India-living with neighbours

Author: Shri Vikram Sood

Period: October 2005 - December 2005

India–living with neighbours

Shri Vikram Sood

We live in a troubled part of a troubled planet. Our region remains economically backward, politically unstable and two of our most populous neighbours are rapidly slipping into religious obscuration. In our region we have concentrated on military threats or terrorism, yet other factors will affect our lives more than these two threats. In the modern era, concepts of security have changed. No longer can one merely shut one’s door to an unfriendly neighbourhood and feel secure. He will get to us any how.

Energy and water shortages, environmental degradation, demographic changes are threats to stability in the region that are not often adequately addressed. Elsewhere, the war for scarce energy resources has begun. By 2025, it has been forecasted that we will be a major power. However, according to reliable estimates, parts of India will face absolute water scarcity defined as 1000 cubic metres per person per year. One can even think of water refugees. Wars for control of water or water systems are not unthinkable in the future. Should China, another water scarce nation, decide to dam the Brahmaputra, India’s North East will be affected and we would be at China’s mercy. Major General Vinod Saighal VSM (Retd) has described this and other aspects of the waiting environmental disasters in his book Global Security Paradoxes-2000-2020. It is not an easy future that one looks at.

Civilisation, as we know it today, will die away, if we have no water and no oil. In India, we are short of both, so before we get carried away by delusions of grandeur 20 years from now, let us sort these out. We have to find ways to ensure water for ourselves, and for the oil and gas, we have to get involved in the new Great Game being played out there.

As India’s economy pulls away from that of the neighbourhood, two things will happen. If our agriculture does not keep pace with the industrial and services sector, not only our food production will suffer, the migration to the urban centres will increase and secondly, there will be greater migration from the poorer neighbours seeking their fortunes in India. Socio-economic imbalances will sharpen and one can only see higher crime, increasing lawlessness and people ready to give vent to their frustrations through violence. We have a young population, the productive age group is favourable. This is an asset if we have jobs for them or create opportunities elsewhere. Otherwise they are a powder keg. We need to think of national identity cards before we think of open borders. One does not even want to talk of the perils of disease and illiteracy that haunt the subcontinent.

Add to this, the terrorism that continues from Pakistan, from Nepal’s domestic ineptitude, from Bangladesh’s syndrome of denial in the midst of a rapid slide into a Talibanised country, are going to be a major problem for us in the next 10 to 15 years. Nepal and Bangladesh are intimately linked to homegrown Maoist and Islamic terrorism impinging on India.

War may no longer be the prime threat in the region, but violence is. We live in an era of exploding expectations contrasted with limited resources, in economies of shortages. We live in a region where poor governance led by politicians pursuing populist slogans and bureaucracies battered into non-performance, has created more problems than it has solved.

In our region, some of our smaller neighbours have drifted away to seek security outside the region. South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) has never really been able to take off like Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and European Union (EU) did because it lacks the togetherness, the commonality of purpose, that one sees in EU or ASEAN. The smaller countries somehow seek every opportunity to counter balance India, to oppose rather than make use of the complementarities of the region. Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran had put it very aptly a few months ago that these countries should see India as an opportunity not as a threat. Sri Lanka and Bhutan are the two countries that have seen in recent years the advantage in this but others do not. In all this, Myanmar remains a somewhat distant but a peaceful neighbour. Nepal accepts, like the other two, that India does not seek reciprocal economic and commercial arrangements but is unable to accept that India also has security considerations and does not hesitate to play the China card.

As a result, we hardly trade with each other. Transit routes are denied, common rail links and road links are non-existent. Globally, India is being recognised as a rising economic power but not in the region. Economic development has become hostage to security issues in South Asia while the reverse has happened in the West.

Some of our neighbours do not seek to share in the prospects for mutual prosperity India offers to them but only share their poverty with us. Countries in our neighbourhood seek their own security by isolating themselves from India against the logic of geography or in hostility and not in cooperation with India.

