What Chance for Peace on the Indian Subcontinent?

By Subir Guin | 1989-04-01 12:00:00

PAKISTAN'S RELATIONS with India have indeed warmed since Benazir Bhutto succeeded the late Zia-ul-Haq; the military establishment, however, retains formidable power to do as it sees fit in defence matters-Afghanistan and Punjab. This severely limits Ms. Bhutto's capacity to establish a modicum of democracy for her people. She also faces major problems over and above her day-to-day tasks: persuading Afghan refugees to return home, now that the Soviets have left; putting a lid on the flourishing trade in drugs and guns, precipitated by the war. The fractured Mujahedin will prolong Afghanistan's postwar recovery and the Shia minority could wipe out whatever progressive measures - such as the emancipation of women - Afghans were beginning to appreciate.

Given Washington's decision to continue arming their Asian proxies, the region will remain a fortress for fundamentalists who share America's distrust of the secular and socialist. Indirectly, this helps India justify her commitment to keep her armed forces in a constant state of readiness - a costly business which Indians are willing to bear, judging by the solid support Gandhi got after their intervention in the Maldives. But the main reason for India's military readiness is China, with whom she has an unresolved border conflict.

TIBET WAS OCCUPIED by Chinese troops in 1951. Five years later, they began to break the faith of Tibetans by systematic desecration of their monasteries and outright oppression. Large-scale settlement of Han Chinese have reduced Tibetans into a minority in their own land. Their spiritual head, the Dalai Lama, has appealed to China and the world, calling for demilitarization of the territory and negotiations, whereby the region could retain some autonomy; but Beijing has steadfastly refused to dialogue. Meanwhile there is growing evidence that China has nuclear weapons deployed in Tibet, directed at both the Soviet Union and India. China has also become a key supplier of (Silkworm) missiles, aircraft and weaponry to Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

As part of her Great Power aspirations, China has consistently cultivated India's neighbors (Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Burma), offering various forms of assistance while maintaining a patronizing attitude towards New Delhi. Rajiv Gandhi's recent fence-mending visit to Beijing was disappointing, not only because nothing substantive was achieved; but, to the dismay of Tibetans and most Indians, he acknowledged their suzerainty over Tibet.

Subir Guin is an Associate Editor of PEACE.

Peace Magazine Apr-May 1989

Peace Magazine Apr-May 1989, page 8. Some rights reserved.

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