India has adopted a policy of "zero tolerance" for terrorism and has clearly stated that there can be no meaningful discussions with Pakistan till that country completely stops the sponsorship of terrorism in India. China's unjustifiable opposition to India's nuclear weapons programme, its continuing nuclear and missile collusion and defence cooperation with Pakistan, its support to the military regime in Myanmar and increasing activities in the Bay of Bengal, its attempts to isolate India in the ASEAN Regional Forum and its relentless efforts to increase its influence in Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, are all pointers to a carefully orchestrated plan aimed at the strategic encirclement of India Clearly, China poses a long-term strategic challenge to India as a competing regional power in Asia.
The last year of the 20th century has been one of immense significance “4 Southern Asia. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s courageous diplomatic trip to Lahore in February 1999, to mend fence with Pakistan had injected a note of hope for the improvement of 52 years of troubles Indo-Pak relations and the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) stand-off. However, the Pakistan Army’s strategic blunder in launching unsustainable intrusions into the Kargil district of J&K in April-May 1999, its subsequent military defeat at the hands of the Indian armed forces and ignominious withdrawal, set the clock back again. In fact, the Kargil misadventure led to strained relations between Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the military establishment and, ultimately, in a dramatic sequence, resulted in the return of military rule to Pakistan with General Pervez Musharraf’s coup d’etat on October 12, 1999. It also enabled vested interests among the Western nations to once again raise the bogey of J&K as a nuclear flashpoint.
Another major fall-out of the Pakistan Army’s defeat in Kargil has been that Pakistan’s sponsorship of Islamist terrorism in J&K has been stepped up with a vengeance since July-August 1999. Ominously, while offering to discuss Indo-Pak relations with India without any preconditions in his first policy statement on national television, Pakistan’s new “Chief Executive” (a euphemism for Chief Martial Law Administrator) simultaneously reiterated that Pakistan’s political, diplomatic and moral support ‘to Kashmiri “freedom fighters” would continue. It is, of course, by now well recognised the world over that, covertly, Pakistan also provides military training, arms, ammunition and equipment, and financial support to the so-called Mujahideen who are no longer Kashmiris but mercenary marauders from foreign countries being recruited as the foot soldiers of Islam. India has adopted a policy of “zero tolerance” for terrorism and has clearly stated that there can be no meaningful discussions with Pakistan till that country completely stops the sponsorship of terrorism in India.
Economically unstable and in political turmoil, Pakistan nevertheless continues to maintain an aggressive military posture. Economic sanctions led by the United States (US) have left Pakistan on the verge of defaulting on its debt payments. International pressure is gradually mounting on Pakistan to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as a prelude to an economic bail-out. However, under pressure from the Islamist hardliners and to avoid the tag of a Western stooge, Pervez Musharraf is likely to continue to resist all attempts to coerce Pakistan into signing the CIBT. Internally, Pakistan is in a state of turmoil. Sectarian violence continues to rock Sind and Karachi; the aspirations of the people of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) for an ethnic state of Pakhtoonkhwa are surfacing with greater frequency; the people of Baluchistan have expressed deep reservations over the divisive issue of the Almaty Dam; and, despite the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, Pakistan continues to rule with a heavy hand over Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), where the people enjoy neither fundamental nor human rights.
Pakistan’s military modernisation is continuing at a brisk pace despite economic hardships. Its defence budget is growing annually between six to eight per cent in rupee terms. With the generals back in power, enhanced defence allocations may be expected. Joint production of the Al Khalid main battle tank with China, has been announced. The development of surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, such as the Ghauri, Is being given top priority. Pakistan’s defence cooperation with China and North Korea, in particular, is a cause for concern for India due to the proclivity of these countries to supply missile and missile technology to Pakistan in complete disregard of the provisions of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The seeds of a new missile race in Southern Asia are being sowed even as major Western democracies turn a Nelson’s eye to developments there.
Pakistan’s sponsorship of Islamic terrorism is now being recognised and Pakistan is gaining notoriety as the mother nation of international! terrorism. Along with the Harkat-ul-Ansar, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the armed militant wing of Dawat-al-Irshad, is also being watched as a terrorist organisation by the US. From Bosnia and Kosovo in Europe, to Sudan, sub-Saharan Africa, Libya and Algeria in Africa, through the Middle Fast, Iraq, Iran, the Central Asian Republics (CARs), Sinkiang and Afghanistan to Kashmir on the Indian subcontinent, the strident march of virulent Islamist fundamentalism has shaken the world. As the country most affected by state-sponsored terrorism, India needs to step up its exposure of Pakistan’s involvement as a terrorist state. The threat to the West from Islamist narco-terrorism needs to be highlighted in all mutual exchanges with Western countries and organisations such as North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). A concerted diplomatic effort must be made to build an international consensus to foil Pakistan’s designs to continue its proxy war against India.
