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Causality: External Forces, Internal Threats

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Writer: Damien Martin
If the past is measured with the same parameters as the present, then nowadays, India is relatively stable in comparison. With a population of 1.24 billion, industry firing on all cylinders, the threat of occupation from invading neighbours is unimaginable. Modern times may not be a Gupta Dynasty “Golden Age”, however it isn’t in the throes of a Hephthalite invasion either. India’s security model is not a simple internal / external dichotomy, instead its a kaleidoscope of possibilities, each element reflected by and obscured from the next. Seven countries interlinked by proximity, history and goals. So how does India gain and maintain trust with its own people and neighbours? Risk taking may be the answer.

To grasp the external and internal security topography that threatens India, we need to understand its relationship to causality. Exogenous forces may or may not stream into endogenous threats and paradoxically internal threats may or may not cascade externally. In other words, the cause of forces acting on either side may have an inimical ripple effect. When contemplating the security challenges India has confronted over the centuries compared with the present day it is easy to comprehend the difference.  If the past is measured with the same parameters as the present, then nowadays, India is relatively stable in comparison. To juxtapose the last 66 years with the preceding 6666 years might be imposing a slight bias in terms of time, however India is now an independent nation. With a population of 1.24 billion, industry firing on all cylinders, the threat of occupation from invading neighbours is unimaginable. Modern times may not be a Gupta Dynasty “Golden Age”, however it isn’t in the throes of a Hephthalite invasion either.

New Nationalism

The Indian subcontinent has a long history, however the nation that is Bharat Ganrajya (Republic of India) today is still in its infancy. That's not a negative statement but a positive one. India has the people power, a comparatively strong democratic base and one of the largest English speaking populations. For millennia it has been the victim of countless invasions, civil uproars, divisions of north and south and territorial partitions based on religious context to eventually an amalgamated socio-economic world player. A landscape of spectacular kingdoms, rich in language and vibrant culture one could say historically it is represented by the Hindu deity – Kali, into a new form of modern state forged as one nation, represented by the goddess – Durga.

India’s security model is not a simple internal / external dichotomy, instead its a kaleidoscope of possibilities, each element reflected by and obscured from the next. Seven countries interlinked by proximity, history and goals. So how does India gain and maintain trust with its own people and neighbours? Risk taking may be the answer. Those risks need to be calculated and respective plans drawn up and decisive action taken. Hot on India’s heels is China. These two aspiring super powers are going head to head in a race to the top. The main difference between the two is China`s precision planning mechanisms. The Five Year Plan and the Science 50 year plan enacted by China are proving the bedrock for its success. Each country is fighting border disputes with each other and with other countries as well as aligning partners. China borders approximately 15 countries, India 7 and when we look at this strategically it is easy to see China is busier than India in the protective domain. This battle to be in the super power club is like the United States and Russia or the United States and Japan of yester year. In many ways this is healthy competition and there are many beneficiaries.
“To secure against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself. ” – Sun Tzu

Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka

Amicable agreement or irreconcilable antagonism, political and religious leaders rarely see eye to eye. Taking religion out of the equation to establish neutral ground would encourage amicable agreement. Invoking a mental modus vivendi (agree to disagree) to bring forth a solution could be a method of handling any heated dispute or perceived difference. Stripping away the many adjectives in a debate leaves little to argue with at the end of the day. Adjectives bring about clarity but in that process distort basic truths. “You are my brother” has a benign meaning, if compared to Big Brother or Younger Brother. “Believer” in a higher power or supernatural beings dissolves labels like Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or Christian. Holding a plain view of the word Muslim versus Shia or Sunni can have a positive resonating effect at the negotiating table for all concerned.

