India at the throes of a new cold war ?

Chandan Awasthi | June 10, 2020 03:08 PM

The only beauty about the Asian geopolitics is that it is born in Asia. In other geographies, geopolitics is generally regulated from other power centres. Critical geopolitics strives to understand the narratives of inclusion/exclusion and otherness of the ideological spaces within a region – Russia from Central Asia, China from Tibet, Pakistan from Kashmir, for instance. The terms like freedom, liberty, and independence have different connotations for different regions – Central Asia is free, Tibet is still considered illegally occupied by China, Kashmir is debatable, and smaller countries like Taiwan and Hongkong fighting for autonomy from the larger administering system of China. The disputed territories and the respective conflicts lose sense for the realistic world if it prolongs.

The Pakistan’s military policy of ‘bleed India with a thousand cuts’ and China’s policy of ‘engage India in borders’ has conditioned the regional geopolitics in favour of India. Recently, even Nepal has started to re-map and re-engineer its border with India. The popularly perceived idea on peace and security and the conceived notion of geopolitics has changed drastically, thus, creating tension within the institutions and intellectuals of the statecraft and associated lobbies worldwide. These situations are no-normal. While the world appears to visibly divide into two blocs – the no-normal geopolitics suddenly appears to revive and foundations of ‘a New Cold War’ is gaining ground, Asian Cold War to be particular.

The history is evident of the countries breaking agreements, showing disrespect to the treaties, trespassing in the other’s territory, sponsoring terrorism, rather, indulge in a medium intensity warfare. A UN monitoring team in its annual report to the United Nations Security Council has said that “the number of foreign terrorist fighters in search of a purpose and livelihood in Afghanistan, including up to 6,500 Pakistanis, will render this a complex challenge, which will require careful monitoring”.

Critical understanding reveals that bilateral agreements, instruments and treaties on paper may live under the graveyard of dust for long but has a definite life in reality. The societies within nations tend to argue over territorial possessions and belongings. The governments and international organizations appear to have failed to understand ‘who owns what’ and ‘what belongs to whom’, except for the soldier guarding the territory. The world governments should also debate on the universalization of agreements and treaties, and their duration of applicability, so that it is understood in a similar manner by everyone. The world institutions like the UN, Commonwealth, IMF, World Bank, SCO, BRICS et cetera themselves are also not immortal.

The rising conflict zones in Asia are also getting highly militarized zones of the world: Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, and parts in the north-east of India to be specific. Gradually, the historical defensive military policy of a country like India has shifted to a zero-tolerance and offensive one. The emerging situation between China-India-Pakistan invites more serious border skirmishes, lobbying of democracies and non-democracies, and consequently the arms race. Recently, India and Australia also sealed a deal to use each other’s military bases for logistics support, a part of the broader strategy to counter China’s military and economic weight, especially in the Indo-Pacific region.

The institutions and intellectuals of the statecraft worldwide are re-thinking maps, dis-integrations, especially in South Asia. As of now, it may appear unrealistic and impossible, but the dominant religious sentiment in Pakistan and syndicate ideology of China may resort to revolution by the citizens within to build a democratic society and free and liberated societies. While military gatherings are no good signs - the emerging situation will invite more serious border skirmishes and standoffs. While the arms race within the countries of two emerging blocs appear to march forward; conflict sites are always hot favourite for the arms conglomerate. While any new Asian Cold-War may result a disintegrated future for Asia, the defence industry in the West, may benefit in the post-pandemic world order.

( The writer is Deputy Director, Institute for Development and Communication (IDC), Chandigarh.)

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