1971 War: 50 Years Later, Has India Become a Leader?


India celebrated this year with great fanfare the golden jubilee of its historic victory over Pakistan in 1971. It was indeed an occasion to be celebrated. India’s decisive victory in 1971 came less than a decade after suffering humiliation in the conflict with China in 1962 and just six years after its 1965 war with Pakistan ended in stalemate. . So, when Lieutenant-General AAK Niazi, Commander of the Eastern Command of the Pakistani Army, surrendered to Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora of the Indian Army at Ramna Racecourse in Dhaka on December 16, 1971, the India had become a real leader. South Asia, downsizing its great rival, Pakistan, and tilting the balance of power in the region in its favor. He put an end to the barbaric genocide that the Pakistani army and its affiliated militias unleashed against the people of East Pakistan. He had liberated East Pakistan to make it the nascent nation of Bangladesh.

With this, India had indeed sent a strong message of projection of power in its neighborhood with this victory against Pakistan. And, with an emboldened Indira Gandhi in the prime minister’s office, New Delhi had continued to signal its willingness to do everything in its power to secure its periphery, if necessary even while attempting to impose or thwart changes in its neighborhood, as dictated by its own national security interests, whether along India’s disputed border with China, or in Mauritius, Maldives, Seychelles, Sri Lanka. He of course had significant political influence in Nepal, Bhutan and even Afghanistan.

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But, half a century later, as India has just celebrated the golden jubilee of its greatest military victory over its great rival, Pakistan, what does its outskirts look like from New Delhi? Just a year after decisively winning the war against Pakistan, India asserted its sovereignty over the North Eastern Frontier Agency by renaming it Arunachal Pradesh and elevating it to a separate Union territory, making it thus shake Beijing. Sikkim had also merged with India in May 1975, despite strong protests from China.

The 2020s and 2021s, however, saw China emerge again as a major security threat to India. Indian Army soldiers are engaged in an eyeball confrontation with Chinese People’s Liberation Army personnel along the actual Line of Control in eastern Ladakh. Although the two sides mutually withdrew their frontline troops from Pangong Tso and Gogra Post in February and August of this year, they have yet to resolve the stalemate in other locations along the ALC. . China’s continued build-up beyond the Western Sector and along the disputed border with India has fueled speculation that the tension will spread to the Middle and Eastern sectors.

India not only helped Anerood Jugnauth take power in Mauritius in 1982, but even hired its external intelligence agency to help him stay in the prime minister’s office despite significant challenges posed by his finance minister Paul Bérenger in 1983. New Delhi was even ready to launch a military intervention, codenamed “Operation Lal Dora”, which would have been triggered in the event of a coup against the government in Port Louis. Although “Operation Lal Dora” was never really activated, India had indeed carried out “Operation Flowers in Bloom” in 1986 and helped foil a coup against the government of President France-Albert. René in another island nation in the Indian Ocean – the Seychelles.

‘India out’

But, more than three decades later, New Delhi now competes with Beijing in Mauritius and the Seychelles. China is trying to scuttle India’s plans to develop Agalega Island in Mauritius and Assumption Island in Seychelles, prompting local political parties and civil society organizations to launch protests, alleging that the two islands are, in fact, turned into remote bases for the Indian army. , Navy and Air Force. India’s military intervention in Sri Lanka between 1987 and 1990 did not go well. But his “Operation Cactus” had successfully foiled a coup against President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s government in the Maldives in 1988 and won him praise even from the United States and the United Kingdom.

Gayoom’s half-brother and former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom is now leading an “India Out” campaign in the Maldives, opposing the “India First” campaign of his successor, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. China’s debt trap diplomacy has already succeeded in getting Sri Lanka to grant it a 99-year lease for the port of Hambantota. New Delhi remains concerned about the Colombo Port City Economic Commission bill, which could allow China to virtually establish a colony in Sri Lanka – not far from the southern tip of India. New Delhi’s response to Nepal’s new constitution in 2015 sparked strong backlash against India. The government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of imposing an unofficial economic blockade, choking the supply of basic necessities from India to Nepal. The land dispute between India and Nepal has also escalated in recent months. Thimphu supported New Delhi throughout the 74-day standoff between the Indian military and the Chinese PLA at Doklam in western Bhutan in 2017. But Bhutan recently agreed with China on a road to resolve bilateral territorial disputes – a decision, which caused unrest in India.

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The year 2021 not only saw India celebrate the 50th anniversary of its victory over Pakistan, but ironically it also saw Pakistan gain a strategic advantage against India in Afghanistan, where its Taliban proxy has returned to power. August 15 after two decades. India had never sent troops to Afghanistan. But over the past 20 years, he had contributed more than $ 3 billion to support rebuilding infrastructure in the war-torn country. The investment now appears to be under threat, though New Delhi is exploring its options to open a channel of communication with the Taliban, while continuing to lend its voice to the call for an inclusive government in Kabul.

India’s strategic rivalry with China and its security concerns have prevented it from joining Western countries in criticizing the military junta, which seized power in Myanmar on February 1 of this year, toppling the elected government of the Aung San Suu Kyi National League for Democracy. Her cautious approach angered pro-democracy activists in Myanmar, just as she did during Suu Kyi’s previous incarceration. However, Foreign Minister Harsh Shringla recently visited Nay Pyi Taw and reiterated New Delhi’s call for the speedy release of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners as well as a return to democracy in Myanmar. .

India’s engagements with most of its neighbors have remained largely insignificant since the 1990s, with subsequent governments focusing primarily on the projection of soft power. The Modi government has also been committed to this policy since 2014, except, of course, to send politico-military messages, by launching strikes on terrorist infrastructures inside Pakistan in September 2016 and February 2019 then in making public its military actions.

The 20-month standoff along its disputed border with China, however, prompted India to renew its efforts to reposition itself as an internet security provider for South Asia and the Indian Ocean region.

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