The South Asian dilemma
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News Analysis |

India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Gopal Baglay has made it clear that India is, “ready to have a dialogue with Pakistan … but in a bilateral framework.”

Baglay made the remarks in response to China’s offer to “play a constructive role to improve the relations between Pakistan and India,” which came on Wednesday.

The conflict between the two countries along the line of control in Kashmir is neither conducive to their own stability and development nor regional peace and tranquillity.

Earlier, on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang had said, “Both Pakistan and India are important countries in South Asia. The conflict between the two countries along the line of control in Kashmir is neither conducive to their own stability and development nor regional peace and tranquillity.”

The remarks from both sides come amid rising border tension between India and China. Indian and Chinese troops are reportedly facing off on a section of land high in the Himalayas near what is known as the tri-junction, where Tibet, India, and Bhutan meet.

Read more: Weapons for India; warnings for Pakistan: Trumps South Asia policy

China has alleged that the Indian troops are on its soil, but both Bhutan and India say the area in question is Bhutanese territory.

Rising tensions between India and China

New Delhi and Beijing are locked in heated verbal exchanges over what each sees as encroachment onto a particularly sensitive spot: the tri-junction where India, China, and Bhutan converge. All three are parties to the simmering dispute.

The Bhutanese note that the process of the boundary settlement is still under negotiation and the status quo cannot be changed.

Tensions flared in mid-June when China began constructing a road in the disputed Doklam Plateau. Both Beijing and Bhutan claim this territory. The Bhutanese note that the process of the boundary settlement is still under negotiation and the status quo cannot be changed.

The tiny Himalayan country turned to India, its long-time ally, for help.

“India is de facto responsible for Bhutan’s security. China’s territorial incursions in the Bhutanese territory threaten Bhutanese — and therefore Indian — security,” explains Sameer Patil, the director of Gateway House, an Indian foreign policy think tank.

Read more: Lockheed Martin in India: Strategic implications for Pakistan

Not far from the plateau lies the narrow passage that connects India’s northeast states with the rest of the country, a strategic link called the Siliguri Corridor but more commonly known as the “Chicken’s Neck.” Any possibility of China being able to sever that “neck” unnerves India.

The Indian Army has issued no official statement. A spokesman said that “such sensitive issues are best dealt between two nations away from the media glare.” He added that the relationship between the two armies is “extremely well managed by a host of mechanisms.”

But such mechanisms have evidently not worked in a face-off that has stretched into weeks.

Indian media reports that troops were rushed onto the plateau to check China’s move, and China is said to have deployed more of its troops to the border region.

Beijing accused New Delhi of a provocation, trampling on an agreed principle “by illegally crossing on to the other country’s territory” — and of violating the Convention of Calcutta, an 1890 treaty between Qing Dynasty China and the British Empire, then India’s ruler.

China says the agreement grants it access to the region and claims areas far south of what both India and Bhutan claim.

Read more: SCO membership of India & Pakistan brings challenges and opportunities

China, Pakistan, and India

These three states possess nuclear weapons and have large armies. The relationship between China and Pakistan is fraternal and both these states have territorial disputes with India.

India sees this economic agreement as a strategic partnership forged between the two countries to encircle it. An assumption denied by both Beijing and Islamabad.

China and Pakistan enhanced their economic cooperation by entering into CPEC agreement which will enable China to bypass Strait of Malacca and will boost up Pakistan’s fragile economy. India sees this economic agreement as a strategic partnership forged between the two countries to encircle it. An assumption denied by both Beijing and Islamabad.

India has entered into strategic partnership to counter balance Pak-China cooperation. PM Modi and President Trump met in Washington last month and signed a number of economic and military pacts enhancing Indian defense capabilities.

This, in turn, will pressurize both Pakistan and China to balance the Indian military capabilities which might push the region towards an arms race.

Read more: Increasing anti-Pakistan rhetoric: What is making India more adventurous?

The three countries have a potential to grow and become economic powers and enter new phases of development. But political differences and territorial disputes have hampered these states especially Pakistan and India to exploit their true potential.

New Delhi must realize that it cannot pursue an aggressive policy to settle its differences with its neighbors nor can it acquire regional hegemony. A folly on part of New Delhi might push the region towards a nuclear conflict which is not in the interest of any of them.

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