Changing political dynamics in South Asia and India’s defense strategy

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi with other world leaders in a group photograph, at the 15th ASEAN-India Summit, in Manila, Philippines on November 14, 2017.

Ever since the partition and Independence of India, the world has looked upon India’s development by coping up with its multi socio – cultural, multi ethno – religious and multi linguistic society adorning diverse cultural traits. The historical shaping of Indian Subcontinent, politically comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka is unique in terms of polity, economy, and socio-cultural dimensions. The contemporary South Asia’s ‘buzzing epicenter’ of ‘concentric geopolitics’ is indeed the beginning of shift in power axis from the ‘Northern Atlantic Sub-hemisphere’: United States of America (U.S.A), European Union (E.U) and its allies towards South Asia comprising China and India.

The existing friendly relationship between U.S.Aand E.U is a result of historic conflicts, disputes, diplomacy and spheres of agreements. South Asia being a diverse theatre, a non-bipartisanrelation can ensure sustained peace and development.The rising Chinese influence in South Asian region with the ‘Dragon’s Paw’ reaching to West Asia till Europe and to the neighboring countries of India. The ‘String of Chinese Silk’ (String of Pearls – Maritime Silk Road)strives for massive infrastructural projects, some being reached out toPakistan,it’s all weather cozy friend, through the disputed territories of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Icing the ‘cake of menace’ for India is the twin threat of Pakistan exported terrorism and the increasing radicalization of local Muslims in India, particularly in Jammu & Kashmir. The ‘epicenter of global terrorism’ is a reality of this notorious neighbor. India’s foreign policy over the decades have shifted with the changing dimensions in South Asian politicswith the ‘yet to revive’ Afghanistan being cared post withdrawal of U.S special forces.

The past one decade saw the Government of India increaseaid and assistance to its neighboring countries.  However, China has stood at the periphery of nations neighboring India. At this instance India’s emancipation of ‘Act East Policy’ focusing on Asia-Pacific region for strategic dialogue and economic cooperation aims to strengthen ties with ASEAN countries. The policy gains attention at a time of China’s hegemonic agenda to ‘wall’ the South China Sea.The recent milestones to consolidate relationships with a ‘cherry of trust’ may not work with all the countries, but it emphasizes India’s seriousness to take forward SAARC nations together as a bloc like the European Union.

The current Government hints at the future strategic ambitions to tilt the opportunities of the ‘Asian Pivot’ in favor of India and bring the ‘cusp of change’in ‘diplomatic and geopolitical winds’ from diverse landscapes adjoining the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal in favor of India.India’s bilateral relationship with neighboring countries comes with ‘pie and thorns’. Amidst such a hotspot, India’s defense measures and preparedness and strategic relationship with south Asian nations take limelight.

India’s assistance to Bhutan for development of hydropower projects; expertise for the Constitution of Nepal; energy cooperation with Bangladesh; assistance to build the Afghan Parliament; quick humanitarian assistance for supply drinking water in Maldives and much importantly the ‘SAARC satellite’ are just a few ‘sweet toothed’ strategies to strengthen India’s relations with the immediate neighborhood in return for their support to leverage India’s strategic role in International politics particularly India’s permanent membership at the United National Security Council.