Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Imbalance of power between India and Pakistan

(The following was published in July 2006. However, it may be more relevant now and hence I am putting it here)

A regional imbalance between countries with a history of conflict and mistrust is a lose-lose situation for all.
The recent conflict between Israel and Lebanon is instructive for India, Pakistan and the USA. The dynamics of conflict generation seem to be that an imbalance of power was created between Israel and Lebanon which had a history of mistrust, namely, the Syrian forces were made to withdraw from Lebanon. This made the task of the dominant power to subdue the subservient power easier, attractive and rational! As the dominant power could see that it can attack the subservient power with little fear of retaliation.
The environment was rich for conflict. An event occurred to the disliking of the dominant power and it decided instantly to teach the subservient power a lesson, namely, two of its soldiers were kidnapped.
The result has been war with adverse social, humanitarian, political and economic consequences for both the countries. Most importantly for Lebanon the foreign investment and the resultant economic activity have stalled and retrogressed. This will surely result in social problems in Lebanon and it will be easier for the extremist elements to popularize their appeal. This will in turn mean more problems and attacks for Israel which will mean disruption to the normal life, commerce and trade.
Thus, it may obvious to state that creating an imbalance of power between countries with histories of conflict and mistrust is a no-win situation for either of those countries!
There are lessons in this for India, Pakistan and the USA. The USA has, it appears, taken a decision to give India the leadership role in the region, in terms of military, economic and political clout. This will create an imbalance of power between India and Pakistan which are, like Israel and Lebanon, two countries with histories of conflict and mistrust. This will, like the example quoted above, can make it rational and attractive for the dominant power to be more aggressive with the smaller power and more akin to enter into a military expedition considering itself more powerful. In this environment if any event occurs that provokes the dominant power then it is to be expected that the response of the dominant power will be more aggressive than had there been a balance of power. Indian reaction towards Pakistan after the Mumbai bomb blasts can be explained thus.
Although, both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers, however, if India is led to believe that its nuclear power is superior to Pakistan’s, thanks to the US technology transfer or that it will be able to thwart any Pakistani attack through technology such as Patriot Anti Missile System, then the temptation for it to engage Pakistan militarily may far too great to resist.
This will have adverse effects for the both countries, even more so for India. The biggest effect will be on India’s economic activity and the result could be political and social chaos given the size of that country, and resultantly it will be bad news for the international community and the USA itself whose prime aim of making India a strategic power in the region will be thwarted.
All the three countries must be careful in maintaining the balance of power and if it is indeed disturbed then in the case of provocative events they would have to show great restraint in the interest of humanity and our political and economic global village. 


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