The continuing civil strife in Afghanistan poses a serious threat to peace and stability in the Southern Asian region. While the Taliban militia has consolidated its hold over large parts of Afghan territory, Ahmed Shah Masood is still holding out in the Panjshir Valley. Abdul Rashid Dostum’s Northern Alliance, propped up by tacit support from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, the CAR states bordering Afghanistan, and by the physical presence of approximately 20,000 Russian troops north of Afghanistan’s border, can still influence the final military outcome in Afghanistan. [ran has not withdrawn all the troops that it massed along its eastern border with Afghanistan and the likelihood of the present impasse breaking out into an armed conflict cannot be entirely ruled out. There is a possibility that the US may once again launch cruise missile attacks on Osama bin Laden’s terrorist hideouts inside Afghanistan, on the expiry of the United Nations Security Council deadline to hand over bin Laden by November 15, 1999. This will further aggravate the already vitiated regional security environment.
The most urgent international issue in Afghanistan is Pakistan’s continued, visibly overt military support to the Taliban militia and the unprecedented covert support that Pakistan is providing to prop up and perpetuate a fundamentalist and fanatical Islamist regime. If the Taliban experiment is allowed to succeed, the virulence of Islamist fundamentalism will soon reverberate all over the Southern Asian region, including the CARs. Pakistan is obviously following an ostrich-like approach and is disregarding the fact that the first country to be seriously affected by the triumph of the Taliban variety of Islamist resurgence will be Pakistan itself. Pakistan has obviously forgotten the famous Taliban slogan: “Taliban, Taliban, Kabul ke baad Pakistan” (after Kabul, Pakistan).
Whether Pakistan’s new military regime will show a greater understanding of these fundamental security issues than the Nawaz Sharif Administration, remains to be seen.
The Taliban’s consolidation of gains in Afghanistan will have major consequences for India. As per Pakistan’s J&K game plan, up to 1,500 to 2,000 Taliban mercenaries are likely to be pushed into J&K to give a nudge to the so-called jehad. The ratio of security forces to militants to achieve a semblance of control is approximately 20:1. Hence, another 30,000 to 40,000 troops will be required for counter-insurgency operations In J&K if the Taliban hordes manage to infiltrate. Clearly, India needs to adopt a proactive strategy to ensure that the Taliban does not continue to rule Afghanistan and that the Taliban militia is disbanded under international supervision. The campaign for a strong and stable Afghanistan under a truly representative government has to be fought on all fronts—political, diplomatic, moral and, if necessary, military.
Along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, while there has been a gradual reduction in the enhanced levels of post-Pokhran II People’s Liberation Army (PLA) border troops’ intrusions and patrolling activities, there has been virtually no progress on the resolution of the major boundary and territorial disputes between India and China. Though the Border Peace and Tranquillity Agreement (BPTA) of 1993 remains in place, the confidence-building measures (CBMs) agreed upon in 1996 are yet to be translated into practically viable ground level measures, even though the stalled Joint Working Group meetings have since been resumed. [The LAC continues to remain ill defined and ambiguous and its early “clarification” still appears to be a distant goal. The only conclusion that can reasonably be drawn is that China is apparently in no hurry for further progress on these substantive issues.
China’s unjustifiable opposition to India’s nuclear weapons programme, its continuing nuclear and missile collusion and defence cooperation with Pakistan, its support to the military regime in Myanmar and increasing activities in the Bay of Bengal, its attempts to isolate India in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and its relentless efforts to increase its influence in Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, are all pointers to a carefully orchestrated plan aimed at the strategic encirclement of India Clearly, China poses a long-term strategic challenge to India as a competing regional power in Asia. India needs to take this reality into account and distinguish between what China professes and what it actually does.
Finally, the Kargil conflict highlighted the chinks in India’s armour in dealing with the devious machinations of a capricious neighbour. The most important strategic lesson for India from the Kargil imbroglio is that a country cannot afford to be complacent and let down its guard on matters as important as national security. The progressive decline in the defence budget from 3.5 per cent to 2.3 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) since the process of economic liberalisation began about eignt years ago, even as the threats from across the borders increased manifold, has drastically affected the armed forces’ ability to modernise and to prepare for the type of war they were called upon to fight in Kargil. It needs to be appreciated that the inescapable requirements of national security cannot be compromised. In international politics, the policy of mutual friendship and cooperation with one’s neighbours has to be balanced with vigilance. A neighbour’s capacity to damage India’s security interests should never be under-estimated, leave alone disregarded.