Unbelievable yet real, the world has been witnessing a full-scale, devastating war between Russia and Ukraine in the 21st century. Despite desperate efforts from the international community, the war has persisted. Russia has been reprimanded by the entire international community and heavily sanctioned unlike faced by any state ever before. Both sides have borne the brunt of devastation and demise from this war with many innocent lives lost in the turmoil. The situation leading to this full-scale militaristic confrontation when looked at in depth is not too different from the projectile of ties between the major war-mongering power, India and its smaller neighbours in the subcontinent.
India possessing a hegemonic attitude in dealing with its neighbours, particularly the weak ones must cast an eye on the outturn of events from the irresolvable issues between Russia and neighbouring smaller states. A major regional power holding a large economy, population, land mass and military might, India should have been an instigator of regional growth and stability. However, smaller states in the subcontinent have been oppressed by India’s bullying attitude for securing its interests. Akin to the situation between Russia and Ukraine, the subcontinent may also become embroiled in an unnecessary, full-scale war unless the level of suppression and animosity between India and smaller states comes to a halt.
India shares borders with all regional states such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. These states have been facing the oppressive attitude of India now and then. Sri Lanka had to bear India’s interference amid Tamil separatist activities. Nepal, an independent state even during the era of British governance has often been subjected to exploitation at the hands of India through obstruction of transit routes. Bangladesh’s very creation itself is taken by India as its own achievement contrary to the facts endorsed by Bengali nationalists as well. Under the rule of Sheikh Hasina, fondness for the Indian government goes hand in hand with antipathy to Pakistan. Nevertheless, when 1.9 million Bengalis in Assam lost Indian citizenship under the Citizenship Amendment Act by Modi’s government, anti-India sentiments have been rising in Bangladesh.
In India’s northwestern side, relations with China have also been on a rocky steep. Despite having significant bilateral trade, Tibet remains a point of contention. However, India remains much measured in its approach towards China keeping in mind nature’s law ‘big fish eats little fish’. Despite all contentions, animosity with Pakistan if escalated into a full war is most ignitable as well as devastating for the entire region The underlying tensions between the long-time neighbours range from territorial, border and security issues to water claims as well. However, an unignorable and hard-core fact is that three of the four major wars between the two countries were over Kashmir. It is without any doubt that grievances and animosity over Kashmir will keep on brewing between the two sides unless a long-term solution is fostered
Pakistan a major state and a nuclear power in the subcontinent has time and again confronted India over its aggressive attitude over various contentions. The relationship between the two historical neighbours has often turned to the brink of a full-scale militaristic confrontation in recent years. Underlying tensions between the two states are like volcanoes on the brink of eruption. A small miscalculation or aggression on any party’s side can ignite total havoc in the subcontinent.
The two states have fought four major wars since independence in 1947. The relationship between the two states worsened much after the rise in power of Narendra Modi, a hardcore Hindutva follower in 2014. The most recent standoff occurred in 2019 with India carrying out an aerial attack on Pakistan to satiate its suspicions of Pakistan’s involvement in terrorist attacks under India’s nose in Kashmir. Pakistan retaliated fully successfully countering India’s aggressive demeanour.
The Russia-Ukraine war has clearly illuminated that bigger states under the illusion of being a no-match in regional politics may falter in their hegemonic ambitions when confronted with a smaller but resolute state. True that war in Eastern Europe has been a source of devastation and tragedy for Ukraine in terms of loss of civilian life and infrastructural damages but Russia has faced equal reprisals. Ukraine has been receiving far-flung support from Western countries while Russia persists in its quest to end the war on its own terms. Ukraine with the support of its Western aides has made some quite successful counteroffensives generating speculations on the possible defeat of Russia in this war. Russia a bigger, powerful state could not fend away the international isolation as well as the heavy expenditure in quest of this war with no clear victory in sight.
In the subcontinent, if India’s expansionist attitude sparks a large-scale militaristic conflict with Pakistan, the situation may escalate to incomprehensible levels. Years of development and hard work on the part of both nations will turn to dust. Pakistan even if smaller in size and economy than India holds severe nationalistic determination and a robust military as exemplified in past confrontations with India. Both states hold nuclear weapons. Escalation of the conflict to the brink of employing this lethal weapon will ensure Mutual Assured Destruction (M.A.D). In circumstances like these, the war between Russia and Ukraine is a shrill reminder for states in the subcontinent particularly India and Pakistan to set on tackling the eruptible volcanoes bulging with historical contentions.
There are several pathways to thaw this standoff between India and Pakistan. Failure of Indian policymakers to recognise the right of self-determination for Kashmir’s population despite Pakistan’s advocacy puts this responsibility on international actors. Human rights violations in IIOJK should not just pinch Pakistan’s conscience but the entire world claiming to be a civilized race. Track II Diplomacy also cited as back-channel diplomacy should be pursued between the two states. A fact to be acknowledged by all stakeholders is that it is not just military or technological strength which determines the direction of winds in a war. It is a competition between leadership qualities, national morale, tactics as well and domestic support which holds actual essence in determining victory. The war between Russia and Ukraine is a time for reflection in the subcontinent on the devastation ensuing from wars. It may befall the subcontinent as well unless all regional states wake up in time to forestall this probable mayhem.