Explosive threats in relations between India, China and Pakistan
A terror attack on the India-Pakistan border on November 2, 2014, killed 55 people and wounded 100 more. It is one of the symptoms of a volatile situation, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.
It is a situation of constant conflict between India and Pakistan dating since independence in 1947.
The cause was the disastrous decolonisation of the subcontinent which tried to separate Muslims and Hindus and relocate millions of people.
The division of Kashmir is also disputed by both sides. There have been three wars, two of them over Kashmir, and the unresolved conflict causes frequent armed clashes. Tensions between India and Pakistan are deep-rooted.
The 2,912 kilometre border between India and Pakistan includes the disputed border through Kashmir. This is a very long line between two unfriendly partners.
The border between India and China, partially crossing the Himalayas, is 3,380 km and crosses sizeable disputed territories, including Aksai Chin, north of Kashmir in the west, and Arunachal Pradesh in the east. Both are claimed by India and China. Arunachal Pradesh is comparable in area to Austria. These disputed territories are the result of old inaccuracies and unfinished business between the British colonial administration on one side and China and Tibet on the other.
The military and economic balance between Pakistan and India is clearly in India's favour. India suspects that terrorist threats and provocations are generated on Pakistan's territory. Both countries are nuclear powers.
India and China were at war over disputed territories in the 1960s. Mutual suspicion is high. Tensions on the border were raised in September, during a high-level summit between India and China. Both sides felt threatened by mutual activities, such as building strategic roads for military use or stepping up the armed presence on the border. This led to a number of face-to-face encounters between Indian and Chinese troops.
Mutual distrust remains high, although economic relations are improving. India is also concerned about China’s naval presence in the Indian Ocean. Access to the Indian Ocean and Africa is a priority for China.
India has recently concluded agreements - including military cooperation - with Japan and Vietnam which are also concerned about China's hegemonic ambitions.
Pakistan has become an important Chinese ally. China has access to the Indian Ocean and Africa through the port of Gwadar on Pakistan's coast. We must recognise that access to Africa’s mining and agricultural resources is crucial for China. It is building and improving the Gwadar port and organising rail and road transport from landlocked western China to the Indian Ocean and Africa to access these resources.
Armed border incidents between India and Pakistan occur regularly. Pakistan’s internal situation is highly unstable, with a number of terrorist groups operating inside the country. This internal insecurity, exacerbated by extreme youth unemployment, has created an explosive situation in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s 2,400 km border with Afghanistan is another arbitrary borderline from colonial time, which cuts through tribal areas, enhancing tribal and fundamentalist conflicts. This increases terrorist activities between the two countries.
India's recent rapprochement with Afghanistan is viewed suspiciously by Pakistan.
This India-China-Pakistan triangle is a geopolitical hot-spot. War between India and Pakistan cannot be excluded. China's interest is clearly with Pakistan. A conflict between China and India could involve the whole of Asia and even the US.