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Kashmir

Can India become a global power?

India is a country that is expected to play a central role in the 21st century. Having a large and fast-growing economy, it is also strengthening its military and is well positioned to dominate South Asia and extend its influence beyond it. But it must also face notable challenges, both domestically and geopolitically.

THE GEOGRAPHICAL BASES OF INDIA’S POWER

To understand India’s current international role and to anticipate the one it will have in the coming decades, it is necessary to analyse the geographic fundamentals of its power.

The first thing to consider is its dimension. India is a vast state and this has several positive and negative implications. On the one hand, this means that India can benefit from a notable strategic depth, but on the other it also means that connecting all the parts of its territory is a difficult endeavour.

This must be considered along with India’s configuration. Its territory presents a wide range of environments and climatic areas. Far to the north there are the towering mountains of Himalaya, a formidable geographic barrier that separates it from China. This is important, considering the complicated relations between the two powers.

Then, there are the fertile valleys of the Ganges and other rivers, which are vital sources of water and useful communication lanes that have favoured agriculture, industrialization and energy production.

The Deccan Plateau that occupies the southern part of the Peninsula is another notable geographic feature, also because of its mineral resources.

India holds quite abundant ore deposits that have helped its industrialization. In terms of energy, while it has its own production of oil and other fossil fuels, this is not sufficient to meet the country’s large and expanding needs.

Other areas include jungles, arid deserts and tropical shores; which all present both advantages and challenges: for instance, the Thar desert between India and Pakistan is a useful buffer zone, but is also a problem for economic development.

Finally, in terms of position India occupies most of South Asia, and its location favours both defence and power projection. As seen before, it benefits from good natural barriers to the north, but at the same time its neighbours are not friendly.

To the north-east, China is getting everyday more powerful and its geopolitical ambitions are a matter of concern for India.

To the north-west lays Pakistan, which apart from being India’s arch-nemesis since the 1947 partition has also built close ties with the PRC. But while the situation to the north is very challenging for India, its southern borders are very favourable.

There, the coast extends for thousands of kilometres on the open Ocean. This means three things: first, that there are no hostile powers at the border that threaten India’s security; even though it does not see positively China’s activities in that maritime area.

Second, this grants India an easy access to offshore resources and most importantly to sea trade. This is also favoured by the fact that India is located mid-way between East Asia and Europe, two of the world’s richest economic areas, plus to the Middle East and its energy resources. Third, this enables India to project its power with little effort, notably through its Navy.

Yet, there are also challenges deriving from India’s position, notably linked to climate change. Having a typical monsoon climate characterized by cycles of abundant rainfalls and dry periods, South Asia is extremely exposed to its effects, as demonstrated by the seriousness and frequency of recent phenomena like drought, floods, and violent storms. Moreover, this also favours the spread of pests and disease. All such factors bear enormous costs both in the form of direct damage and of prevention efforts, and is a notable obstacle to India’s development.

India’s economic and military power

The rise of India as a major power largely lays on its economic development. In 2017, its GDP rose by 6.7% and today it is the world’s fourth in terms of Purchasing Power Parity. Its economy is diversified and several Indian firms have become major players in global business. Financially, India is generally stable, even though it experienced some troubles in recent years.

But the country is not yet fully developed. Infrastructures remain insufficient, and inefficiency exist in various sectors. While unemployment is low (less than 9% in 2017), larger shares of the population continue to live below the poverty line, and traditional agriculture still absorbs a considerable portion of the workforce. Income inequality remains strong, with large differences in wealth distribution between upper and lower classes and between different regions.

In the demographic dimension, India has a population of around 1.28 billion people, making it the second largest in the world just behind China, and it is expected to surpass it in the coming years. Most Indians are young, which is positive for its economic development. But at the same time having a big population also brings several challenges: achieving food and energy security becomes more difficult, as well as providing public services such as a healthcare.  Moreover, this raises the problem of overcrowding and pollution, especially in large cities. Finally, the differences in wealth distribution can result in to social tensions: most of the population lives in the north, where a considerable Muslim minority is also present, but these areas are poorer than the southern parts of the country. In this regard, it should be noted that India has been fighting for decades against the insurgency of a Maoist group called the Naxalites.

