Of late, the attitude of the Indian government has taken a new turn where cordial relations with Pakistan are a strict no-no. India’s refusal to entertain Pakistani students, disallowing Pakistanis to participate in any regional or international sports events inside India, and ousting and banning of Pakistani artists by succumbing to its far right parties’ pressure, only indicates that India is seeking to dictate its own terms and conditions in South Asia. The issues pertaining to the Indus Water Treaty, contesting the RAW mastermind Yadav’s case in ICJ, and border skirmishes only add to the worsening relations between the two states. India’s refusal to participate in the OBOR Summit held in China and its criticism of China breaching the international law by allowing CPEC to pass through a territory inside Pakistan that it claims to be disputed, also underlines the distorted lens through which it is eyeing the future of South Asia.
The strategic environment in South Asia is changing dramatically with India strumming every possible chord to create havoc inside Pakistan. India’s hegemonic ambitions with regards to its nuclear program are reaching a dangerously high point, creating instability in South Asia. The constant qualitative weapons modernization and vertical proliferation in South Asia, which may or not be as a result of the Chinese nuclear weapons upgrades, severely undermines the already fragile strategic stability in South Asia. Not only is it actively pursuing a credible nuclear triad, but has also dragged Pakistan into developing one.
On the other hand, India’s policy of encircling Pakistan with the help of anti-Pakistan elements present in Afghanistan and Iran, can seriously disturb the strategic environment of the region. With comments emanating from India such as ‘diplomatically isolating’ Pakistan, it shows its vindictiveness against Pakistan. Despite Pakistan combating terrorism on its western border and curbing militants in its Radd-al-fasad mission spanning the whole country, an immense pressure is building up on Pakistan as the Indo-Afghan-Iran trio continues to accuse Pakistan of perpetrating terrorism inside their territories. This is in spite of the fact that Pakistan, only recently, apprehended a RAW mastermind infamously known as Kulbushan Yadav, from Pak-Iran border who was instrumental in inciting the Baloch uprisings. Even previously, Pakistan has presented information regarding RAW’s acitivties in creating instability in Balochistan at the United Nation. Moreover, TTP’s spokesperson Ehsan Ullah Ehsan, upon interrogation, implicated Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) and India’s RAW to be funding and helping the TTP and its affiliates to carry out terrorist attacks in the country.
Whilst Pakistan has taken action against Kulbushan Yadav, it has still tried to avoid any actions against its western neighbors whom it continues to assuage through diplomatic channels. Despite Iran’s possible role in the provision of logistical support to Yadav, Pakistan has strayed from pointing any fingers at it. Nonetheless, Iran recently fired mortar shells into Pakistan’s territory despite the latter’s attempt at appeasing Iran’s concerns about cross-border terrorism. The Indo-Iran Defence agreement of 2003 also requires due consideration vis-à-vis Pakistan’s security implications; the agreement affords permission to use Iran’s naval bases by India, which can create issues for Pakistan if war would break out with India.
It is important to appreciate that the geo-political interplay with the politics of South Asia is changing the political landscape of the region. The US is tilting towards India in the backdrop of Pakistan arching closer to Russia and strengthening ties with China. However still, India continues to enjoy closer military and economic ties with Russia and China respectively. In such a situation, Pakistan is finding itself in an increasingly vulnerable position. The security milieu in South Asia is heavily dependent on economic factors and Pakistan’s current fiscal position does not afford it any respite.
These circumstances, however, have made India more arrogant and negative in its relations with Pakistan. It is unwilling and disinterested in peace building and conflict resolution in South Asia and has of late resorted to strong language, a harsh rhetoric and a continued façade of ‘surgical strikes’ and ‘considering punitive options’. Just recently, US intelligence chiefs have warned that India is pondering over the option of launching aggressive actions in Pakistan on the pretext of ‘cross-border attacks’. More recently, India has intensified its anti-Pakistan rhetoric, which is duly visible in the recent letter sent by the Indian Air chief to 12000 Indian Air Force pilots to be on high alert.
India has also factored in the possibility of drowning the issue of Kashmir through its continued aggressive stance and blaming Pakistan in the international arena. As the Kashmiri youth is rising against an oppressive regime, voicing its legitimate concerns pertaining to freedom of speech and movement, learning about the atrocities committed by the Indian Army in the name of national security, beginning to understand the idea of true freedom, and seeking to throw the yoke of Indian fiefdom in Kashmir, India’s assumed status as a secular state is being tarnished. It continues to suppress the voice of Kashmiri people which is visible in its blanket ban on all social media in the Indian held Kashmir. As the Kashmiri youth are being used as human shields by the Indian Army in their home state, India continues to go on to try and taint Pakistan’s reputation in the world as a terrorist state. Meanwhile, the officers responsible for using the young boys as human shields have not yet been reprimanded for their actions.
Indeed, for Pakistan, it is a challenge that it must devote its resources and minds to. Whilst Pakistan’s relations with China and investment in Pakistan in the form of CPEC come as a face-saving project, it is important for it to create and harness relations with other states to counter India’s schemes that only result in creating an imbalance in the region. At the current rate, it does not appear that India seeks to resolve any outstanding issues with Pakistan but is no longer worried to create more problems. However, Pakistan must figure a way out to deal with the ongoing situation so that the region remains stable.
Muhammad Sarmad Zia is a Research Assistant at the Centre of International Strategic Studies (CISS). He holds an M.Phil. Degree in Defence and Strategic Studies from Quaid-i-Azam University. His areas of interest include Foreign and Defence Policies of global and regional powers, Nuclear Strategy and Stability, and Terrorism in Pakistan.