Indian-Pakistani relations have hit a new low point after the Uri Attack in Kashmir. Four militants attacked an Indian military base in Kashmir over the weekend and killed 17 soldiers in what is being decried by New Delhi as one of the worst “terrorist attacks” there in a quarter century. It’s totally predictable that India would frame the events the way that it did, but observers need to realize that New Delhi’s harsh language isn’t just reactionary rhetoric towards Pakistan, but carries broader significance for Russia and China. India is signaling to them that the bilateral relationship that it has with each Great Power will be irreversibly damaged if they continue their strategic relations with Pakistan, a country which New Delhi is once again obsessively campaigning across the world to have recognized as a ‘rogue terrorist state’ and subsequently isolated.
It will never be publicly admitted and will always be ‘plausibly denied’ for diplomatic purposes and reasons of international image, but India is leading the Hybrid War on CPEC, the $46 billion Chinese-led investment corridor through Pakistan and Beijing’s only reliable non-Malacca route to the Indian Ocean. India’s aggressive policies are being directed by powerful National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, the man who can single-handedly be blamed for India’s abandonment of non-alignment in favor of what its sycophantic pundits have decided to misleadingly market as “multi-alignment”, which is just an ‘acceptable’ way to call India’s pro-American redirection. Granted, India still enjoys a very close relationship with Russia, but it’s undeniable that its relations with the US have astronomically improved ever since Modi’s premiership began and are progressively developing into one of the world’s most decisive military-strategic partnerships. In this context, Russia’s relations with India are irreplaceably important for the balancing function that they provide in regards to New Delhi’s delicate straddling of the multipolar and unipolar worlds.
Nevertheless, Russia has been unable to slow the pace of India’s Hybrid War on CPEC, with New Delhi having taken a bold triple-step approach in waging this campaign. The most significant move was the signing of the so-called “Logistics Support Agreement” with the US, which in practice opened up all Indian military facilities to American use on a case-by-case preapproved basis. The Indian-US military-strategic partnership quickly flexed its muscles in carrying out the ongoing provocative drills in the mountainous Uttarakhand state right near the Chinese border, sending a clear and undeniable message to both China and Pakistan that this undeclared military alliance is aimed against them. On the regional front, the US-Indian alliance is converging in Afghanistan, which New Delhi sees as a ‘flank’ against Pakistan. This framework is formally manifesting itself through the trilateral talks that the parties are holding on the sidelines of the UN this week. In the long term, India hopes to continue with the weaponization of Afghan Pashtun animosity against Pakistan, believing that this can intensify the seemingly never-ending terrorist blowback that Pakistan has experienced ever since it got involved with the US/Brzezinski-backed Afghan Mujahedeen in the 1980s.
The last element of India’s Hybrid War on CPEC is perhaps its riskiest, and that’s New Delhi’s shameless support of the Baloch insurgency in Pakistan. India’s geopolitical hate for Pakistan and CPEC could thus endanger its own North-South Corridor in the adjacent Baloch-inhabited Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchistan, which would paradoxically have the effect of India ‘outflanking’ itself. What’s even worse for India is that its recklessness towards Pakistan and China might have been responsible for Iran’s recent inclination to work with CPEC and for Russia’s open-minded thinking in completely resetting relations with Pakistan through the forthcoming commencement of the first-ever joint military drills between both countries. The ultimate geopolitical irony is that as India ‘balances’ against China, New Delhi’s own partners are balancing against India due to the insurmountable strategic dilemma that Modi-Doval provoked by scandalously teaming up with the US in the Hybrid War on CPEC. In terms of regional paradigms, it’s clear to see that the US’ ‘Pivot to Asia’ involves South Asia just as much as it does ASEAN, and that the maritime War on OBOR (China’s “One Belt One Road” global vision, commonly referred to as the New Silk Roads) in the South China Sea has a mainland analogue in India’s Hybrid War on CPEC.
The Uri Attack occurred right on the eve of the 71st opening of the UN General Assembly in New York, guaranteeing that India will politicize the issue as much as it can on the global stage. Even before this incident happened, India raised the issue of Balochistan at the UN in the hopes of ‘countering’ what Pakistan will be doing with Kashmir. India doesn’t have any justification for talking about Balochistan in such a forum because it’s entirely a domestic issue for Pakistan, unlike Kashmir which has several UNSC Resolutions behind it. Additionally, the UN mandated that India must hold a plebiscite on Kashmir’s future, but New Delhi has flagrantly refused to do this for decades despite billing itself as the “world’s largest democracy”. This makes it all the more ironic that India is the one trying to paint Pakistan as a ‘rogue state’.
