India’s ladder to ‘super power’ status is missing a few steps

India's tension-ridden disputes and policies with its neighbours will continue to bog it down within the region

In the post-Cold War and post 9/11 scenarios, India searched for a shortcut to become a regional hegemon and a major world power by ignoring its longterm relations with countries like Russia and shifting its strategic orientation towards the US and other western powers. This was a clever move to become a major power by exploiting the West’s sensitivities about China’s economic rise and their concerns about terrorism by linking it with the Islamic extremism/fundamentalism.

India’s major objective was to be achieved with the support from the US, by attaining following wishful lesser objectives; to get itself recognised as a nuclear power;  to undermine Pakistan’s nuclear capability by blaming it for supporting terrorism and bringing it under economic sanctions; to get western technology and economic investments; and crushing Kashmir’s freedom struggle by equating that with terrorism and undermining the western support of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute with Pakistan.

But in view of India’s major internal problems,disputes with its neighbours and its hegemonic and divisive regional policies, it would not be easy for India to become a regional and world power. For example, against its claims of being a major regional power, according to an Oxford University study, it is still the poorest country in South Asia after Afghanistan, even Afghanistan will be better than India after it becomes stable.

Maoist insurgency spread in 60 states and insurgencies in seven northeastern states in India are getting worse day by day.Recently, on April 22-23, 2018, at least 39 Maoists were killed in an alleged encounter with Indian Security Forces in district Gadchiroli on the north bank of river Indravati that divides Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. The Maoists accepting the loss have vowed to take revenge. Local human rights organisations have raised questions about the authenticity of the Gadchiroli incident as they have termed it a planned mass murder and a cold-blooded killing of Maos. As per BBC News of 16 April 2012, India’s former PM Manmohan Singh had said that internal security was a major challenge.

India’s internal cohesion and harmony are under threat because of extremist Hindu organisations

India’s internal cohesion and harmony are under threat because of extremist Hindu organizations and even the government forces have been attacking and demolishing worship places of Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs and killing thousands of minorities. In this regard, Hindu-Muslim riots in Gujrat killing about 2000 Muslims and demolition of Babri Mosque, under the nose of security forces and attack by Indian security forces on the Golden Temple in Punjab to kill Sikhs,who demanded autonomy of Punjab, are evident examples.

Since 1989,India has unleashed state terrorism on the Kashmiris by deploying above 700,000 security troops. In the process, while more than 100,000 Kashmiris have been killed, there have been rampant Human Rights violations like cold blooded murders, rapes, extortions,abductions, mass killings, and blinding by pelting stones.This has completely alienated the Kashmiris from India.

India’s neighbouring countries are also estranged with it because of its hegemony ridden policies. Unless a smaller state remains subservient, India carries out negative propaganda and terrorism by using its intelligence wing RAW, trade embargoes and economic blockades, creating water issues, using divisive politics over SAARC, and even carrying out military interventions to compel its smaller neighbours to come to terms with it.

In this context, India’s trade embargoes on Nepal, its water issues with Pakistan and Bangladesh, controlling Bhutan’s foreign policy and its military interventions in East Pakistan in 1971, Maldives in 1988 and Sri Lanka in 1987, sponsoring terrorism in Balochistan, Pakistan,refusing to attend the SAARC summit in 2016 to be held in Pakistan and also compelling Bangladesh and Afghanistan to not attend it, and its recent opposition to the CPEC, are some of the examples.

The above discussion indicates that India’s poverty, the threat to its minorities from extremist Hindus and separatist movements are major issues which will continue to hinder its economic rise,as these will discourage foreign investment. The separatist movements and insurgencies are a danger to India’s internal security and integrity, as these have the potential to break India from within.

Since Kashmiris are now totally alienated from India, the rising tensions in Kashmir might invite another India-Pakistan war, which could be too dangerous, both countries being nuclear powers. India’s tension-ridden disputes and policies with its neighbours will continue to bog it down within the region.

Therefore, in conclusion, it can be said that unless India addresses its major internal issues and creates a friendly neighbourhood by resolving outstanding disputes justly and giving up its hegemonic ambitions in the region, it will not be possible for it to rise as a regional and a major world power so easily and so soon.

The writer is a former Army Colonel and a former Research Fellow, Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), Islamabad

Published in Daily Times, June 25th 2018.