The article discuss about the dynamic military relations in the South Asian region and the need for India to try and build a stable balance of power system in the region.
- Political anxieties about India’s growing defence ties with Washington persist despite the NDA government’s repeated clarifications that the recent logistics support agreement is not about building a military alliance with the US.
- While the public debate on this issue is centred on high principles, Delhi’s policymakers are under compulsion to adapt to the rapidly evolving power shift in and around India’s neighbourhood.
- As a result, Indian foreign policy’s military dimension is likely to loom larger than ever before.
- Consider the following developments in the last few days:
- During his visit to Vietnam last week, Prime Minister and his interlocutors agreed to elevate their long standing military collaboration to a “comprehensive strategic partnership”.
- In an intensification of India’s military commitment to Vietnam, the PM announced Delhi’s decision to extend a $500-million credit line to Hanoi for the purchase of Indian defence equipment. This is in addition to the $100-million defence credit offered some years ago.
- Another was the Afghan Taliban’s strong public criticism of India’s reported plans to step up military assistance to Kabul.
- In a statement on Sunday, Zabiullah Mujahid, the main spokesman for the Taliban, demanded that India stop “prolonging the lifespan” of the Kabul regime with its military aid.
- Meanwhile, in a report published in Pakistan recently said that Islamabad is negotiating a new long-term defence pact with China. The news leak in Islamabad has come days after the signing of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) between India and the US.
- While Pakistan’s concern about deepening military cooperation between India and the US is understandable, the Congress party’s reaction to the LEMOA captures the continuing confusion in India.
- In a statement, the Congress declared that the signing of the LEMOA is a “fundamental departure from India’s time-tested policy of “strategic military neutrality”.
- The surprising phrase, “strategic military neutrality”, however, sits uneasily with the proposition that it is “time-tested”. But this term is not synonym to the more popular terms “strategic autonomy” and “non-alignment”.
- In defining non-alignment as the basic principle of India’s foreign policy, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was not seeking to turn India into a giant Switzerland, the exemplar of “neutrality” in the Westphalian world.
- For Nehru, non-alignment was about retaining the independence of judgment and freedom of political action. Non-alignment was not about equidistance between major powers but of taking positions based on India’s interest and building military partnerships when necessary.
- The critics added that the LEMOA will “cause serious misgivings, unless explained and justified, among India’s traditional partners and time-tested allies, regionally and globally”.
- One wonders how “time-tested strategic military neutrality” squares with the idea of “time-tested allies”?
- Like the LEMOA now, the Indo-Soviet Treaty of 1971 was criticised by many as a departure from the principles of “non-alignment”. But what India did with Russia was a classic balancing act against the Sino-American entente and their special relations with Pakistan.
- India could not but view China’s nuclear and missile cooperation with Pakistan as an “alliance”. China was not going to be impressed by Delhi’s claims that its relationship with Moscow was not an alliance.
- Whatever the myth of “strategic military neutrality” might be, Delhi today cannot be neutral between China and Vietnam or between the Taliban and Kabul.
- As China’s military power radiates into the subcontinent with ever greater vigour, Delhi has begun to react. Relying on old myths is not going to help India avoid a potential conflict with China.
- Delhi must instead try and build a stable balance of the power system in the region. That would demand greater military engagement with all the major powers, and not “military neutrality” between them.
As China’s military power radiates into the subcontinent with ever greater vigour, Delhi must instead try and build a stable balance of the power system in the region. That would demand greater military engagement with all the major powers, and not “military neutrality” between them. Discuss.
- Need and way to build stable balance of power system.
- How to increase engagement with major powers.
- Role of U.S. and Russia in the region and India’s relations with them.
- Need cooperation of other countries of the region.