Nevertheless, India continues its rise, also in military terms. It can field a large force that regularly participates to international exercises, and over the past few years it has been spending around 2.5% off its GDP in defence expenditures to modernize its armed forces. The Navy holds a particular importance, as it represents the mean to project its power across the Indian Ocean. As of today, the Indian Navy operates a large fleet that includes an aircraft carrier, a nuclear-powered attack submarine and several other units. In cooperation with Russia, India is also developing the BrahMos hypersonic cruise missile. Finally, it must not be forgotten that India is a nuclear power with an estimated stockpile of more than 100 warheads.

India’s geopolitics and foreign policy

For decades, India has maintained a nonaligned policy, of which it has been one of the leaders. But non-alignment does not mean neutrality.  As a matter of fact, India has pursued its own national interests and has been involved in several conflicts.

Its oldest rival is of course Pakistan. Immediately after the partition in 1947, the two fought a major war, followed by another two in 1965 and 1971, plus series of skirmishes. Today, the relations remain tense, but the conflict remains frozen because both states have developed a nuclear strike capacity.

The main point of the divergence is Kashmir, which remains divided between India, Pakistan and China (who controls the Aksai Chin since the 1962 war with India). Apart from having become a symbol of the Indo-Pakistani rivalry, Kashmir also has a strategic importance for these powers.

Ruling it allows to control the flow of water along the Indus valley, with all the consequences for human and economic development. For India, Kashmir is the gateway towards Central Asia as well as a region to control in order to prevent Pakistan from cooperating with its powerful Chinese ally.

On the other hand, for Pakistan dominating it is necessary to have more strategic depth and to preserve its connection with China, especially now that they are working together to develop the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an ambitious infrastructure project to connect the two countries and that Islamabad considers fundamental to boost its economy, even though there are concerns over the debts its completion will bring.

This makes it clear that Pakistan is not India’s only strategic problem, and not even the main one. In recent years, China has become the prominent national security concern for India. One reason is the former’s close ties with Pakistan, but there also direct disputes between Beijing and New Delhi, namely over the aforementioned Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh. The latter belongs to India, but is claimed by the PRC, and it represents a unique strategic challenge for New Delhi. As a matter of fact, it is connected to the rest of India only via a narrow passage chocked between China and Bangladesh and known as the “chicken neck”.  India fears that in case of a conflict the Chinese will rapidly overtake the Arunachal Pradesh by attacking this passage and cutting it from the rest of its territory.

In addition, Beijing and New Delhi are engaged in a geopolitical competition in South Asia. In 2017, the two powers faced each other in a military standoff over the Doklam Plateau, a strategic territory belonging to Bhutan (traditionally close to India) but claimed by the PRC; and since then they have been building up their military forces along the border.

China is also establishing ties with Nepal, raising concerns that the country me fall under its control, which would allow it to directly threaten Northern India. New Delhi has similar concerns over Bangladesh, because if it were to adopt a pro Chinese stance, the “chicken neck” would become even more vulnerable.

But the Sino-Indian rivalry is not limited to South Asia. The two are also competing in Indochina, where each of them is promoting its own economic and political projects. New Delhi is doing so on the basis of its “Look East Policy” launched in the 90s, whereas the latter considers this region an important element of its broader “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) strategy. In this regard, it is notable that India has refused to cooperate with China in this ambitious project.

Another country where their interest collide is Iran. India considers it a potentially precious ally, because it would allow to take Pakistan between two fires. Moreover, it is also a source of oil. But for these very same result and to counter the U.S., China is also interested in building a partnership with Iran.

Last but not least, there is the maritime dimension. Beijing is fostering its ties and establishing a greater presence in the Indian Ocean, in the optic of developing its Maritime Silk Road to connect its territory with Europe and the Middle East and by sea. But New Delhi considers this as “its own” Ocean and as an essential area for its plans to extend its influence on a global scale. Therefore, it is concerned by Beijing’s initiatives; notably in countries like Sri Lanka and the Maldives. In regard to the letter, the political turmoil that has affected the archipelago was largely to be interpreted in the optic of the Sino-Indian rivalry; and the recent electoral victory of Mohamed Solih seems to have marked a point in favour of India.

As a consequence of its rivalry with Beijing, New Delhi is also developing closer ties with other capitals that share similar security interests. The most notable trend is the gradual rapprochement with Washington. Even though it was never openly opposed to the US, during much of the Cold War India sympathized with the USSR and its relations with America were rather cold. But now that both are concerned over China’s rise, they are gradually establishing more cooperation, notably in security terms. India is following a similar policy with Japan and Australia, two other powers that are worried over the initiatives of the PRC. Together, these four states form the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, an informal framework to ensure stability in the Indo-Pacific.