Apart from immediate neighbours, India must engage Iran and Afghanistan against a recalcitrant Pakistan; Russia and Japan to counter an economically and militarily powerful China; and above all, the most powerful country in the world today, the US.

China and the US are our neighbours – one real and the other virtual. Both have ambitions in Asia and the rest of the world. Both possess immense strengths of achievement and history and both take immense pride in what they have achieved.
The new US doctrine of pre-emption globally and given Chinese anxieties about the US activities in South Asia, inevitably any dealing with our neighbours involves dealing with these two major powers. With its bases strewn all over the neighbourhood, and the ability to strike anywhere any time with full force, the US has exhibited its power in recent years. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as supreme power. The world has seen the arrogance of power rapidly dissipate into impotence of power in West Asia and then the futility of power. It is this desire to control absolutely and to convert the rest of the world to America’s needs that is the source of a large amount of instability. There is still no realisation that the US cannot be dictated by a foreign policy based on unilateralism.

Post-independence, our foreign relations have largely been governed through a hyphenated relationship with Pakistan. We have spent exhausting and frustrating hours trying to get Pakistan declared a terrorist state, failed in that, then wheeled around and started to talk to them. The insistence on stoppage of cross border terrorism limited India’s options as Pakistan can continue to do what it wants through Nepal and Bangladesh. There has been greater premium on grandstanding and the urge to look good. China has taken advantage of this “Pakistan-fixation” in New Delhi and moved into Pakistan and Myanmar, restricting India’s role only to the other smaller states.

When trouble broke out in Myanmar, we, along with major Western powers, were obsessed with ushering in democracy in Myanmar. The isolated generals were bailed out by a pragmatic and politically astute China. The result, in a way, has been extending our border with China. The same thing may happen in Nepal. It is in India’s interests to have friendly neighbours and not necessarily democratic neighbours. We cannot say we will not deal with the King in Nepal but happily be led by the dictator in Pakistan. For that matter, China is no great democracy. Interests and not forms of government should decide how we deal with others.

Today, we are faced with two nuclear neighbours, one of whom has openly said its weapons are India-specific and the other positions its missiles in Tibet. Chinese naval presence in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea is more than a possibility. China’s strategic advance would inevitably mean that we would get increasingly involved with the US strategy in the region under the garb of a joint partnership. Partnerships are between two equal powers which India and the US are not, so when the US speaks of convergence of interests, it means convergence with their interests.

If we have pretensions to regional hegemony, then we should want to be respected but often we seem to give the impression that we would rather be loved. The way we behave with bigger powers or let them behave with us, is not lost on the neighbours. We are in a glass house and every action is watched carefully by our neighbours. And at the same time, every action we take in relation to our neighbours to protect our security or other interests, are watched by outside powers.

Our reactions, whenever we perceive our national interests threatened, should be swift and appropriate. When 13 December 2001 happened, our reaction was massive but inappropriate because we had not thought this through. There was no exit policy and a stalemate ensued. Quite often the West refers to the region as a nuclear flashpoint. This presupposes a Pakistan death wish preferring annihilation to living in peace with India. There is little evidence to suggest that this is the case. Pakistan may have been reckless and may have miscalculated – the support it would get from the locals in 1947 and 1965, or external support in 1971, or Indian resilience, fortitude or the bravery of the Indian soldier in 1999.

Perhaps our neighbours need to know that it is sovereignty that is equal not power. Magnanimity is romantic and chivalrous but not realistic. It is surprising that every one expects India to be magnanimous with her neighbours. The US has shown no magnanimity towards Cuba, Iraq or Iran or earlier with Vietnam. Its policies may have failed for other reasons. There is no reason why India should be seen to be compromising her national interests at the altar of magnanimous gestures. Simultaneously, there is need to project soft power more effectively.

