Relations between Pakistan and India are becoming more complicated. On September 18 terrorist groups supported by Pakistan hit Indian military positions in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir region. In late September, the Indian Army has conducted some military actions against camps, located in Pakistan, suspected to be bases for terrorist attacks.
In June there was a similar incident on the border with Myanmar that the international press has given little importance. An Indian army convoy was attacked by a terrorist groups from Myanmar. Few days later the Indian army has responded with a blitz that has literally wiped out the village from which the group of the terrorist originated. An “abnormal” response compared to traditional Indian prudence.
These facts are signs that India is not willing to tolerate terrorist attacks on its territory from wherever they come, much less from Pakistan. The hardness of the attacks and the responses could lead to a military escalation, considering also the statements of the politicians of both Pakistani and Indian governments.
The events of these days they are affecting the regional policy framework. India is boycotting the summit SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) which was to take place in Islamabad in November and will probably be postponed. Pakistan is literally isolated. Indeed, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, have agreed to support India’s position. Practically all members of SAARC are boycotting the Summit.
Fueling the tensions there is also China’s decision to build, within the OBOR project, the corridor Pakistan-China (CPEC) to connect the city of Kashgar with Gadwar which gives the Chinese region of Xinjiang direct access to the Indian Ocean, Africa and the Arabian peninsula. The timing of the transport would otherwise are cut by avoiding the passage from the Strait of Malacca. China plans to invest 50 billion dollars, an enormous amount of money for Pakistan, more than all the foreign direct investment (FDI) that have been made in that country. The works are in progress.
India has showed a certain coldness toward the project of China-Pakistan corridor (CPEC) because it is perceived as a factor that can alter the geo-political balance of the area and because it has political purposes hidden by economic reasons. In this scenario Pakistan enjoys a strong support from China and that worries India given the tensions that exist between the two countries.
In 2016 India has made operational, in agreement with the government of ‘Iran, a major investment ($ 500 million) in the Balochistan region, for the construction of the Chabahar port. Planned since long it arrives in time to loosen the “Chinese grip” and allows India to retake control of that part of the Indian Ocean overlooking the Arabian Sea. The port of Chabahar opens a way, hampered by Pakistan, to Afghanistan and the countries of Central Asia, Russia and Europe. The Ashgabat agreement, which India signed in March 2016, also allows the connection of the North-South corridor (NSTC) to the Central Asia transportation networks.
The Indian Ocean region is increasingly crucial for Asian and global strategic stability. It became the hub of global maritime trade and, therefore, a sensitive area. Now the regional context is likely to be complicated because of what is perceived by the Asian roommates as “expansionism” Chinese that could trigger unpredictable dynamics. The Indian Ocean Rim, then, would be added to other crisis areas already present in the Far East and South-East Asia, where Japan and partner countries pledged to contain China as part of the American strategy “Pivot to Asia”, although still with uncertain outcomes.
- Alberto Cossu is associated research of the «Infrastructures and Land Development» Programme (IsAG).