We cannot make stereotypical assumptions and expound thousands of “what if” scenarios. Just for argument’s sake, we could assume that Pakistan, an Islamic republic is harbouring terrorists. Does that mean that Bangladesh is doing the same because 89 per cent of the population is Muslim?  On the contrary, all countries, like people, must be viewed by their efforts not their religious persuasion. Within the religions of Christianity and Buddhism there have been conflicting views over time resulting in factionalised groups. Catholics and Evangelists may worship the same God yet their dogma dictates a different focus. The depiction and practices of Japanese Buddhists compared to Buddhists of Thailand, China or India are a far cry from being the same. In the Islamic world where Shia battle against Sunni over inherency and interpretations of scripture, intolerance exists amongst brethren. Bangladesh and Pakistan share a religious affinity but deeper than that is a heritage outside of religious barriers linked back to India.  The stability of a country is imperative to the security of a neighbouring country as cross-border vulnerabilities create susceptibility that cascade into a dangerous butterfly effect.

Bangladesh is a guiding star for other Islamic based governments. Bangladesh has female leadership, a vision for education, training and skills development in conjunction with the digital age which together embodies hope. The Islamic Golden Age between 800 AD and 1100 AD was influenced by the Qur'anic injunctions and hadith such as "The ink of a scholar is more holy than the blood of a martyr" that stressed the value of knowledge. Since the times of the Abbasids rarely has innovation and modernisation been promoted so vigorously. Bangladesh’s fight against terrorism and improved internal security in addition to cultivating relations with India recently have been impressive. Shonar Bangla 2021 of building a digital Bangladesh will definitely change the industrial landscape. The Sheikh Hasina government is desperate to demonstrate strong leadership to the outside world. India’s attention should be focused on Bangladesh and assisting where it can.

India-China-Pakistan Scenario

Sino-Indian tension is best explained as healthy competition however the Pakistan-China alliance is an odd one. China’s aim is to solidify its borders along the Himalayas, which also happens to be India’s focus. But does the occasional sabre-rattling instill fear by aligning with volatile nation states like in the case of China and Pakistan? Using that old war maxim the enemy of my enemy is my friend, does create animosity and suspicion. As Pakistan`s powers wane, China is multi-tasking and engaging heavily in the promotion of Chinese language and culture in other places namely, Nepal. With resistance to Maoist rebellions at the forefront of the Nepalese government, the last thing Nepal needs is more indoctrination. The Chinese government is also worried about Tibetans living in Nepal adding atmospheric pressure to the current Sino-Indian air of distrust. Nepal, a relative peace-promoting nation is heating up from constant pressure and confusion.

Sino-Indian tension is best explained as healthy competition however the Pakistan-China alliance is an odd one. China’s aim is to solidify its borders along the Himalayas, which also happens to be India’s focus. But does the occasional sabre-rattling instill fear by aligning with volatile nation states like in the case of China and Pakistan? Using that old war maxim that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, does create animosity and suspicion. As Pakistan’s powers wane,China is multi- tasking and engaging heavily in the promotion of Chinese language and culture in other places

In Myanmar, there is a different type of stage being set. Economic opportunities are increasing through successful strategic planning from China and India rarely has a part to play. The recently completed Sino-Myanmar pipeline only cements China’s relationship with Myanmar and illustrates the ongoing trust between the two. The India-Bangladesh-Myanmar pipeline proposal on the other hand shows evidence of strain. The twist to this sordid affair is that India and Bangladesh felt the repercussions of the anti-Islamic demonstrations involving Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, whereas China did not. What happens next door tends to impinge on India's  stability or at the very least raise alarms. One of the reasons for China`s success in Myanmar is undoubtedly the participation as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, something India has yet to consider.

Sri Lanka-China Entente Cordiale

Although not a physical land border, Sri Lanka too is making headway with China. Late last month, Sri Lanka signed an agreement with the Chinese to upgrade the relations between the two countries to a “strategic cooperative partnership.” Closer ties between the two will not help India’s cause and possibly escalate the need to lay down proper foreign relationship building at the next roundtable meet. The bottom line is that political and religious issues in
South Asia emphatically dog peace, safety and economic prosperity for this region. It does not appear to be any particular religion against another per se. What is interesting however is that most of these countries share an historical cultural connectivity. China doesn't share the same cross-cultural bond as India with countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and to an extent Myanmar, however China is attaining results faster and more efficiently than India. Is it because  they can negotiate better at an International level, put religion aside as it holds none of its own or that the other team is failing, therefore winning by attrition? Is the lack of internal unity amongst the India’s leaders reverberating to the outside? Could a discussion involving all the prominent Indian subcontinent leaders promote thematic coherence in one sitting? The possibility is just as unlikely as the probability; therein lies the problem.