As India seeks to get closer to the US, the Chinese will play up Pakistan, become intrusive in Nepal and Bangladesh, prevent Myanmar from getting closer to India. Pakistan has begun to seek out Russia and Israel. Somehow, one gets the impression that India and Russia are drifting apart — not intentionally but gradually. It would be a pity if that was the case for if we need to have a counterpoise to China, it could be Russia but as things are today, it is Russia which is also China’s main state of the art weapons’ supplier. This is despite the fact that Russia remains our biggest source of weapons.


Sino-Indian relations today are enjoying a period of stability and growing economic ties. But there are unresolved disputes, emerging competition and even conflicts between the two countries-ranging from boundary issues to energy security-that require strategic vision, diplomatic skill and mutual accommodation.

A stable Sino-Indian relationship requires the effective management of the delicate China-India-Pakistan triangle and now, increasingly, a Sino-Indian-US relationship and even the Russia-India-China triangle. The well known “all-weather” relationship with Pakistan was a key component of China’s South Asia policy as Beijing sought to tie down India and extend its influence to the subcontinent. China may appear to be more accommodating in bilateral issues but is unlikely to give India much manoeuvrability in the subcontinent.

While China’s neutrality during the 1999 Kargil crisis demonstrates a more balanced Chinese South Asia policy, Chinese assistance to Pakistan nuclear and military programmes and the Gwadar port development has continued. China’s global ambitions may want her to keep supporting Pakistan to contain India as well as maintain a stable relationship with an important nuclear weapons Islamic state.

We do not yet have an answer to China’s enormous economic presence in South East Asia and are not vis a vis China, a real commercial alternative. China has successfully outbid us in our efforts to acquire access to energy. The way we handle issues like privatisation of airports and so on is not going to encourage greater investment in our sorely backward and handicapped infrastructure.

While it may be possible for us to settle our eastern border disputes with China on the basis of a clearly demarcated MacMohan line, there seems no chance that the Chinese could be persuaded to hand over Aksai Chin to us. There also seems an equally remote chance that we might be able to militarily retrieve this from the Chinese.

Yet we remain tied to a Parliamentary resolution of 14 November 1962 that binds us to an undefined boundary bequeathed to us and to the ‘liberation’ of occupied “territory”. We need to free ourselves from this mindset to meaningfully negotiate a settlement with the Chinese, whose aim in this sector is to secure the Sinkiang-Tibet highway through the Aksai Chin. If we can negotiate a deal with China, there will be space for both of us. But we should not expect that as a result, China will become a benign neighbour. Only it will remove the cause of frequent tension that underlines our unfavourable strategic position. Since China is way ahead of India and may get further ahead with time, the danger is that we may get over-awed by China’s rise and concede too much too soon.

China is very committed to economic growth. They are pursuing capitalism today with the same fanaticism and zeal as they pursued anti-capitalism during Mao’s time. We, on the other hand, are tied up in old mindsets with our Leftists clinging to beliefs which, even their mentors have given up. The paradigm shift in Chinese economic policy is their focus on the manufacturing industry.

Last year, China spent $85 billion Purchasing Power (PP) on research and development. We spent US $ 38.6 billion (PP). The US and Japan, which spent $282 billion and $104 billion in real terms respectively, were the only ones that spent more than China.

Despite progress in bilateral relations during the past few years, mutual suspicions remain. China’s phenomenal growth in the economic and military sectors has not been lost on us. Chinese acquisitions of advanced weaponry from Russia and Indian acquisitions from Russia and Israel give the appearance of an arms race but in fact is not so. Beijing’s burgeoning defence budgets for more than a decade can hardly be matched by India. China may have been disdainful of India – given its capability, its strength and its future and refused to think of it as a likely competitor, yet has been watching India’s Information Technology (IT) industry and military developments closely, especially missiles acquisition and the Navy. India’s attempts to broaden relations with Myanmar, South East Asia and Japan have also been observed closely by the Chinese.

