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The Brewing Strategic Tensions In South Asia And Its Global Impact

The South Asian subcontinent is becoming the theatre of geopolitical crisis that can have global ramifications. The three biggest countries in the region, India, Pakistan, and China, have been involved in a range of disputes from strategic to boundary tensions. From last year when India revoked the autonomy of its northern state of Jammu and Kashmir and gave it the status of a federally administered territory, the tensions with Pakistan have been on an all-time high. These were even echoed in the chambers of the United Nations Security Council.

India also continues to be at loggerheads with China. The two rising powers have a long unsettled boundary dispute in the Himalayan region. They’re also trying the covert and overt measures to prevent each other from rising to the status of supreme power in the Asian continent.

strategic tensions in the Himalayas

India And Pakistan: A Never-Ending Rivalry

Indian and Pakistan were carved out of a single power that was ruled by the British till 1947. The two nations have since then involved in many conflicts that escalated into full-scale wars on 4 occasions. They have been fighting each other on many issues such as control of the Siachen glacier, Sir Creek in the Arabian Sea, and several other ideological disputes. The biggest of all these disagreements is their joint claim over the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

After 2019 when India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi came back to power, his government has been very harsh on the terrorism emanating from Pakistan. The suicide attack over Indian soldiers in February 2019 nearly triggered a full-scale war between these two nuclear-armed nations. They have already fought 4 big wars in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999.  The world community fears that a full-scale war between these two nations now could be dangerous as both the countries now have nuclear weapons.

In August 2019, India revoked the special status that gave a certain constitutional autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan condemned the move saying it’s a violation of the United Nations resolutions since the dispute stands pending in the Security Council. China who has been a long-standing ally of Pakistan also proposed a discussion on the topic. The conflict has been keeping Indian and Pakistan economic relations into limbo. Frequent restrictions in trade between these two countries have been one of the biggest causalities.

India And China: Always Rising Strategic Tensions

India and China are two of the most powerful countries in South Asia. The two Himalayan neighbors have been facing constant ups and downs in their relationship. In May and June 2020, there was another flare-up on the Line of Actual Control that marks the boundary between the two nations. Media reports suggested that the Chinese did capture a few miles of Indian Territory of Ladakh region known as the Galway Valley. The Indian government was quick to denounce any such claim. As a result, there was a lot of military build-up on both sides.

Strategic Tensions In Asia

For India, China’s claim to some areas its northern Himalayan region and also the North-Eastern region poses a sovereignty threat. China already controls a part of the Kashmir region in the Himalayan upper reaches known as Aksai Chin. Constant tensions also exist there which are fuelled by the Chinese military and China’s economic presence in Pakistan. This includes the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and the Belt and Road Initiative to build a 21st-century trade route from China across South Asia to the Middle East and then encompassing Africa and Europe.

India claims that the CPEC and BRI run through its territory illegally occupied by the Pakistanis. The two countries also trade blows on the borders and allegations in the diplomatic circles. While China always tries to internationalize the Kashmir issue, India, on the other hand, is bringing global attention to the Hong Kong protests and many allegations of Chinese human rights abuses in Tibet and Xinjiang regions.

India’s westward shift in recent years such as coming close to the United States has also irked China. Donald Trump’s allegations over the origins of the Corona-virus further accelerated the tensions. India recently banned 59 Chinese apps including Tik-Tok on allegations of spyware and posing a threat to its security. The two countries have a mutual trade of more than 80 billion USD where China enjoys a huge surplus.

Indio-Chinese Strategic Tensions

India Multi-Front Disputes?

Recently, apart from rising strategic tensions with China and Pakistan, India and Nepal also had some tense exchanges. There are few pending territorial issues between these two nations on India’s eastern side. Allegations about the Nepal government falling in the trap of China’s checkbook diplomacy have been doing rounds for a long time. The Chinese string of pearls theory about built ports in neighborhoods encircling India. And this has the country worrying on several fronts.

For now, it’s safe to say that South Asia is a theatre for another great game. The power tussle has reached the waters of the Indian Ocean where China continues to act as a hegemonic power by claiming sovereignty over what it calls as the Nine-dash line.

Credit: © All rights reserved to This article was written by Amir Rashid. He lives in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. He is passionate about economics, strategic issues, and sports.

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