A Game of Chess:International politics

“When Diplomacy ends, War begins”, Is this where the world seems to be moving? For now it may appear to be safer place  with the coming together of two nations  as i put them,’Friends for Benefits’ with the development of recent Indo-U.S relationship.Union Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar and U.S Defence secretary Ashton Carter signed a Logistics Exchange Memorandom of Agreement(LEMOA) that the U.S. has assiduously pursued since 2002 and which India had,till now, resolutely refused to endorse.According to the signatories , LEMOA only facilitates establishing “mutual basing facilities”.This would be on a case-by-case basis, intended to help speed up humanitarian relief operations as also emergency evacuation from conflict prone regions.In certain circumstances, it could also help smoothen operational logistics between the navies of the two countries.LEMOA is a critical link in the U.S.’s plans for a larger pivot towards Asia. Also, that it is intended to meet the threat from an increasingly assertive ‘Dragon’ of the east(China).

Talking of India-U.S. relations, it was President Bill Clinton who made the initial move to break the logjam in India-U.S. ties dating back to the Cold War period.It was Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who during a visit to U.S., made a bold statement to hint that it was time to “move beyond the hesitations of the history”; hopes which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have fulfilled in more than ample measures.Realistically speaking, the strategic build up between the two countries commenced during the first term of Mr. Bush, when the Next Steps in Strategic  Partnership heralded a sea of change in U.S.-India relations.It was in 2005 that India and the U.S. signed their first defence Cooperation Agreement.This agreement was renewed in 2010 and 2015, leading to a loosening of strict controls that existed regarding the transfer of excluded categories of technologies.Around 2007-2008, the U.S. made initial moves to get india sign three foundational agreements viz., the Logistics Support Agreement(LSA);the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement(CISMOA); and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement(BECA) for Geo-spatial Coopertaion.While India welcomed the idea of relaxation of technology norms, it resisted signing the foundational agreements on the ground that it undermined India’s strategic autonomy.With LEMOA in place, it is almost certain that pressures would intensify to sign the other two foundational agreements-CISMOA and BECA.If India were to do so, it could convey an impression that India had gone from being a “major defence partner” to a significant “non-NATO ally” of the U.S.

Overcoming “the hesitations of history” is one thing; not ignoring the lessons of history is equally, if not more, important.The U.S. is a true practitioner of the art of “Realpolitik”.Changes in policy are constantly reflected to suit its global requirements.In Europe, for example, today the U.S. seems to be preparing to jettison its long-standing “special relationship” with the U.K. . In West Asia, as U.S.-Iran relations improve , Saudi Arabia is now the new villain on the block.The U.S. had always been suspicious of India’s friendship with Russia, that go back to the period of Non-Allignment. And today as the U.S.-Russia relations are at their nadir since fall of Berlin Wall, the U.S. can be expected to try to further weaken India-Russia relations that are lately facing some strain.Furthermore, given Pakistan’s location, it would be a mistake to belive that the U.S. would completely detach itself from Pakistan.

The geopolitical situation across the world is more confused today than it was only a few years back.Geopolitical alignments are changing at bewildering pace.As India moves closer to the U.S., Russia is seen to coming closer to China.At one level, Russia is strengthening its links with China economically and strategically and coordinating more closely on the later on the issue of South China Sea. At another level, Russia is engaging with China to oppose U.S. attempts to install Missile Defence System in Asia.

Russia is simultaneously seeking to reinforce its long-standing strategic ties with South Asian countries such as Vietnam.Russia and Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN) appear to have come closer.In Eurasia, Russia is currently carving out a zone of influence for itslef.India does not figure on any of these plans.When the strategic balance across the entire Asian region is undergoing a seismic shift, India cannot be seen to be playing a losing hand.The main players, today, are the U.S., Russia and China.The current effort of countries such as China and Russia is to restrict, if not exclude, U.S. influence from the region, labelling it as a non-Asian power.On issues such as the South China Sea, even many of the countries directly involved, specially Philippines. are willing to make their peace with China.The U.S.’s role in the region is thus becoming restricted, leaving it few alternatives.

With the ‘Snake ‘ and the ‘Dragon’ lurking in its backyard, India need to reflect whether this is the opportune moment for the country to reset its compass and move away from its long-term resistance on strategic autonomy.It is also hardly the time to be seen to be the ally of One power, that too one whose power seems to be waning. The Lion must play its cards carefully if it wants to project itself as the one in the near future. As quoted by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, “A lot of people think International Relations is like a game of chess.But its not a game of  chess,where people sit quietly,thinking out their strategy, taking their time between the moves.It’s more like a game of Billiards,with a bunch of balls clustered together.”