The growing Indo-US relations, especially the growing security ties, including the US military sales to India, joint military exercises, and regular defence consultations are seen as US attempts to recruit India into an anti-Chinese arrangement. The Bush administration began briefing the Indians on major policy initiatives, treating India almost as an ally. A flattered New Delhi quickly endorsed US stand on missile defense positions, which even had some US allies on a sceptical note.

Bilateral trade grew to US $7.6 billion annually by 2003 and had reached US $13 billion in 2004, way ahead of the projected US $10 billion. Competition for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) market access, resources and protectionism against each other are high.

China is far ahead of India with $60 billion FDI – twelve times India’s total–in 2004. Neither country has yet made significant investments in each other’s economy. Greater economic and trade contacts through Nathula and yet manage competition for markets, investment and technology as has been happening in the West would need leadership skills and entrepreneurship in both countries.

Finally, India and China are both energy consumers and importers. China is today the world’s second largest consumer and in five years, India will be the fourth largest. Indian and Chinese oil companies are already involved in overseas oil field exploration, extractions and acquisitions from West Asia, the Persian Gulf, Africa and Latin America. It makes greater sense to co-operate on energy security rather than get into un-coordinated competition which will only push up prices.

China and India together represent two-fifths of the world’s population and their continuing economic growth will project them to second and third place within the next two decades at least in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) terms, if not Human Development Index (HDI). How we manage our bilateral relationship in all its aspects will have a tremendous impact on peace and stability in the regional and global arena.

Inevitably, the question and the comparison is – will India ever or can India catch up with China. In this case, I must rely on the latest paper “Will India Catch up with China?” brought out by Mohan Guruswamy, Jeevan Mohanty and Ronald Abraham of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, New Delhi. The authors have argued that there is hope for us and if we grow at 11.6 per cent for the next 15 years then we can come abreast of China in 2020 or if we grow at 8.9 per cent then this is postponed to 2050. But mere growth rates are not enough. The report says, and I quote:-

“It is quite clear China is a fast industrialising country whereas India seems to be entering the post-industrial services phase without having industrialised. We need to reverse this trend by stimulating industrialisation, especially since it creates more jobs and has greater multiplier effects on the economy. This calls for far greater investments in infrastructure especially since civil projects such as roads, railways, dams, canals, and building construction requires not only large amounts of material such as steel and cement, but they will also employ large numbers of least skilled workers. The uncontrolled growth of this segment of our population poses our greatest economic challenge and their gainful employment is its only solution. Quite clearly, the government must spend less on itself and more on the people.”


Since 1988, when Myanmar’s army seized power, China has been the military junta’s staunchest ally. It was China that held out its hand of friendship to the junta in Myanmar when it was ostracised by the rest of the world. The Chinese grip has barely loosened since then.

China is today Myanmar’s most important defence ally supplying most of its military hardware. Nevertheless, the Myanmar rulers face the same age old dilemma; they are worried at being overwhelmed by China and may want to be friends with India, but of course, not at the cost of China. 

The Chinese consider economic ties with Myanmar as vital to the economic development of its own impoverished provinces in the southwest – Yunnan, Sichuan and Guizhou. More importantly, Beijing sees Myanmar as an important path through which it can expand its strategic influence into Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. This is an asset China is not likely to give up.


Peace with Pakistan is possible only if there is change in the mind-set of the rulers there. It is possible only if the Army, which controls Pakistan’s policy on India, Afghanistan and strategic assets, is willing to seriously accept that the peace dividend with India is larger than the conflict dividend. All indications are that this determination is to the contrary. The present phase may be a tactical manoeuvre to buy time and live to fight another day. Pakistan’s leaders have not been able to reconcile to the reality that theirs is a smaller country and has fewer resources than India. The old ambition – to right the wrong on getting a moth-eaten Pakistan and to create more caliphates in India – has not been given up, either by jehadis or by the Pakistan Army.