Two other noteworthy partners for India are Israel and the EU. The relations with the former are complicated by India’s tilts towards Iran, but the Jewish State remains an important partner as an arms supplier and for technological cooperation. On its part, the EU has a central role for India’s trade. Lastly, it should also be mentioned that New Delhi is increasing its economic cooperation with Africa as well.

Conclusion: India at the crossroad

This overview allows to draw some conclusion on India’s current and future role. The country finds itself at a crossroad. It has all the potential to emerge as a major world power, but to achieve this objective it must successfully solve the multiple challenges it is facing. Only time will tell to what extent it will manage to, but what is sure is that India is a power to monitor, and that in any case it will have a considerable impact in world affairs in the coming years.

This article was originally commissioned and first published by KJ Vids. It was written by Alessandro Gagaridis. You can visit his website at www.strategikos.it. Please request permission to info@kjvids.co.uk before re-posting.

The Geopolitics of Kashmir

China, India and Pakistan, all three of which are nuclear states, have vital strategic interests in Kashmir.

Kashmir shares borders with Afghanistan, a country where South Asia meets Central Asia.

Central Asia is a geographic bridge between Europe and other parts of Asia.

Kashmir is a vital geographic component to China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC).

Besides the benefits of connecting to Europe and elsewhere, there are other advantages in access to Central Asia.

The region is home to huge natural resources, hydrocarbons and minerals, which both China and India are craving.

Furthermore, the landlocked region’s consumer markets – a population of 70 million – are open for exploitation.

Kashmir’s geographic accessibility to Central Asia – via Afghanistan – makes the position of Kashmir, very significant.

Pakistan intends to use infrastructure built under the CPEC initiative to connect ‘directly by-land’ to both China and Central Asia.

For its part, China wants to secure access to the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean via CPEC to avoid naval blockades.

China’s access to the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean would ensure a Chinese naval presence close to India’s waters.

India also wants to create a trade route linking Afghanistan, Central Asia, Russia and Europe.

Currently, India have to sail through the Arabian Sea to reach Iranian ports from which freight then proceeds over land.

But India’s regional connectivity plans known as the “International North-South Corridor” are time-consuming and costly.

If it wasn’t for Pakistan-Kashmir which stands between India-administered Kashmir and Afghanistan, India would have had a ‘direct by-land’ route access to Afghanistan, Central Asia, Russia, and Europe.

As well as trade routes, the glacial waters that flow via Kashmir provide water and electricity to a billion people in India.

Pakistan also relies heavily on glacial waters flowing from the region to prop up its agricultural sector.

With an increased need for electricity, India has looked to the region to develop more hydro facilities.

Pakistan fears that India may divert water necessary for irrigation, and use water as a weapon against Pakistan.

Kashmir is thus a major national security issue for both nations, the control of which could pose an existential threat to the other.

Kashmir will remain a major national security for both India and Pakistan, as well as play a critical role for China.

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Human shield row: Army major who ‘tied’ Kashmiri man to jeep honoured

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Read original article on Hindustan Times or read some of the key points below;

  1. An army major, who was in the eye of a storm for allegedly tying a Kashmiri man to a jeep to use him as a human shield, has been awarded the army chief’s commendation card. Confirming the development, army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand said the officer had been awarded the Chief of Army Staff’s Commendation (COAS) card for “sustained efforts in CI (counter insurgency) operations”. Sustained efforts imply that the officer has been recognised for work done by him over a period of time.
  2. While awarding the officer, Col Anand said, “all factors including notable performance of the officer and overall emerging indicators of the court of inquiry have been well-considered”, according to army sources. The government also backed the army, with the country’s top law officer saying in April that the officer-in-charge “did a smart thing and defused a nasty situation”.
  3. The army found itself in the middle of a firestorm after the surfacing of a video clip that purportedly showed a man tied to the fender of a Rakshak jeep and paraded through villages. A day after the video clip surfaced on April 14, the army ordered a probe into the incident.
  4. In the video, announcements of people being warned that “this will be the fate of stone-pelters” could be heard in the background. The incident had triggered outrage in Kashmir, with separatists saying it was on “expected lines from an oppressor”.
  5. The force and the government had defended the action ordered by Major Leetul Gogoi from Assam. Army officials had earlier said the troops were forced to take the extreme step to save themselves from stone-pelting, which has become one of the most common and frequent forms of protest in Kashmir since the killing of Burhan Wani.

