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Security dilemma of nations in South Asia
7/2/2020 11:45:29 PM

Dr. Rajkumar Singh

Defence since partition of the subcontinent in 1947 never took a back seat either at New Delhi or at Islamabad. Both have gone to the extent of overlooking the acute case of development and have demonstrated their ability to make nuclear devices and other defence-related equipments. In India there is a popular belief amongst the elites is that any increase in India’s military capacity would eventually be used to dominate other smaller South Asian states, a situation that is totally unacceptable. There are also those who believe that internal political development in Pakistan such as correcting the imbalance in the civil-military relations depends on restoration of peace in the region, which, in turn, depends on India. Such perceptions have remained constant since the country’s independence.
Factors of regional balance
Since the roots of security problems in South Asia are indigenous, the threat perceptions are sufficiently diverse to preclude a common approach. For India the major sources of threat continue to be China and Pakistan despite the march of normalisation processes and the advent of SAARC. Similarly, for Pakistan, and to a lesser degree, for Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and even Nepal, the main threats emanate from Indian policy pursuits, Undoubtedly, India is a dominant power in the region and in consequence its policies affect the security perceptions of other regional neighbours. South Asia is one such region where the nature of regional security issues are somewhat autonomous but the involvement of great powers directly affected the military balance within the region and introduced further complications.To cope with perceived threats, nations tend to seek power hoping that power alone may generate the desired level of security. Compared to Pakistan, Indian security perceptions visualise the major threats to the region stemming from the policy options exercised by Pakistan, the Chinese policy pursuits, and the periodic domestic upheavals in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Pakistan. However, at the root of regional security problems are the differing security perceptions and the consequent divergent policy pursuit of both India and Pakistan along with the lack of regional pragmatism.
Security perceptions of India and Pakistan
With the dawn of independence Pakistan’s security perception remains India-centric. Perception and orientation, in turn, have led to an approach based on two opposing ends of spectrum : confrontation punctuated by short spells of rapprochement, and seeking extra-regional partnerships that could provide Islamabad with relative strength to counter its traditional adversary. It has produced either confrontational linkages or alignments that have been sought primarily to offset problems of military inferiority versus its main adversary India. Hence Islamabad’s alignments have never been proactive and, in fact, have limited to seeking military or diplomatic assistance that could bolster Pakistan’s position via-a-vis New Delhi. But in both the cases– conflict or peace with India, it is the military that tends to benefit. The best example of this pertains to the Musharraf regime that initially justified its ascendance to power on the basis of its ability to uphold the Kashmir issue, which it felt was being sacrificed by the Nawaz Sharif Government. And later in 2003, it was the prospect of peace with India seemed to have bailed General Musharraf from the domestic political during the debate in the Parliament on the controversial nature of his position vis-à-vis the constitution. The all weather security perception of Islamabad aims : (a) building national military capability with the objective of challenging India’s military might and providing for an effective defence; and (b) searching for military-oriented alignments, which can assist primarily in dealing with New Delhi.
Perceptions after explosions and Kargil
The post-nuclear II phase witnessed a changed and charged atmosphere in relations between the two countries. The decision to launch Operation Badr, a codename for the operation, across 160 km of the Line of Control in Kargil sector was taken soon after General Pervez Musharraf took over as the Pak Army Chief in October 1998. An old contingency Plan 2 was updated, and after carrying out detailed preparations during winter, the operation was launched to coincide with the melting of snow and the opening of India’s National Highway IA linking Srinagar to Leh via Kargil. The war at Kargil was preceded by a bus journey to Lahore of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Prime Minister of India, in February 1999. Apparently when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was giving warm welcome to Indian Prime Minister, secretly Pakistani regulars and other intruders were busy occupying the Kargil heights on Indian side of Line of Control as Vajpayee said later, ‘while he took message of goodwill and friendship, Pakistan stabbed India at its back. Within three months of the Lahore Declaration, a limited conventional war broke out between India and Pakistan in the Kargil sector. Earlier too in reply to a question George Fernandes, India’s Defence Minister, said in the Lok Sabha on March 18, 19991. Pakistan’s ISI agents in Kargil are suspected to be behind the accuracy of Pakistani firing in the Uri-Kargil sector recently.’
The Pak Army, taking advantage of the terrain and the extreme climatic conditions, achieved a tactical surprise but could not cope with the subsequent Indian military reaction. The Indian military had the formidable challenge of getting the Pak intrusion vacated under the most adverse conditions of terrain. This adversity was further compounded by the political mandate that the LoC should not be violated. However, it had to maintain a strategic balance and a deterrent posture all along the Indo-Pak front on the ground, air and sea – should there be a sudden escalation. A deliberate decision was taken to continue the political and military level dialogue. The politico military strategy made it clear that although India was a victim of intrusion, and exercising maximum restraint, it was determined to get the intrusion vacated. All the calculations of Pakistan and its army in the war went completely wrong when in May 1999 Indian army, supported by the air force, launched ‘Operation Vijay and finally defeated the enemy decisively. The war ended on 26 July 1999 when all Pakistani troops were finally evicted from our side of the LoC. During the war, 473 Indian soldiers were killed : Pakistani casualties were estimated to be over 700. In the background of Kargil conflict India had prepared itself to face any consequences of development in Pakistan.
Among the factors two were significant as having caused the aggression. First, the desire of the army to acquire renewed importance in the governance of the country. Second, the salience acquired by Islamic militants in the political system of the country through their successes in Afghanistan and their strong nexus with ISI, the army, and the political class. The Kargil war, fought at the turn of the century, has been a major turning point in Indo-Pak security relations. After Kargil India emerged from the war with enhanced capacity for negotiation and compromise while Pakistan stood with this capacity almost destroyed. It has left a deep impact. Its lessons are indeed important and are a useful input when we discuss Indo-Pak relations, or peace and stability in South Asia.
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