The Pakistani rulers will continue their animus towards India and periodically cite this Indian threat to extract more concessions both from an indulgent West and an understanding China. They realise that the US will not pressurise them for better relations with India. Pakistan today is a nursery of terrorism and home to radical Islam. It is a vital component of the Islamic struggle against the Christian world. Yet it is also a stalwart ally in America’s war against terror. Simultaneously, Pakistan has an all-weather friendship with China. Managing relations with Pakistan also means managing relations with the US.

In the process, the instruments used against India, the jehadis and limited war, have left Pakistan in the grip of the military and the mullahs and a strong jehadi mindset has taken over most of the populace. It is commonly believed that this mindset is a result of the madrassa culture. Actually the madrassas have provided the foot soldiers of jehad. The brains very often come from the mainstream schools where children from middle class urban families have been taught distorted history, the virtues of jehad, obscurantism, hatred and enmity with India for nearly 30 years now since Zia’s Islamisation. It is many from this category that end up in the corridors of power and the Armed Forces. The jehadi elements have a larger than life role and Musharraf’s rule has only exacerbated the many fault lines. At the end of Zia’s reign, religious groups commanded seven per cent of the electoral vote, today they command a fifth of the Parliament and control two of Pakistan’s four provinces. 

Jammu and Kashmir is a strategic issue only for water resources and an emotional issue created through years of sponsored hatred. The Pakistanis also know that unless provoked, the Indians are not going to disturb the presently settled demarcations and even under grave provocation, as in the time of Kargil in 1999, did not violate the Line of Control (LOC). Nor would they violate the Indus Waters Treaty. It is the Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan) that are important for Pakistan through which the strategic Karakoram Highway passes into China.

Perhaps there is a realisation in Pakistan now that India will not alter its position. What could not be won on the battlefield is not available on the negotiating table. Pakistan now, is working out a strategy where in India appears to be taking lead for negotiations over Jammu and Kashmir and other disputes between the two sides.

The present offensive is under duress from the US. Today it suits Pakistan to extract whatever leverage it can from the US by being the good boy fighting Al Qaeda but keeping the powder keg in Jammu and Kashmir or the situation vague when it comes to dealing with the Taliban. 

Musharraf’s ‘enlightened moderation’ appeals to a growingly desperate West, worried about militant Islam and conditioned to believe in a clash of civilisations. Pakistani intellectuals also recognise that Pakistan is a dangerous country, home to the Al Qaeda and its offshoots; pursuing a brand of Islam at variance to its own earlier moderation; a country which has dangerously played with nuclear technology. There is growing realisation in Pakistan that inevitably there will be renewed focus on Pakistan and that patience of the international community over its numerous scandals, including nuclear proliferation is running dry.

The Pakistan Army does not have the strength to provide the lead to shift course like the Algerian Army and is not capable of combating its inner contradictions. The way forward is more difficult for Musharraf particularly since his Army has been infiltrated by the right wing. However, the one major difference with Algeria is that the mainstream parties are still relatively secular and still have popular support but emasculated with their leaders in exile. People would say that there is little option for Musharraf but to give way to the politicians in the hope that they can reverse course but this is where his personal failings and Army interests come in the way.

Musharraf cannot think of a situation where he sheds his uniform without a secure exit policy from the politicians. Musharraf has to decide whether Pakistan of the future will be run by the Army using jehad as a military option and selling nuclear technology to fuel its wants or join the democratic comity of nations for the well-being of its people. And since we are talking to one man and not to a representative of a government, it will be his perception and his decision largely that will determine how the talks progress.


Pakistan has long dreamed of Afghanistan as a client state with access to Central Asia. Strategic depth and even a union with Afghanistan have been mentioned in the past.

Benazir Bhutto, in promoting the Taliban, and Nawaz Shariff awed by the posters hailing him as ‘Fateh Kabul’, had similar dreams. During the Taliban years, Pakistani troops, in small detachments, were all over – in Mazar-e-Sharif on the Uzbek border, in Kunduz controlling access to the Amu Darya, in Herat on the Iranian side and opening roads to the Wakhan corridor from Chitral.