Moreover, in regards to Kashmir, it is the only place in the world where Muslims were de-facto prevented from celebrating Eid el-Adha this year, one of the holiest events in all of Islam. Mosques were closed, curfews enforced, and communication systems were forcibly shut down by the Indian authorities, thus turning what is supposed to be a festive time of prayer and family gatherings into one of isolated home confinement for all Kashmiris. Those that were brave enough to venture outside of their dwellings were violently confronted by the Indian security forces, some of whom shot into the protesting crowds and killed an 11-year-old boy. The Kashmiris were so outraged by this murder that thousands of them defied the curfew to attend the child’s funeral. Comparatively speaking, the Kashmiris currently have it much worse at the hands of India than the Palestinians do in regards to ‘Israel’, especially when it comes to their religious freedoms.
It might be shocking to the reader to find out that neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia have taken a substantial stand against India in response to its actions in Kashmir, but this is attributable to the grand strategic game that both of them are playing with New Delhi. The Iranians envisage part of their long-term future economic strategy as facilitating South Asian-Western European trade by means of the North-South Corridor that was recently agreed to with it, India, Azerbaijan, and Russia, while the Saudis see India as a convenient partner for pressuring Pakistan, albeit for different reasons than New Delhi has. In a nutshell, Riyadh is furious that Islamabad flat-out refused to join the Saudis’ ‘anti-terrorist’ coalition (a euphemism for a grand anti-Iranian containment bloc) and rebuffed their numerous outreaches for taking part in the War on Yemen, which explains the fervency with which Saudi Arabia wants to ‘punish’ Pakistan by coordinating with India and indirectly stoking destabilization along Iran’s eastern borderland region. Furthermore, Iran and Saudi Arabia both have significant energy relations with India and need to remain in its good graces as a result.
The complexity of Iran and Saudi Arabia’s ties with India explains why neither of them is taking up the Kashmiri cause at the UN, despite each of them attempting at times to be the normative leader of the Muslim world. The Saudis have long been exposed as opportunistic hypocrites with their policies, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that they’d violate their own much-trumpeted foreign policy ‘principles’ and ‘sell out Sunnis’ to India, yet the case of Iran’s muted response is much more nuanced. Iran isn’t ‘selling anyone out’ because it never formally positioned itself to be their defender in the first place, though it is a bit confusing why Tehran would so vocally support the protesters in Bahrain while barely uttering a peep about the ones in Kashmir by comparison. This could be explained by the fact that Iran generally tends to support Shias whenever they’re facing oppression, but that this does not inherently make it “anti-Sunni”, “aggressive”, or “sectarian” no matter how the Saudis and their affiliated information outlets try to spin it. Iran sees no such pressing imperative in Kashmir because the vast majority of the population is Sunni, not Shia, and the Islamic Republic – in spite of its aggressive and disastrous covert intervention in Bosnia in the 1990s – does not take the onus upon itself to “advance the subjective ‘interests’ of Muslims” all across the world.
Seeing as how neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia will take up the Kashmiri cause at the UN due to their complex interests with India, Pakistan feels compelled to lead by example in championing this cause in front of the global public. More than likely, Islamabad’s moves will be unpopular on the state-to-state political level because many countries want to retain their positive and promising economic-strategic relations with India and will be reluctant to publicly back Pakistan, but the country can expect to expand its soft power among the popular masses in the Muslim-majority countries who are aware of what’s happening in Kashmir. No matter what the reader’s opinion is about Pakistan and Kashmir, legally speaking and in reference to the unfulfilled series of UNSC Resolutions that India refuses to carry out by prohibiting a plebiscite, Islamabad has ever principled right to raise the Kashmir issue each and every year at the UN, especially after the recent violence there and India’s unthinkable de-facto banning of Eid el-Adha celebrations this year.
India, on the other hand, has no justifiable grounds for using its global podium to address the issue of Baloch separatism, though as seen from New Delhi’s official statements on the matter, it will try to cover its statements in ‘humanitarian and diplomatic’ rhetoric in order to make it ‘globally relevant’ in that forum. Interestingly, this is the same type of normative messaging that the US usually resorts to when it’s trying to internationalize whatever the manufactured Hybrid War crisis of the day may be, and it can’t be discounted that the Indian-US military-strategic partnership has progressed at such an unprecedented pace that New Delhi is now copying its new ally’s undiplomatic mannerisms in exploiting artificial crises for its own grand benefit (or being outright directed what to say). Evaluating the pronounced seriousness with which India is treating the Uri Attack and the sort of language that it’s already leveled against Pakistan in regards to this issue and Balochistan, it’s predicted that India will use the worldwide attention that it receives at the UN General Assembly to rail on and on about how Pakistan is purportedly a ‘rogue terrorist dictatorship’ that’s ‘killing its own people’ and posing a ‘nuclear-armed threat’ to global security.
