The towering example of the Mahatma has encouraged several Prime Ministers of India to attempt the role of peacemakers. Whether it be land, water or other national assets, concession after concession has been made, conciliation effort after conciliation effort has been carried out. Elements in the Lutyens Zone persist in repeating failed policies because those are the only approaches they are familiar with, and are too lazy or risk-averse to attempt anything new. Those who are hyper-cautious, who seek to avoid any risk, are usually the very individuals who put the interests of the country at risk. The Taliban, which was ushered into power in Kabul on 15 August courtesy President Joe Biden, have been seeking to give the appearance of playing peacemaker between Delhi and Beijing. Their senior officials are seeking to hold trilateral meetings, in which the Indian and Chinese sides are represented together with Afghan officials. The Taliban are aware that the two countries that support them fully are China and its most trusted (if high maintenance) subsidiary power in South Asia, the military-ruled state of Pakistan. It is an axiom in PRC foreign policy to get close to whichever formation is the ruling establishment in a country. This would be done overtly and covertly, through operations designed to influence their policies which are of concern to Beijing. Given their association with Pakistan, which has long provided a safe haven for the Taliban under the inert gaze of Washington, the PRC has signed on to the GHQ Rawalpindi strategy of relying on (their factions in) the Taliban to achieve the objectives set by the joint PLA-GHQ mission in Afghanistan. This is to ensure plentiful and safe supply of natural resources from Afghanistan to China and to use Afghanistan as a base for measures designed to disrupt the security and other interests of India. Any dialogue between Beijing and Delhi, whether bilateral or multilateral, is taking place under the dank, grey ambience created by the “all-weather” friendship not between the people of the PRC and Pakistan, but between the two militaries. This relationship has been taken to a more elevated level by CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping, who appears to take a sentimental view of Pakistan along with different feelings about India. The way in which President Xi stopped over in Kathmandu to meet his acquaintances within the ruling establishment in Kathmandu was to make clear that the October 2019 Mamallapuram tete-a-tete between him and Narendra Modi notwithstanding, the CCP General Secretary remained committed to seeking to demonstrate that it was Beijing and not Delhi that had primacy of sway over what is referred to as South Asia.
The dense cultural, economic and people-to-people ties exist between India and South Asia, a region that was a single entity until the post-war scenario that began in 1945. Efforts at displacement of such links by Rawalpindi and Beijing have been futile, and relations with India have bounced back each time after temporary setbacks, some caused by clumsy Lutyens Zone actions such as the blockade of Nepal 2015 triggered by the barely represented Madhesis within the ruling establishment in Kathmandu, others through manipulation by GHQ-PLA joint operations. It may be noted that the military is in control of much of the foreign policy of Pakistan, as is the case with broad swathes of policy in the PRC, especially since the takeover of authority by Xi Jinping in 2012. The pretence of Rawalpindi and Beijing of searching for solutions to problems created by the GHQ-PLA alliance is intended to glean information that could be helpful in future such Black Ops. This is why the civilian government in Pakistan reads out the lines scripted for it by the military, which is that India should give all the information in its possession about terror attacks having a Pakistan link. The purpose is to locate and close loopholes in non-conventional warfare operations that were uncovered by the Indian side so that such revelations do not happen in the future. In the case of the PRC, the usual tactic is to grab more than is needed at a particular time, so that a withdrawal can take place from locations that the Chinese side had seized in order to make such concessions. Of course, such withdrawals would be in exchange for withdrawals from India that are far more consequential. Both Rawalpindi and Beijing believe that the sentiment among Lutyens Zone policymakers is to “avoid war at any cost”. India first tested a nuclear device in 1974. The next such test was in 1998, a delay that has been taken as proof in Beijing of the low tolerance in the Lutyens Zone for matching action with words on the Indian side to deter aggression on the LOC and the LAC. Such action will need preparation. A start would be to expand the coverage of NCC and other programs designed to instil not just knowledge of how to fight back in a kinetic conflict but to get a grounding in why the security of India is important for the preservation of democracy. Several million youngsters would welcome the rigorous training that a revamped NCC and National Service program could provide. Another would be to launch outcome-oriented discussions within the Quad and allied countries as to what the combined response should be in the event of an attack on any member by powers intent on strangling freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific or in grabbing sovereign territory on land or sea. A third would be to raise much more than now the manner in which the military in Pakistan is suppressing Pashtuns, Baloch, Sindhis, Shias and the religious minorities of that country.
MDN