 

Ramadhan begins in Kashmir with a new reign of terror

Read original article on the Express Tribune or read some of the key points below;

  1. Authorities imposed a curfew in many parts of the main city of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) as violent protests swept through the disputed region following the ‘custodial killing’ of a top separatist commander, Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, on Saturday – the day when at least 11 more Kashmiris were massacred by Indian security forces.
  2. “As the news of the Sabzar’s killing spread, thousands of people, including students, took to the streets shouting “Go India, go back” and “We want freedom”. Witnesses said a young man was killed and several others were injured after security forces fired on the protesters.
  3. “Wani, the most popular poster boy for Kashmiri separatists, was killed in similar staged gunfight in July last year, triggering months of anti-India protests in the restive region in which nearly 100 people died and thousands sustained injuries.”
  4. “A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the protester was killed after troops opened fire on the villagers. At least three other protesters sustained bullet injuries in the clashes. Clashes also erupted in other parts of the disputed valley, with police and paramilitary soldiers firing shotgun pellets and tear-gas shells to control the protesters.”
  5. “Several armed rebel groups are fighting against Indian rule, with tens of thousands of people, most of them civilians, killed in the nearly three decades-old conflict. HuM is the largest indigenous separatist group fighting against Indian-rule in the Himalayan territory since an armed insurrection broke out in 1989.”

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VggiN3mFWj0

Kashmiri student protests in Pictures

There has been an increase in student protests amid brutalities of Indian forces in held Kashmir. Kashmiri students have come out in droves to protest against Indian soldiers. Clashes have erupted between protesters and forces which has also lead to many Kashmiris being detained. In a turn of events, for the first time female schoolgirls have taken part in protests, making it all the more powerful.

Here are 10 of the most powerful and moving pictures from the protests in Indian Occupied Kashmir

Clashes erupt in Srinagar, Kashmir as hundreds of college students took to the streets to protest a police raid on their school in southern Pulwama town. PHOTO: REUTERS

Clashes erupt in Srinagar, Kashmir as hundreds of college students took to the streets to protest a police raid on their school in southern Pulwama town. PHOTO: REUTERS

A protester shields a fellow student injured in the clashes in Srinagar. PHOTO: ALJAZEERA

A protester shields a fellow student injured in the clashes in Srinagar. PHOTO: ALJAZEERA

Kashmiri protesters hurl pieces of bricks and stones towards Indian police vehicles during a protest in Srinagar April 24, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Kashmiri protesters hurl pieces of bricks and stones towards Indian police vehicles during a protest in Srinagar April 24, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Indian policemen detain a Kashmiri student during a protest in Srinagar on April 24, 2017. PHOTO: Reuters

Indian policemen detain a Kashmiri student during a protest in Srinagar on April 24, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Female students in Srinagar throw rocks at police during clashes in Indian-occupies Kashmir. PHOTO: EPA

Female students in Srinagar throw rocks at police during clashes in Indian-occupied Kashmir. PHOTO: EPA

Kashmiri protestors, their faces masked with Pakistani flags, look towards Indian government forces during clashes after Friday congregational prayers outside The Jamia Masjid in Srinagar on May 5, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

Kashmiri protestors, their faces masked with Pakistani flags, look towards Indian government forces during clashes after Friday congregational prayers outside The Jamia Masjid in Srinagar on May 5, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

A Kashmiri student throws a stone at Indian police during a protest in Srinagar on April 24, 2017. Female students from various colleges in IOK took part in mass protests against Indian soldiers. PHOTO: REUTERS

A Kashmiri student throws a stone at Indian police during a protest in Srinagar on April 24, 2017. Female students from various colleges in IOK took part in mass protests against Indian soldiers. PHOTO: REUTERS

A Kashmiri student throws a piece of brick towards Indian policemen during a protest in Srinagar. PHOTO: REUTERS

A Kashmiri student throws a piece of brick towards Indian policemen during a protest in Srinagar. PHOTO: REUTERS

 Kashmir has been tense since April 9, when eight people were killed by police and paramilitary troops during election day violence. PHOTO: AFP

Kashmir has been tense since April 9, when eight people were killed by police and paramilitary troops during election day violence. PHOTO: AFP

Kashmiri protesters clash with Indian security forces near a polling station on 9th April, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

Kashmiri protesters clash with Indian security forces near a polling station on 9th April, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

Source – Tribune

Watch Kashmir – Hell on Paradise by KJVids

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VggiN3mFWj0

 

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