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.
The last year of the 20th century has been one of immense significance in South Asia.Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s courageous diplomatic trip to Lahore in February 1999 to mend fences with Pakistan had injected a note of hope for the improvement of 52 years of troubled Indo-Pak relations and the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) standoff. However, 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 imposition of military rule in 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 fallout 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 pre-conditions 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 recognized 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 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 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 bailout. However, under pressure from the Islamist hardliners and to shed the tag of a Western stooge, Pervez Musharraf is likely to continue to resist ail attempts to coerce Pakistan into signing the CIBT.
Internally, Pakistan is in a state of turmoil. Sectarian violence continues to rock Sind and Karachi, 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 modernization 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 Ghauri is being given top priority. Pakistan’s defence cooperation with China and North Korea, in particular, is a cause of concern for India due to the proclivity of these countries to Supply missiles 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 the developments.
Pakistan’s sponsorship of Islamist terrorism is now being recognised and it is gaining notoriety as the mother nation of international terrorism. Along with Harkat-ul-Ansar, a banned organization, Lashkar-e-Toiba, the armed militant wing of Dawat-al-Irshad, has also been put on the watch list of banned terrorist organizations by the US. From Bosnia and Kosovo in Europe to Sudan, sub-Saharan Africa, Libya and Algeria in Africa, through the Middle East, Iraq, Iran, the Central Asia 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 states-ponsored terrorism, India needs to step up its exposure of Pakistan’s involvement as a terrorist “state. [he threat to the West from Islamist narcoterrorism needs to be highlighted in all mutual exchanges with Western countries and organizations such as 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 Souther Asian region. 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 De 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 did, remains to be seen.
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 the requirement 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 counterinsurgency operations in J & K if the Taliban hordes manage to infiltrate. Clearly, India needs to adopt a pro-active 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 I 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.