Fraught Regional Environment

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THE deepening of alliance between China and Pakistan has become a cause of some concern in India. More so, at a time when China has staged incursions along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh and is refusing to vacate the area occupied by it. Earlier last week, the “iron brother” issued a joint statement following their second annual strategic dialogue in which Chinese side reiterated that the Kashmir issue is a dispute left over from history and called for its peaceful resolution according to “the UN Charter, relevant Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements”. China also opposed any unilateral actions that complicated the situation. In response, India “categorically” rejected the reference made to Jammu and Kashmir. Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava said the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is an “integral and inalienable” part of India and that it expected the parties concerned not to interfere in the country’s internal matters. Pakistani reaction was also predictable: it termed India’s statement that Kashmir is its integral part as a “laughable fiction”.

If anything, this bitter exchange reflects the abysmal state of the prevailing relations of New Delhi with its two neighbours. With Islamabad, the relations have been in freefall since the revocation of Article 370 in August last year. And Beijing at the time had also taken exception to change of status of Ladakh. Going forward, it looks unlikely that the ties with Pakistan and China can be improved anytime soon.  What is more, New Delhi has also suffered reverses in its relations with Nepal and Bangladesh. But it is the relationship with Pakistan and China that is of critical importance to India. They are our biggest neighbours and we share two-third of our border with them. Any further deterioration in the ties with the two hardly bodes well for the regional peace.

In response, however, India has taken countermeasures by bolstering its defences along the LAC and LoC. The country has also received the first batch of Rafale fighter jets from France. But while military preparedness is paramount for a country to counter the aggression, a state of no war and no peace with neighbours can be more detrimental to the interests of a  country in the long term.  So a serious and meaningful engagement with Pakistan and China is the urgent need of the hour. To start with,  it is important that India and Pakistan get back to dialogue and pick up thread from where they left off in 2008. This could go a long way to reduce the prevailing state of uncertainty in the region and open up some possibility of peace in future.

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