India and Pakistan at 75: partition remains an open wound as new friction points arise

Where did the attack on Salman Rushdie shed light? Pakistan And India, now 75 years old, both share the same land. Amid worldwide outrage, both governments remained silent.

Peace from different origins. Some of the first riots occurred in Pakistan after the publication of Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, and violent extremism is still a part of the country’s political life.

In the case of India, because Rushdie was a critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and angered his supporters, whom the author himself referred to as “Modi Toddies”.

Freedom of speech intolerance is one area in which India is becoming more like Pakistan as both countries celebrate their 75th birthdays. Under Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), political opponents are increasingly subject to arrests and beatings, and political pressure is mounting on the press and judiciary. A democracy advocacy group has downgraded India’s democracy to “partly free”. Freedom HouseA category India now shares with Pakistan.

Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US and now director of South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington, said, “There are people, including me, who have expressed concern about the Pakistanization of India.”

India Partition Map

Pakistan has faced three military coups since independence and the military is still the kingmaker in politics. The current shaky government led by Shehbaz Sharif came to power in April after the generals turned against his predecessor Imran Khan, and Khan has recently been calling on him to return their support.

A shared democratic deficit does not in any way translate into a convergence of national interests at the global level. Three-quarters of a century later, the trauma of partition remains an open wound, always prone to flare-ups, especially in Kashmir, which – until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – was a global flashpoint likely to spark a nuclear conflict.

Three years ago, after an attack on an Indian convoy in Kashmir by the Pakistani militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, India carried out its first airstrike inside Pakistan’s territory, claiming to target a terrorist training base in Pakistan’s territory, and Pakistan launched an airstrike. Raid on Indian Occupied Kashmir.

In March, India accidentally fired a missile In Pakistan, nuclear-armed neighbors (believed to have 160 weapons each) risk going to war by accident and miscalculation.

The Kashmir dispute dates back to Partition, but the global arena in which India and Pakistan confront each other is changing radically. America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated divisions and tensions between the major powers, and above all, China’s growing power and increasingly aggressive global role are bringing them into more open conflict with America every day.

“The great power competition between the US and China is reverberating throughout South Asia in a way that I think we’re only just beginning to see the effects of,” said Elizabeth Threlkeld, director of the South Asia program at the Stimson Center in Washington.

These global developments further alienate mainly South Asian neighbors. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan last year means that Pakistan is less strategically important to Washington. Sharif’s replacement of the staunchly anti-American Khan, though portrayed by Khan as a staunch Westerner, did little to change that.

Meanwhile, Chinese expansionism has sparked a conflict with India in the Himalayas, with clashes between their military outposts on high mountain passes. And two new points of friction have emerged over the past few days.

A Chinese satellite-tracking ship is set to dock at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port this week, despite angry objections from New Delhi and Washington. and at the United Nations, China India got angry By preventing Jaish-e-Mohammed’s deputy leader from being declared a UN-listed terrorist.

Indo-China rivalry has brought India closer to America. The Quad Informal Partnership of India, US, Japan and Australia has become more meaningful over the years. In 2016, the US designated India as a “major defense partner”, giving it access to US weapons systems, supposedly on par with treaty allies.

While Biden and Modi do not share the same personal relationship with Indian Prime Minister Donald Trump, Biden has invested in the relationship, hosting Modi at the White House and Washington holding regular meetings between the US secretaries of state and defense. and their Indian counterparts, further enhancing defense ties.

The Biden administration’s prioritization of Asia means it has largely ignored Modi’s Democratic support, and New Delhi’s refusal to help isolate Russia after the Ukraine invasion and continued purchases of Russian oil.

“In response, the Pakistanis have tightened their ties with China, and the tighter these ties get, the more strained India-Pakistan relations will become,” said Rajan Menon, director of the grand policy program at the Defense Priorities think tank.

There are serious doubts inside and outside Pakistan that its approach of seeking “rents” from major powers for its strategically important position will provide any kind of long-term stability.

“Hitching your wagons first to the US and then to China reflects the attitude that we have to find someone to pay our bills in exchange for strategic favors,” said Haqqani, a former ambassador to Washington. “As a long-term plan, it is always bad to try to make your nationality – as well as your political, economic and cultural survival – entirely dependent on other people’s struggles.”

In contrast, India has so far managed to strike a balance with its powerful partners, defying Washington’s pressure to isolate Russia over the Ukraine invasion and increasing cooperation with the US over China. Relations with Moscow go back to the beginning of the Cold War, and a Stimson Center analysis found that 60% to 85% of India’s weapons are Soviet- or Russian-made.

So far, the US has been tolerant of India’s traditional Russian ties but gave an angry voice Over the weekend, India was found to be exporting fuel made from Russian crude oil in a secret cargo shipment on the high seas.

Rajan Menon argued that Washington tried to force India to choose between the US and Russia, and could force it to embrace Moscow.

“One way to nail it is to put Indians up against the wall and say you have to stand with us on all issues related to Russia,” he said.

But Moscow’s defeat in Ukraine could also affect how closely Russian and Chinese foreign policies align with India’s balancing act.

“If — and this is a big if — this alignment between Russia and China becomes so strong that it becomes almost a quasi-alliance, will the Russians be somehow manipulated into taking a stand on the Sino-Indian dispute?” Menon asked. “If that happens, it will really change the pattern of India-Russia relations.”

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