India’s ambitions to encircle Pakistan

Asif Haroon Raja

India is largest in size and population and militarily and economically the strongest country in South Asia. Indian Army of 1.4 million with 34 combat divisions is the third largest in the world and Indian air force and navy too are formidable. India has made its standing in the world because of its geo-strategic importance and huge economic market. Diplomatically it is well placed in the world comity of nations and enjoys best of relations with world powers as well as with the Muslim world. Till 1990 it was strategic partner of former Soviet Union. After latter’s demise India snuggled into the lap of USA and became its strategic partner but without damaging its relations with Russia. It also developed close ties with Israel which has over a period of time become India’s biggest arms supplier. India then mended fences with China by pushing border dispute in Himalayan region to the back-burner and promoted trade. India got closer to Iran when Afghanistan was under the rule of Taliban and Afghan Northern Alliance (NA) leadership had taken refuge in Tehran. However, Afghanistan under anti-India and pro-Pakistan Taliban rule was a huge loss for India. In anticipation of a regime change in Kabul, it started providing full support to NA leaders during their period of exile. India is now a strategic partner of Afghanistan where Pakistan’s influence has diminished considerably.

In marked contrast to its high standing across the globe where it shows a humane face and claims to be the champion of democracy and secularism, India doesn’t enjoy good reputation within South Asia where its interests clash with neighboring countries. It has used Chankyan tactics to deceive, beguile or blackmail its adversaries or has used force to browbeat the smaller states and make them submit to its wishes. Among its neighbors, Pakistan is its arch rival since it refuses to accept India’s supremacy and wants relationship on equal basis. India has still not reconciled with the existence of Pakistan and keeps hatching conspiracies and even going to war to undo Pakistan.

Out of 13 Corps, seven Indian Corps are deployed against Pakistan. Majority of its airbases are also poised against Pakistan and its Navy is geared toward blocking Karachi in the event of war. Besides equipping its forces with latest weaponry and technology, India is refurbishing the obsolete military equipment with US-Israel efforts. Indian defence budget is increasing annually at an alarming rate. India has since long been aspiring to turn Pakistan into a captive Indian market and to encircle Pakistan. It has partially encircled Pakistan after occupying two-thirds Kashmir, which overlooks AJK, and Siachen Glacier which dominates Gilgit-Baltistan, and substantially enhancing its naval presence in the Indian Ocean to turn Arabian Sea as its exclusive domain so as to quarantine Pakistan. After opening Pakistan specific consulates in Afghanistan and in Iranian provinces bordering Pakistan for the purposes of sabotage and subversion, and helping Iran in building Chahbahar Port and linking it with Indian constructed Highway Delaram-Zaranj in Afghanistan, its strategic encirclement plan is near completion.

Creation of Pakistan from within the womb of Indian Union on August 14, 1947 was the biggest shock inflicted upon the Brahman elites of India. Pakistan’s survival and progress traumatized them further and to lessen their anguish they keep hatching conspiracies to impede and possibly block all avenues of progress and at an opportune time deliver a knockout blow. India supported Pakhtunistan stunt espoused by Afghanistan. It was essentially its quest for security against the vastly superior India harboring hegemonic ambitions, unfriendly Afghanistan and not so friendly USSR which motivated Pakistan to join western pacts and seek US military assistance.       Pakistan has on number of occasions gone out of the way to throw away the baggage of animosity with India and to make a fresh start. Ignoring the wrongs of India, Quaid-e-Azam had made an offer to forget the past and live as peaceful neighbors and to jointly work towards improving the quality of life of common people. His offer was spurned by Nehru and Indian forces forcibly occupied two-thirds Kashmir in October 1947. Kashmir thus became a bone of contention and a major cause of never-ending antagonism. FM Ayub Khan made an offer of joint defence which was also brushed aside by Nehru. ZA Bhutto agreed to Indira Gandhi’s suggestion of bilateral-ism in the 1972 Simla Conference but India exploited it by preventing third party mediation/facilitation and putting Kashmir issue in a cold storage.

Gen Ziaul Haq offered umpteen proposals to make South Asia nuclear free zone but India paid no heed to any. Benazir Bhutto went to the extent of providing list of Sikh leaders engaged in Khalistan movement but she failed to appease Rajiv Gandhi. Nawaz Sharif too tried hard to find an amicable solution to the chronic dispute of Kashmir though composite dialogue and to improve Indo-Pak relations but could make no headway due to Indian leaders rigid stance that Kashmir is integral part of India. Gen Musharraf crossed all limits to appease India by suggesting a solution outside the realm of UN Resolutions but he couldn’t bring any change in India’s uncompromising stand. The current regime is also following the policy of appeasement but has failed to solicit positive response from India. Rather, India has all along maintained a belligerent posture and on several occasions Indian military might got deployed along the border and came close to an all-out war.

India has gone to war with Pakistan five times including two limited conflicts in Rann of Katch and Kargil. In 1971, aided by USSR, India succeeded in truncating Pakistan but when it found that Pakistan refused to become its satellite, its infamous RAW recommenced its covert war to weaken other parts of Pakistan and also accelerated its force modernization program with emphasis on mechanization of ground forces and upgrading its naval and air arms with the help of USSR.

Sindh was chosen as the next target of subversion after East Pakistan. One reason of picking up Sindh was the importance of Karachi with lone seaport and economic hub of Pakistan. Its covert operations succeeded in accentuating antagonism between old and new Sindhis and thus creating urban-rural divide in Sindh. 1973 Baloch insurgency in Balochistan was supported by USSR, Afghanistan and India. When Soviet forces occupied Afghanistan in 1979 and the US and Pakistan became strategic allies to confront the Soviet threat, India’s RAW joined hands with KGB and KHAD to carryout subversive activities in Pakistan. The MRD movement in rural Sindh was also supported by India. Alignment with USA from 1991 onward enabled India to spoil Pak-US relations.

Strategic alliance with the sole super power in the aftermath of 9/11 is helping India in fulfilling its grandeur plans to become a regional and a world power and to keep the dispute of Kashmir on the back burner. Considering Pakistan to be the only stumbling block in her way to achieve her ambitions, she considered occupation of Afghanistan by USA and its allies in November 2001 and establishment of a pro-India regime in Kabul together with ongoing war on terror an ideal opportunity to encircle Pakistan and force it to give up Kashmir and accept India’s hegemony, or else balkanize it or remove it from the world map. Above all, it opened the avenues for India to regain its lost influence in Afghanistan and to further expand it and become a key player.

Notwithstanding that acquisition of nuclear and missile capability by Pakistan has greatly minimized the risk of war with India; however, nuclear Pakistan has earned perpetual hostility of India, Israel and USA. News ways are now being devised to disable our nuclear program without having to wage a war. While continuing to procure latest state-of-art weapons from all quarters, India vociferously objects to any effort by Pakistan to procure its modest defence needs from any country and the west lends receptive ears to its laments. In order to offset Pakistan’s nuclear strategic deterrence, India has ventured upon its Cold Start Doctrine which initially envisaged 7-8 self-containing battle groups but has now been increased it to 15 groups. Indian hackers tried to hack secrets of Army Exercise Azm-e-Nao III, a response action to Cold Start, and succeeded partially. Water war and now the economic war to supplement covert war are part of India’s overall scheme to isolate Pakistan and make it irrelevant. It is desperate to get land access to Afghanistan through Pakistan.

Pakistan should offset India’s nefarious encirclement plan by disagreeing to grant land route to India through Wagah border for its contemplated trade with Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics and that too without resolving core disputes. Our military responses to Cold Start will have to be rehashed at the earliest.

The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst. Email:

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