11 September 2001, saw a change and Pakistan famously ‘U’ turned in exchange for aid, ally status with the US and backing for the military coup. But has the U turn occurred in real terms? The signs are it is not so – another instance of Pakistani doublespeak.

On the other hand, we see the marginalisation of the anti-Pakistan forces. Ahmed Shah Masood’s forces have been neutralised and his loyalists splintered; the Hazaras have been disarmed; Dostam is facing a credibility crisis and charges of human rights violations, Ismael Khan of Herat has lost a son and been humiliated and the royal family has been marginalised.

Pro-Pakistani elements like Hikmatyar is alive and well and upto mischief; Jalauddin Haqqani operates unhindered from North Waziristan and disappears minutes ahead of a raid on his madrassa; the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) pleads that the one eyed Mullah Omar’s whereabouts are not known though he has been openly sighted in Quetta; the Taliban is on the rampage and in control over vast parts of Afghanistan in the south and east and are taking on even the Americans.

Pro-Pakistani elements have adapted to the new realities and yet retained their fighting capabilities. Many may find themselves victors in the recently held elections. There is little doubt that Pakistan pushed Kabul into making these concessions perhaps in exchange for the tranquil conduct of elections. Today, the Taliban is resurgent and making inroads into Afghani politics.

Karzai has not consolidated himself even amongst his Populzai tribe. He was dependent on Pakistan even in the conduct of elections and was lately unhappy with Pakistani conduct, prompting a rushed visit by the US National Security Advisor (NSA) to patch up the differences between its two favourites in the region. Karzai is in control only as long as the Americans are physically present but America’s track record for institution building is weak. It is crucial to formulate political objectives before fighting a war, something the US neglected to do in Aghanistan (and Iraq). It decided that installing a leader would win the battle and the leader, with help from them, would be able to consolidate. This top down policy neglects the mass base required to build institutions.

Bush has been weakened by the reverses in Iraq and with domestic issues like Hurricane Katrina being linked to troop deployment in Iraq. America’s patience cannot be infinite. Troop deployment will be an issue in next year’s elections to the Senate. A scaling down may well become inevitable and Pakistan has only to wait and hope that the Waziristan issue does not blow up. For Pakistan, the stakes are important since what happens in the Pashtoon belt will find an echo in the frontier region of Pakistan. The Durand line is yet to be resolved and has the potential to create complications for Pakistan and that is where the fissures still exist.

The consequences for us will be frightful if Pakistani meddling is not checked. We will see a replay of training camps being established on Afghan soil – to give Pakistan the fig leaf of deniability. Pakistani successes in Afghanistan will embolden it to become more adventurous on its eastern flank. The goodwill that we seek to earn will erode and unfortunately there is no Ahmed Shah Masood on the horizon.


Iran is an extremely important country for India’s security interests. Isolated in a largely hostile Sunni world, Iran sits on enormous energy reserves with a total hydrocarbon (oil and gas) equivalent to 280 billion barrels of oil. This makes it the second largest after Saudi Arabia. Iraq is in turmoil, Saudi Arabia is internally unstable and the monarchy totally dependent on the Americans for its survival. Our sources of oil are limited. Nuclear energy will run our factories and homes but will not be enough to run our vehicles, tractors or keep our military machine mobile. There is no possibility that we can do without oil in the near future. Iran provides us with access to Central Asia and Russia, to Afghanistan which Pakistan is not going to provide for as long as it can prevent this. In this globalised world there have to be several triangular relations that we need to work including those with the Iranians.


