sanctions on India’s nuclear programme, which paved the way for more defence cooperation. But India is still carefully balancing its defence procurements with other countries, including Russia and France, which has sold India the bulk of its new fighter jets, including Sukhoi Su-30MKIs and nearly 40 new Rafael jets.
On the other hand, the American outreach to India and expectations are not likely to be an easy sail. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated in a virtual address to the US-India Business Council on July 22, 2020, “It’s important that democracies like ours work together, especially as we see more clearly than ever…the true scope of the challenge posed by the Chinese Communist Party. The recent clashes initiated by the [Chinese military] are just the latest examples of the CCP’s unacceptable behaviour.” However, for many senior Indian bureaucrats and politicians, wearing a nonalignment mask provides better flexibility and strategic advantages, rather than falling in the exclusive American camp against China. Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said last month, “The US really has to learn to work in a sense with a more multi-polar world, with more plurilateral arrangements, go beyond alliances with which it has grown up over the last two generations”. “China may have its own issues and problems with the US. But to view us through an American lens would be a serious misreading of India. And clearly do the relationship great disservice.” he said in a separate interview with the Times of India on August 2, 2020. The president of the US-India Business Council and a former senior US diplomat during the Obama administration, Nisha Biswal stated recently, “India works very hard to balance and calibrate its relationships with different sets of partners. India has moved by leaps and bounds in closer alignment with the United States, but I also think India is fiercely independent and wants to maintain its strategic autonomy.” Therefore, it is improbable that India will discard its self-serving policy of nonalignment and embrace a comprehensive exclusive alliance with the United States. Nonetheless, American Administration views India as a big buyer for Arms and equipment to boost the US military industry; in addition to enhancing Indian military muscles to confront China and her allies in the region.
Above notwithstanding, it is noteworthy that India has also begun to make structural shifts in its foreign policy especially with a view to be more assertive in the Indo-Pacific region. India is in the process of signing new agreements with the Quad nations that allow replenishment at sea and secure communications, and it also regularly conducts sophisticated naval exercises with the United States, Japan, Australia, Russia, and France. Therefore, on the external front, Mr Modi has failed to keep the nonalignment status intact; while on the internal front, his Nazi-Hindutva RSS/BJP policies have resulted in the demise of the fundamental political and constitutional principle of ‘unity in diversity’. Consequently, fissiparous tendencies and freedom movements in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab/Khalistan, Junagarh-Hyderabad and North Eastern Seven Sister States are going to get further stimulated. The RSS’ genocide of Muslims and all other minorities including Christians, Sikhs and even low caste Hindus all over India and above all, extreme brutalities unleashed on the Kashmiri Muslims who are under a total siege and oppression since August 5, 2019 is shaking the foundations of India. China, being a member of the UN Security Council and with stakes in Kashmir, due to the dispute on the Line of Actual Contact in Ladakh (being part of IIOJK) is expected to add its weight to the implementation of five UN Security Council’s resolutions on disputed Jammu and Kashmir. Till that happens, Pakistan and China need to undertake all possible steps to stop Indian atrocities and the change of demography in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and the unabated targeting of civilians living along the Line of Control on the Pakistani side. Pakistan needs to further reinforce efforts on all tracks that lead to success of the freedom struggle and the settlement of the Kashmir issue and other disputes with India. India’s ambitious military muscle building in the garb of confronting China is in fact badly disturbing the regional strategic stability that threatens Pakistan and other SAARC countries more than China. Pakistan calling for an OIC Conference on Kashmir or else holding a Muslim Countries’ Summit in Pakistan to help the Kashmir cause is considered a long overdue initiative. We need constant reminders that weakness invites aggression and fortune favours the brave.