A Rainforest

Trees, in their quest for light create darkness to a world below.

On the surface, it appears that personal agendas of political parties weigh more than national interest. There must be a “one nation, one goal”. A similar example in Australia that questions the management of the country by the Labour Party:

The majority of people voted for Labour leader, Kevin Rudd and he was successfully elected as the Prime Minister of Australia in 2007. During his term fellow Labor Party representative Julia Gillard overturned his position as leader. Then in the 2010 election, Gillard was elected and before her term ended Kevin Rudd returned in kind with an ousting of his own. When these types of egocentric acts occur one wonders who is running the country? The voting process is now impotent – a meaningless act, a mere facade to make voters think they have control. Make no mistake politics is more about self-proclamation than endearing a nation. It should not be for outsiders to criticise Indian leadership skills, but more about a peer level critique. A consensus needs to be reached to ensure the future is secure.

Although a play on words, the Indian security paradigm resembles the “Orlova Syndrome” (named after the MV Lyubov Orlova). The News is “all over” (Orlova) it but little is being done. All parties involved are claiming immunity of responsibility for this rat infested ghost ship as it drifts aimlessly. If nothing is done there are few possibilities for the vessel: It will collide with another object, sink or an agreement between several parties will pool together to rectify the course of action. The same would apply for success of the subcontinent.

External Forces: Cross-border Threats
Geographically close to the flames of the encroaching Global War On Terror (GWOT) it does battle potential fires of animosity from neighbours: Categorising India’s neighbours by types of fires is a anecdotal way of expressing security volatility.

Pakistan: Potential Bush Fire
It’s close proximity to Iran and Afghanistan. Economic ties are strengthening between India and Pakistan but there is continuing internal political instability. Athough there is willingness to strengthen ties where possible,  this region could change at any moment because of either internal or external pressure.

Bangladesh: Controlled Fire
Bangladesh is focused on reducing terrorism and stabilising the economy. It is making efforts to reengage India and improve its economic status.

Myanmar: Ember
India still has a lot to be done to win Myanmar’s trust but the possibilities are real. There is also a smouldering ember for Islamic uprising.

China: Gas Tanker Speeding Down A Highway
The driver is alert but at high speeds things get dangerous. China has Maoist supporters, a large army and air force, nuclear potential, direct competition in labour costs and industry building and the population size very similar to India at 1.3 billion.

Although a play on words, the Indian security paradigm resembles the “Orlova Syndrome” (named after the MV Lyubov Orlova). The News is “all over” (Orlova) it but little is being done. All parties involved are claiming immunity of responsibility for this rat infested ghost ship as it drifts  imlessly. If nothing is done there are few possibilities for the vessel: It will collide with another object, sink or an agreement between several parties will pool together to rectify the course of action. The same would apply for success of the subcontinent

Nepal: Arson
Nepal’s survival is circled around hydropower and tourism versus political instability and Maoists. If this fire is lit it won’t be by natural means. Propaganda and poverty will ignite this one.

Bhutan: Kitchen Stove
Warm and friendly towards India and cool to China. India can sit down to a comfortable setting with Bhutan.
"You see, there is only one constant, one universal, it is the only real truth: causality. Action / reaction. Cause and effect"

The Merovingian (Matrix II reloaded) India’s future is bright provided a proactive approach to education and relationship building increases. Consolidating security at a federal level, opening up closed communication channels with neighbors and finding common ground internally and externally will reengage India’s turbo booster of regional leadership. Rather than blindly sail through threatening waters, it is better to climb the lookout post and navigate with precision. Without security there is no safety just as there is no agreement without understanding.


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