Indus Treaty: Other side of India-Pakistan

Water Sharing, transparency and collaboration are the pillars on which the unique Indus Water Treaty was erected in 1960 between India and Pakistan.India’s treaty with Pakistan and Bangladesh are the only pacts in Asia with specific water-sharing formulas on cross-border flows.The 1996 Ganges treaty with Bangladesh set a new standard by guaranteeing delivery of specific water quantities in the critical dry season.

The Indus treaty stands out as the world’s most generous watersharing arrangement by far, in terms of both sharing ratio(80.52 % of the aggregate water flows in the Indus system is reserved for Pakistan) and the total volume of basin waters for the downstream state(90 ties greater volume to Pakistan when compared to Mexico’s share with the USA- 1944 pact).It is the first and only treaty that goes beyond water sharing to partitioning of rivers.It draws a virtual line on the map of India to split the Indus basin into upper and lower parts limiting India’s sovereignty rights to the lower section and reserving for Pakistan the upper section(rivers) of Jammu and Kashmir-the so-called ‘Western rivers’.Today, it remains the only inter-country water arrangement in the world embodying the doctrine of restricted sovereignty which seeks to compel an upper stream state to defer to the interests of a downstream state.

P.S. (India is the upper stream state and Pakistan the Downstream state)

Pakistan wants no Indian works on the three ‘Western rivers’ and seeks International intercession by invoking the treaty’s dispute settlements provisions, which permit a neutral expert assessment or the constitution of a seven member arbitrary tribunal.By aiming to deny Jammu and Kashmir the limited benefits permissible under the treaty, Pakistan further wishes to foment discontent and violence in the valley.

It instituted international arbitration proceedings over India’s 330 megawatt hydropower project on a small Indus tributary, the Kishenganga(Neelum in Pakistan) with India’s work suspended, Pakistan ramped up a three times larger Chinese-aided hydropower plant on same river so as to stake priority right on river-water use.The tribunal’s final ruling in 2013 represented a setback for India.It allowed India to resume work on Kishenganga project but with a stiff condition that India ensure a minimum flow of 9 cumecs of water for Pakistan. More importantly the arbitrary delivered a general prohibition against drawdown flushing in all new India’s hydropower projects.Pakistan’s move to institute new arbitration proceedings over the kishenganaga project is a fresh reminder as to how India’s unparalleled water generosity has engendered undenying trouble for it.In 1960,India thought it was trading water for peace by signing the treaty.within five years Pakistan launched a war to grab India’s part of Jammu and Kashmir in 1965.Today Pakistan’s water relationship with India is becoming murkier due to China’s construction of dams on Pakistan occupied Kashmir

Pakistan, by waging a constant propaganda battle against India on the waters issue risks,undermining the Indus-treaty.And by repeatedly invoking the treaty’s conflict-resolution provisions to bring International intercession, it risks sending the wrong message-that compliance with treaty obligations and arbitrations decisions is counter-productive.In the absence of an enforce mechanism in International law, nothing can stop India from emulating the example of major powers such as China’s stand in the South China Sea.

Pakistan insists on ‘rights’ without responsibilities.In fact, its use of state reared terrorist groups can be invoked by India under Article 62 of the Vienna convention on Lw of treaties, as constituting reasonable grounds for withdrawal from Indus-treaty and all other forms of trade. The International court of justice  has upheld the principle that a treaty may be dissolved by reason of a fundamental change in circumstances.India is not invoking the same because it does not want to  give more voice to nonsensical claims of terror heads like Hafiz Saeed that India is exploiting Pakistan.

If pakistan wishes to preserve the Indus treaty despite the diminishing returns to India, it will have to strike a balance between its rights to keep utilising the bulk of the river system waters and corresponding obligation(enshrined in the International law) not to cause palpable harm to its co-riparian state by exporting terror

“IS” this the warning to India?

India cannot afford to adopt ‘Ostrich like’ stance and must acknowledge that India along with Bangladesh is a vital target for the Islamic state in the expanded state of Khorassan, Kashmir,Gujarat,NorthWest India and Greater Bengal figure prominently

The real threat posed by IS is not so much its capacity to engage in violence but in its persuasive appeal to muslim youth.The IS is able to attract an ever-increasing number of recruits and several come from highly educated and elite backgrounds.Social dynamics and manipulations of social media have also brought about certain sociological consequences.This together with online propaganda and media projection is producing an entirely different type of youth radicalized. The holy Grail remains the caliphate which has ignited the imaginations of muslim youth.

The IS has its own version of Islamic state of Khorassan.It however tends to see the battle in not geopolitical terms but one of winning and securing the minds and hearts of muslim youth. Hence countries with large educated muslim populations like Bangladesh and India are at risk

Increased sectarian tensions and violence due to misplaced IS propaganda will almost certainly disturb the equilibrium that cannot exist among muslim communities here. India thus has every reason to feel concerned at the rise of IS