Thursday, December 02, 2004

Love Thy Neighbor

India, like most large states in history, has had a propensity of destabilizing its neighbors, wilfully or through sheer weight of economics. Historically, larger and more prosperous states tend to act as a magnet for capital and labor from surrounding areas, as well as sources of jealousy for their neighbors.

Prior to the division of the larger corpus of the Indian sub-continent into its modern nation states by the colonial powers, this was expressed more as regional conflicts between the 600+ kingdoms that constituted Bharat. Post the East Bengal partition , and the Partition that created Pakistan, India has had disharmonious relations with its neighbors.

The formation of SAARC, or the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in 1985 was an attempt at bridging the gaps that existed between these neighbors. The proxy wars between the world superpowers in the Cold War era had their effects on relations in the subcontinent and sparked off a permanent arms race in the region.

South Asian Foreign Policy

Covert and overt support by both the Indian and Pakistani governments to various rebel groups in neighboring countries has been a cause for much conflict.
  • Sri Lanka - The Indian army trained the nascent movement for self-determination by the native Tamils, providing covert arms support. From 1981, India's RAW established a network of training bases for these groups in India. This worked well, until for reasons related to political entente in the late 1980s, the Indian Government brokered a peace accord between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers. This did not last, and acting out of a sense of betrayal, a suicide bomber assasinated the Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi in 1990.
  • Nepal - Long perceived as a crucial buffer state between the elephant and the dragon, the Hindu kingdom of Nepal has acutely felt the pressures. Pre-independence, the British did not push too hard for annexation of the kingdom, preferring to retain a resident for economic and political purposes. The capital, Kathmandu, became a nexus in the Great Game between the colonial powers. Just post-independence, India encouraged a long-suppressed desire by the King of Nepal to escape from the de facto rule of the Ranas, providing a safe haven and transit to King Tribhuvan, until the Ranas capitulated and ceded governing authority to the titular monarch. In more recent times, India has been more interested in preserving access to Nepalese trade and maintaining the status quo against the Maoist rebels, who have been propped up by China. The massacre of most of the Nepalese royal family in 2001 is still shrouded in mystery, and allegations of collusion by everyone from the CIA to India, and China.

To be continued....

Of Note:

The Doomsday clock - currently at seven minutes to midnight

The South Asian Intelligence Report - weekly briefing






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