Living amidst dangerous neighbours is scary, confusing and unpredictable. In South Asia, guns are once again poised and pointed against each other along the so called Line of Control (Loc) in the disputed India-Pakistan borders. If push comes to shove, as it did many times in the past, the consequence for Bangladesh could be as rewarding or devastating as it was in 1971.
The latest threats of war coming from the mouths of the top military and political leaders of the two nuclear- armed nations follow the militant attack last Sunday inside the Uri military installation within the Indian-controlled Kashmir in which 17 Indian soldiers are reported dead and dozens critically injured.
Backlash from repression
Although the attack was triggered by the two months long agitation in the Kashmir Valley in which 88 people were killed and over 800 injured by deadly pellets and live bullets fired by Indian security forces, death of an school boy on Friday stirred hyper emotion among the locals and prompted Sunday’s retaliatory attack on the security forces.
The four gunmen involved in the Uri attack have all been killed by Indian forces and the attackers were identified by India as being from the Joesh-e-Mohammed group which Delhi claims to be a Pakistan-backed militant group operating inside the Indian controlled Kashmir.
The Pakistani military, as well as the country’s foreign ministry, denied its involvement in the attack, but the government and the military leaders of India are threatening to punish Pakistan by attacking it.
While Delhi has reasons to be angry, cross border attack by militant groups must not provoke a nation like India into a military showdown with another sovereign nation whose military forces played no known role in the attack.
Yet, when Delhi talks of any war with Pakistan, it usually translates into a limited conventional offensive dubbed as the ‘cool start’ to take possession of some Pakistani territories for use as the diplomatic bargaining chip before Islamabad decides to move into the nuclear option; which will cause Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) to both the parties armed with over 100 nuclear warheads on each side. As well, the avoidance of a nuclear showdown is both rational and realistic. Both the countries have in-vulnerable nuclear missiles hidden in submarines and fighter jets that cannot be obliterated by the adversary by attacking the ground-based weapon silos and carriers. Besides, there are scattered battle field nuclear weapons which both the countries can use for tanks and artillery guns to cause major disaster to visit upon the humanity.
Even when a future war between India and Pakistan is accidental, temporary and conventional, the regional and global implications can be more profound and equally devastating. Especially the recently concluded US-India defence agreement had heightened the prospect of China and Russia getting sucked into this South Asian fray no sooner the US forces begin to land into Indian naval and air bases in the Andaman and the Nicobar islands of the Indian ocean. This will happen because, for its part, Beijing is unwilling to compromise its China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) due to the US naval preeminence in the Indian and the Pacific oceans, as well as in the South China Sea where Russia and China are currently conducting joint war games.
The tension also mounts at a time when Russia and Pakistan had struck some strategic understanding in the aftermath of the India-US defence agreement and the forces of the previously estranged Pakistan and Russia are soon to launch joint war gaming in the region, according to news reports.
Bangladesh faces a major dilemma in so far as its bilateral ties with India, USA and China are concerned. In weeks, the Chinese President is due to arrive Dhaka to inaugurate the country’s first under-river tunnel in the Karnophuli river in Chittagong while the construction of the Sonadia deep sea port hangs on a limbo following the Japanese desire to undertake the project, at US prodding to elbow out China. Japan is US’s main strategic partner in the Pacific, hence of India too.
On the other hand, according to many in the US-based think tanks, Washington wants Dhaka to play as an independent actor so that the USA can have two diverse options along the Indian Ocean littoral in case Delhi neglects Washington’s advice on de-escalating the crisis. Washington will also have to change its options if a war breaks out between India and Pakistan and China mobilizes troops against India in the common borders.
Delhi should think twice
To the contrary, If Delhi can ensure neutrality of both Beijing and Dhaka, which may spare over half a million Indian troops from the mutual borders with China and Bangladesh, Delhi has the certainty of winning a conventional war with Pakistan with ease and comfort. Even such an outcome is fraught with too many dangers of painful magnitudes. A major war, let alone a nuclear holocaust, will put Bangladesh into a quandary with respect to which way to go. In case of an India-Pakistan war, governments of all the Muslim predominant countries will be forced by public opinion to render at least vocal support to Pakistan, while the scattered militant groups like the IS and the al-Qaeda will capitalize the war to enhance their pan-Islamic agenda of liberating Kashmir on one hand, and enfeebling India on the other.
Such being the ground realities, Delhi should think twice before firing the first shot. For, any miscalculation can cost Delhi the north eastern India irrespective of whatever is desired by the incumbent Bangladesh government. In the so called Eurasian region, Russia and China have the last words, which they proved in the long staggered Syrian war.
Source: Weekly Holiday