We like to say that Nepal is within our sphere of influence – owing to our economic power in the country, cultural affinities and strategic advantages. That is why the current crisis has hit us the hardest. India has the classic dilemma of backing the parliamentary parties and their efforts to negotiate with the Maoists, or to support King Gyanendra, fearing a Maoist takeover and a spread of Maoist insurgency into India, exacerbated by border insecurity. So far, New Delhi has chosen to back the parliamentary parties, but there is no assurance that the strategy will succeed or that it can be pursued effectively, given intra-governmental conflicts.

Given this dilemma, Beijing has moved in with an offer of arms deals with Nepal, one of which has already been signed. Islamabad is rumoured to be doing the same. Washington and London have been backing New Delhi as they try to pressurise Gyanendra to restore constitutional monarchy and accept international mediation to end the Maoist insurgency. But should this impasse continue, it is possible a proactive US may take independent decisions.

The latest moves in the new great game highlight the uncertainties and shifting opportunity structures that emerge when strategically valuable, weak states begin to implode. Beijing has nothing to lose by backing Gyanendra and will win big if he holds on to power. New Delhi, which allowed the situation to get out of control, faces the possible diminution of its influence. As the crisis has deepened, New Delhi has sent troops to Indian states bordering Nepal to contain an escalated conflict.

Uncertainty is the watchword in Nepal, where much depends on how the parliamentary coalition plays its hand as it seeks to finesse the Maoists and the king.


Bangladesh was born of negativism in that it was all about being anti-Pakistan. Having attained its freedom on this platform, the Bangladeshis quickly transferred their negativism to India in their search for a new identity. It has been so ever since. Bangladesh and India are bound to have an unequal relationship because of the power differential. They cannot give to us what we can give to them. They do feel surrounded by this mammoth on all its land borders. There is need to put Bangladesh at ease and at the same time the challenge for India’s foreign policy makers always is to also ensure that Bangladesh keeps Indian security interests in mind. Here is a case of the classic small country-big country syndrome. If we try to do something even to help, we are intrusive; if we stay away we are indifferent and arrogant. Bilateral relations meanwhile, have remained bogged down in suspicion and at times, in acrimony.

The tragedy of the situation has been that the Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League, a long time friend of India had in her recent years in government, been unable to take perfectly rational decisions for fear that the party would be portrayed as being a lackey of India. On the other hand, the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) was born of intense Islamic anti-India nationalism and has remained so. In addition, the BNP is in coalition with Islamic parties in government. Since the two ladies are not even on civil terms with each other, the political space has been filled by Islamic fundamentalists.

In India, vote bank politics has left us with a demographic change in Assam and Bengal that is having unmanageable security problems not only in the North East (NE) but gradually in the rest of the country. This and the shelter to NE insurgent groups in Bangladesh means that what happens in Bangladesh has a bearing on India.

The recent attacks all over Bangladesh by Islamic fundamentalist terrorists were more than just a calling card. It is a warning to the region that scourge of fundamentalist politics is deeply rooted in Bangladesh now. Bangladesh has become an alternative to Pakistan for a Salafist haven for the Arabs in case of need-an alternative safehouse. It has also become an Rest and Recoup (RR) joint for Arab, Pakistani and South East (SE) Asian terrorists much like Bangkok was for the American Government Issues (Gl).

In exchange for Islamic grants, Bangladesh has permitted the growth of fundamentalist infrastructure, the growth of numbers of mosques and madrassas. Three thousand six hundred madrassas were established in the last three years. Besides this, some Bangladesh banks launder terrorist funds received and transmitted through hawala networks. The banks also heavily subsidise madrassa education, fund construction of mosques, and contribute to the Haj. Obviously there is state patronage, which in turn sees it as an easy means to keep afloat a failed nation.


Russia has been India’s steadfast friend and been with us in our adversity. There was a good deal of mutual benefit in this relationship. Russia has been through a lean period for the past decade or so during which it did seem at times that it might move away from India. Its economic recovery under President Putin and an exhibition of independence as well as ability to stand up for its own interests only indicates that we should not ever write this country off. It is rich in natural resources and still has great scientific and technological prowess. We stand to gain from close economic and political ties with Russia, particularly in the energy and military fields. Let us not forget that the Russian UN veto is still of great relevance to us. We need Russia not only as a counter to China but also to the US.