The implications of the forthcoming Indian outburst will be geopolitically profound and could further weaken BRICS unity by throwing Russia and China on the horns of a unipolar-orchestrated dilemma. India is pushing forward with the Hybrid War on CPEC in such an obsessive manner that it has come to fully dominate the country’s regional policy, as seen most obviously by the three-step moves it has taken in allying with Afghanistan, partnering with the US, and promoting Baloch separatism in Pakistan. Now, however, India is seeking to globalize its campaign and attract worldwide support through the polemical show that it’s about to put on at the UN General Assembly, disguising its geopolitical gambit under the thin cover of ‘democratic-humanitarian concern’. The language that New Delhi has already used and will almost certainly continue employing in the future makes it clear in no uncertain terms that India regards Pakistan as the greatest threat to global security due to its alleged support of what it calls ‘Kashmiri terrorism’ and its supposed ‘human rights violations’ in Balochistan, strongly inferring that anyone who cooperates with Islamabad after this point is thereby guilty by association.
A convincing parallel can be made to India’s present attitude towards Pakistan after the Uri Attack and Bush’s proclamation after 9/11 in which he arrogantly declared that “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” Modi at the UN probably won’t be as direct as Bush was before Congress, but the message will thematically be the same – those who continue to work with Pakistan will be regarded as unfriendly to India, to say the least. This will have deleterious consequences for India’s relations with Russia and China because it will force them to make a choice between New Delhi and Islamabad, confronting them with the unipolar world’s zero-sum ‘logic’ that it is fundamentally out of place in the emerging Multipolar World Order. In a glaring example of double standards, while India believes in ‘multi-alignment’ for itself in ‘justifying’ its closer relations with the US, it prohibits its supposed multipolar partners in BRICS from practicing anything similar with Pakistan, suggesting that the hubris of American decision makers has startlingly begun to infect their otherwise stereotypically modest Indian counterparts. The reason that India is surprisingly pushing forward with such stubborn one-sided demands is because it wants to stop CPEC and prevent the commencement of the first-ever Russian-Pakistani military drills.
The ‘trip wire’ of strategic competition between India and China and the event which unofficially commenced the ongoing Cold War between them was Beijing moving forward with the construction of CPEC through what India considers to be “Pakistan-occupied Kashmir”, but which is internationally recognized by most of the world as the legitimate Pakistani territory of Gilgit-Baltistan, the part of the country directly abutting China. From the Indian perspective, CPEC’s completion would forever tie Gilgit-Baltistan to Pakistan and thus squash New Delhi’s already delirious decades-long dream of ever capturing this land and bring it under its control, hence why it dedicated its “deep state” (permanent military-intelligence-diplomatic bureaucracy) to asymmetrically fighting against this project. India’s upcoming diatribe at the UN about the ‘threat’ that Pakistan poses to the region and the rest of the world is conditioned on putting global pressure on China for carrying through with this project in spite of how much it’ll support the ‘rogue terroristic Islamabad regime’, while India might level (or suggest through obvious innuendo) the same ‘normative’ objectives against Russia in relation to Moscow’s planned weapons sales to Pakistan and both sides’ upcoming joint military drills.
Even though India is ‘diversifying’ its weapons supplies to incorporate more US and ‘Israeli’ equipment and strategically displacing some Russian imports as a result, New Delhi does not want to allow Moscow the option of branching out its partners in response and by initiating cooperation with Islamabad. Indian decision maker are also of the disposition that it’s already ‘condescending’ enough that Russian military diplomacy balances between India and China, and that it would ‘add insult to injury’ for Russia to do this in regards to India and Pakistan. From their groupthink vantage point, Russia is moving closer to China and Pakistan at India’s strategic expense, even though this type of zero-sum game is purely in their American-provoked imaginations since Moscow is not willing to recklessly jeopardize its multi-billion-dollar arms trade with India nor the wealth of strategic economic relations that it presently enjoys with it such as in the nuclear energy sector. That being said, Russia is cognizant of how desperately the US wants to break into India’s arms, nuclear energy, and overall commercial markets and the surprising progress that it’s already made, and being the Great Power that it is, Moscow knows how to diplomatically ‘play tough’ in ‘balancing’ between its partners in order to strike the most optimal deal with each of them, hence one of the more subtly discrete reasons behind the ‘restart’ of Russian-Pakistani relations.
