After Ladakh Stand-Off 

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INDIA and China’s dis-engagement process is in full swing along LAC friction points in Ladakh.  Armies of both the countries are expected to carry out joint verification to assess the implementation of the disengagement process once the dismantling of temporary infrastructure and withdrawal of troops by China are completed, reports have said. This is a welcome development. A fortnight ago it seemed unimaginable that  the two sides would be able to sort out their differences amicably. The stakes, however, were too big for the two countries to escalate matters. Both the countries are the biggest in the world in terms of their population. In fact they  are jointly  home to   one-third of the world population. Between them they also constitute a large market which makes them an attractive destination for the leading manufacturers of goods and services across the world. There’s an important difference though. Over the past three decades, China has become a far bigger power than India, both economically and militarily. So much so that it is now seen as a credible rival to the US which has otherwise been the sole superpower since the break-up of the USSR in 1989.

This power differential between India and China drives the new geo-politics in the region. Another factor that is complicating the  matters in the region is the estranged relationship between India and Pakistan. Their relationship has become irreconcilable following the revocation of Article 370 in August last. So, if there has to be a stable South Asia, it will involve a broad reconciliation among the three major powers of the region: China, India and Pakistan. And  this would need resolving  the existing differences and reconciling the contending interests of the three countries which essentially keep the region destabilized.

Need is for a broader regional approach to work for an integrated solution to the conflicts and the competing interests that in turn trigger the recurrent  conflicts.  Neglecting this objective assessment of the situation is certain to aggravate the rivalries, especially the one between India and Pakistan.  Dividing the two countries since their founding is the festering issue of Kashmir.

So far there has hardly been a regional effort that works to resolve issues in a cooperative framework.  Each neighbouring country is looking to secure their respective interests rather than work together for a solution. The only way that the current destabilizing situation can be effectively tackled is for the regional powers including India and Pakistan to cooperate and find a comprehensive solution to the issues dividing them. And for such a solution to materialize it has to first address the core concerns of the neighbouring countries and take care of their respective interests.

 

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