As India’s strategic ties diversify in many fields with the US, the latter must be made to appreciate India’s time honoured adherence to strategic autonomy and non-alignment.
The dawn of each year, notwithstanding the travails suffered in the outgoing year, generally kindles optimism and the hope of better days to unfold. To all across the world, which inexplicably is at war with itself since the last two years or so, peace and harmony and for those gravely afflicted with unprecedented violence, even the right to merely exist would be asking the least. By all accounts, for India too, 2024 is likely to be a benchmark year with some traditional challenges remaining and some newer ones likely to emerge owing to the myriad geopolitical churnings taking place both regionally and globally.
Three years back when the planet was gradually getting over the near cataclysmic COVID 19 pandemic which took nearly 7 million lives globally and caused financial upheavals—- the most severe in a century—- the world was surprised with the mighty Russians unwarranted and unjustified invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.
This unequal war is now nearly 2 years old having caused much destruction in Ukrainian towns bordering Russia with hundreds of thousands of innocent Ukranians being displaced, with many fleeing to other nations in Europe. Russian strongman President Vladmir Putin also disregarded Indian PM Narendra Modi’s polite call that “ this is not an era of war.”
Out of the blue on 7 Oct 2023, Hamas terrorists from the Gaza Strip bordering Israel attacked innocent Israeli civilians, without any provocation, and slaughtered atleast a hundred of them besides taking many civilians hostages. The Israelis, as expected, retaliated with overwhelming strength employing multiple forms of heavy weaponry including the use of air power, tanks, missiles, artillery. The once prosperous and bristling Gaza Strip now lies much in ruins with the poor Palestinians having suffered over 25000 fatalities with the Israelis unrelenting in halting their operations despite UN strictures and pleas from many friendly nations of Israel including the US. The world watched all these tragedies unfold helplessly.
Apart from the Russian-Ukraine War and the recent Israel-Hamas conflict, many other trouble spots in the world portend violence afflicted happenings. Armenia-Azerbaijan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Qatar, Afghanistan and in our immediate neighbourhood , violence festers also in Pakistan and Myanmar too is in turmoil.
Last month another domain in instability has been added with Houthi and Somalian rebels indulging in sea piracy and hijacking merchant ships along the Red Sea igniting the mercantile strategic West Asian waterways ostensibly to deter ships heading for Israel but also indulged in hijacking an India bound ship. The latter, off course, was freed by swift and a professional action by the Indian Navy which now has deployed nearly a dozen ships in these waters to ensure no disruption in our maritime supply chains.
The Russian-Ukraine and Israeli-Hamas conflicts have thrown up many a diverse telling lesson for all nations including India. We will do well to analyse these lessons at an appropriate level, as relevant to the Indian landscape. Militarily and, equally importantly, the economic impact of the recent geopolitical churnings especially impacting our oil supplies from West Asia, Russia and Iran will have to be clinically factored in our policies and overall strategies.
India 2024, by no means, has an easy path to traverse and thus it calls for a “whole of nation approach” to navigate India through the turbulent waters of the year which has dawned. We have much to celebrate but equally much to care about.
Firstly, in my humble view as a proud Veteran of our beloved country, there is far too much of animosity bordering on hatred among our politicos of differing hues in the nation which is a self-destructive factor in taking the nation forward. We have had good personal relations among members of various political parties in the past, since Independence, and despite ideological or any differences among them mutual cordiality was always existent. Whether from the ruling party or the Opposition, some form of mutual regard for each other is sine qua non.
Overall, India is doing reasonably well in its diplomatic endeavours and managing the vexed Russia-US relations deftly and in keeping with its national interests. However, US President Joe Biden cancelling his trip to India as the chief guest for our Republic Day Parade cannot be taken lightly and some form of our displeasure should be conveyed to Washington. Biden’s refusal to come to India owing to India’s alleged involvement in the planned assassination of Khalistani terrorist Gunwant Pannun is an outrageous charge and US and Canada should be suitably sounded. As India’s strategic ties diversify in many fields with the US, the latter must be made to appreciate India’s time honoured adherence to strategic autonomy and non-alignment. Equally, India will have to maintain its traditional friendly relations with Russia both to keep its huge armament dependencies on Russia in order and also continue purchasing Russian oil at cheaper rates .
As regards diplomacy is concerned, am afraid we are somewhat faltering in the neighbourhood and much revival of the South Asian spirit and cooperation is warranted not only for the benefit of all South Asian nations but to keep China’s unbridled ambitions and hegemonistic tendencies at bay in this region. China is likely to continue to remain confrontational towards India in all respects and thus we have to remain well prepared in all respects and assertive on our uneasy borders with them. A conciliatory approach towards them will be a self-defeating exercise as the nation has learnt many times over since decades. China’s overtures towards Bhutan will need suitable counter measures to be taken by us and Bhutan’s security and well-being kept with us as hithertofore. Equally, China’s forays into Bangla Desh, Sri Lanka and Nepal will also need to be managed with care by us.
Pakistan, in self-created turmoil, can be left to their own volition while we keep a stern eye on their terror mischief creating habits. Hopefully some sense may dawn on them after their general elections with Nawaz Sharif coming back to power—though rather difficult gauging their past.
With India going in for general elections in a matter of few months from now on, the Indian Armed Forces and other security agencies will have to be on full alert to prevent mischief from across or within. 2024 promises to be an eventful year which will set the tone for the coming years for India as it rightfully seeks and strives for its seat on the global high table. The endeavour to strengthen all constituents of its Comprehensive National Power and ensure inter-societal harmony should be our guiding principles in our march forward.