As India moves closer to the US, it can expect Russia to take reciprocal steps towards Pakistan in compensating for any perceived or actual loss of relevant market share and influence, with the ‘Logistics Support Agreement’ serving as the trigger for Moscow’s decision to carry out joint military exercises with Islamabad. In contrast to India’s depictions of Pakistan as some ‘backwards rogue state’ under the secret control of ‘terrorists’, Moscow sees its new South Asian partner as a responsible state dedicated to fighting the scourge of terrorism, ergo why officials have said that counterterrorism cooperation is very high between both sides and underpinning one of the reasons why Russia plans to ship arms to Pakistan in the first place. The Russian-Pakistani rapprochement is heavily influenced by China, which convinced both of its strategic partners to let go of their historical baggage and finally cooperate out of the shared multilaterally beneficial vision of enhancing CPEC and pan-Eurasian connectivity. This process isn’t aimed against any third party like India thinks it is, though it admittedly has been sped up by India’s suspicious acceleration of multidimensional relations with the US. The sooner that Indian decision makers realize this, the sooner that they’ll come to terms with the reality behind what is happening and in understanding why their implicit demands that all countries cut their strategic interactions with Pakistan are bound to fall on deaf ears in Moscow.
India is on track to uncouple itself from its Eurasian BRICS allies under the false guise of unstated protest over their relations with Pakistan. New Delhi might not publicly state that it has a problem with Beijing’s CPEC or Moscow’s planned joint military drills with Islamabad, but by using the global podium of the UN General Assembly to predictably smear Pakistan as a ‘terrorist rogue state’, it’s obviously trying to implicate all of its strategic partners by extent and thus turn up the pressure on each of them to halt their high-level interactions in response. There’s no way that China will abandon CPEC nor that Russia will embarrassingly step back from its hitherto very promising military diplomacy with Pakistan just because India has a paranoid problem with these initiatives, and the way that they see it, New Delhi is the one that’s essentially backtracking on its multipolar commitment by implicitly making one-sided zero-sum unipolar demands of its partners.
India already knows that Russia and China won’t accede to the pressure being put on them, which is why everything that it does at the UN this week is basically one big public relations stunt in ‘justifying’ an even stronger intensification of New Delhi’s pro-Western pivot in hindsight, with it being forecast that India will move even closer to the US, Germany, and Japan in the coming months under the ostensible explanation that these are the countries most solidly standing behind its claims that Pakistan is a ‘rogue terrorist state’. As evidence, the jingoistic pundits in the Indian media could simply contrast how Washington, Berlin, and Tokyo took New Delhi’s side in shunning Pakistan as compared to Moscow and Beijing’s embrace of Islamabad. It should never be forgotten, though, that Russia and China are engaging with Pakistan out of multipolar solidarity in creating a new and peaceful order in Eurasia, while India is teaming up with the US and its allies in order to disrupt this vision because of the intense geopolitical hate that it has for Pakistan and the violent jealousy that it experiences every time it hears about its BRICS partners pragmatically interacting with its supreme rival.
Looking back on it, the Uri Attack and India’s over-exaggerated hysterics about it on the world stage will be seen as the pivotal moment when New Delhi threw its Russian and Chinese ‘partners’ into a unipolar-concocted dilemma by presenting them with the impossible ultimatum of cutting off all strategic ties with Pakistan or risk incurring India’s wrath. Russia and China saw this coming long in advance when their respective strategists first pinpointed that India was turning into an American ally, so each country has been preparing itself in its own way for the fallout of frigid relations with India. Russia might still be able to retain privileged relations with India for as long as New Delhi continues to rely on Russian weaponry and nuclear energy technology, though if India uses the occasion of Russia’s continued relations with Pakistan in the post-Uri strategic environment to make the choice of decisively pivoting towards the unipolar world in these sectors, then this might herald in the moment when India begins silently replacing its erstwhile strategic dependencies on Russia with the US, ‘Israel’, and others. As for Indian-Chinese relations, it can be fully expected that the Cold War between the two will continue to heat up, possibly culminating in a hot proxy war in Nepal.
Finally, all observers will have to keep their eyes peeled on the upcoming BRICS Summit in Goa next month in order to see whether the geopolitical divisions between Russia & China on one side and India on the other will have any immediate substantial consequences for all parties’ presumably shared goal of reforming the global economic-financial system. As the author wrote in his book-length article series about “The Meaning Of Multipolarity”, India still has a vested self-interest in promoting economic-financial multipolarity despite its geopolitical unipolarity, but that the geopolitical factor is the ultimate determinant in influencing the other two and will with time come to impact on India’s commitment to them. Considering how quickly India has geopolitically moved towards the US in the course of less than a single year, it can’t be disregarded that Washington is also holding out the promise of integrating New Delhi into the unipolar economic-financial system and tempting it to abandon its multipolar commitment to BRICS. It’s too early to rush to any judgements in this case, but the conceptual threat must responsibly be countenanced by Russian and Chinese decision makers, which is why it’s so important for observers to monitor India’s relations with Russia and China at these tense moments and to keep a watchful eye on everything (including symbolism, mannerisms, and adherence to diplomatic protocol) that occurs during next month’s BRICS Summit in Goa.
By Andrew Korybko