Our new found friendship with the US may have advantages for us in the future but it would be shortsighted to ignore the role Russia is going to play on the global scene in the years ahead.

The status of a major power in the next 20 or 25 years may be our destiny but the road ahead is arduous and there are many pitfalls along the way. The challenge now for us is to attune sentiment with reality. This means taking the subject away from partisan politics. The responsibility for this lies with the government of the day, which alone can lead such an exercise.


Shri Vikram Sood is a former Director of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).


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Narration of stories of valour by Maroof Raza. Maroof Raza talks of forthcoming book The Contested Lands (India-China border dispute) - Valley of Words 2021

Managing Future Conflicts Role of World and Regional Fora Valley of Words 2021

Ambassador Asoke Mukerji and Maj Gen Dhruv Katoch Moderator: Lt Gen JS Lidder original video can be accessed from:…

Perceptions India’s Compulsions and Outlook on East Pakistan Objectives and Strategy

Shri Iqbal Malhotra in conversation with Lt Gen Nirbhay Sharma and Maj Gen Ian Cardozo - Valley of Words 2021

Perceptions Western Pakistan’s Designs on East Pakistan Campaign, Objectives and Strategy

Lt Gen PJS Pannu in conversation with Christine Fair and Ambassador Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty

Contribution of Indian Cinema in Infusing Patriotism Valley of Words 2021

Lt Gen PJS Pannu and Maroof Raza in conversation with Shri JP Dutta (producer, director, filmmaker) and Nomination of Bollywood film Border on 1971 War. Original video can be accessed from: https://w…

Diplomacy and Statecraft Perceptions Information and Media Operations Valley of Words 2021

Lt Gen PJS Pannu in conversation with Sir Mark Tully, Subroto Chattopadhyay and Vishnu Shankar (Editor, TV9 Network) Original video can be accessed from :…

USI- FO Live: Evolving Geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific Region

The United Service Institution of India (USI) and Fair Observer present a panel discussion on the evolving geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific region. Lately, the AUKUS Deal has added another twist to th…

𝐒𝐓𝐑𝐈𝐕𝐄 𝐖𝐞𝐛𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐫 on Buyout Sino Pak Collusivity Implications For India Maj

STRIVE a Lucknow based National and Defence Security Studies Centre organised a Webinar in collaboration with Military Literature Festival, Lucknow on a highly sensitive and contemporary issue the “B…

Can India and Pakistan Take Steps Towards Rapprochement

In this episode Major General BK Sharma (Director - United Service Institution of India) and Lt. General Asad Durrani (Former Director General ISI, Pakistan talks with Analyst Arvind Saharan on Indi…

𝗨𝗡 𝗣𝗲𝗮𝗰𝗲𝗸𝗲𝗲𝗽𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗢𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀: 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝘁𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝗖𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗹𝗶𝗮𝗻𝘀

Over the past few decades, inter-state conflicts waned but there has been an increase in Intra-state conflicts. In any conflict, the innocent civilians are the ones who suffer the most. But the suffer…

Valedictory Address by CDS General Bipin Rawat PVSM UYSM AVSM YSM SM VSM ADC

Valedictory Address by CDS General Bipin Rawat PVSM UYSM AVSM YSM SM VSM ADC The original video of the event can be accessed on the VoW youtube channel:…

Managing Future Conflicts Deterrence and Conflict Prevention: Valley of Words 2021

Major General Dhruv C Katoch, SM, VSM (Retd) in conversation Lieutenant General JS Lidder, UYSM, AVSM (Retd), Ambassador Asoke Mukerji, Shri Arvind Gupta and Lt Gen Prakash Menon PVSM, AVSM, VSM [Retd…


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