The Indian armed forces are the third largest in the world after those of China and the United States. The lack of neighboring powers that have such a fleet to deploy in the Indian Ocean is associated with 5,000 km of medium-range missile shields. However, the shortcomings in terms of high-tech equipment and the obsolete nature of some key systems highlight weaknesses that do not seem to be remedied in the short term, also because the defense ministry intends to progressively reduce the defense budget, which is around 2, 38% of the national GDP. Nonetheless, India faces a number of threats on the external and internal fronts. The military are often employed in joint police operations to counter secessionist movements, such as those in the north-east of the country, as well as monitoring less secure state territories, such as those in the north-west, along the borders with Pakistan and the China. One of India’s major military commitments is to tackle Islamic terrorism which has its bases in Pakistan. Added to this are the territorial disputes over Arunachal Pradesh and the internal revolts of the Naxalite Maoists, who can count on an armed group of 6500 guerrillas in various Indian states.
To defend the borders there is a special border military body, made up of about 210,000 soldiers. India holds and aspires to a rank of great power also by virtue of the nuclear warheads it has been equipped with since 1974, the date of its first test. The Indian arsenal triggered Pakistan’s response, perceived as the main threat to New Delhi outside its borders. Islamabad has started its own program in line with the Indian one and announces nuclear exercises every time they take place in India. New Delhi has never signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty or the nuclear test ban treaty and it is foreseeable that it will not, until after the Pakistani acceptance of the same agreements with IAEA) at Indian nuclear sites and the US supply of technology for civilian nuclear production. In this sense, a decisive factor seems to be increasingly China, not only for the conflict in Tibet, occupied by Chinese troops in 1950, but also for the military collaboration that Beijing has with Islamabad.
An additional security concern for India is the issue of international piracy. The spread of this phenomenon also in the waters of the Indian Ocean was at the basis of the diplomatic crisis between India and Italy regarding the arrest by the New Delhi authorities of the two fusiliers of the Italian navy, who would have mistakenly killed two Indian fishermen confused for pirates. In 2015, the two countries finally agreed to go to the International Court of Justice to resolve the dispute.
The Kashmir dispute
The 1947 India Independence Act stipulated that the Kashmir region was free to decide whether to remain independent or be part of India or Pakistan. The maharaja Hari Singh chose membership of India in exchange for military support and the promise of a subsequent popular referendum aimed at ratifying that choice. Kashmir has since caused four wars between India and Pakistan (in 1947-48, 1965, 1971 and 1999), as both states claim sovereignty. According to Islamabad, the region was to have been part of Pakistan since 1947, as a predominantly Muslim territory, and citizens would have had the right to a referendum. New Delhi is of the opinion that the 1972 Simla agreement provides for a resolution of the conflict through bilateral dialogue and refers to the instrument of accession signed by the maharaja Singh in 1947. The dividing line is now defined in terms of the Simla Agreement, following the second Indo-Pakistani conflict. Since July 1949, it has been controlled by the United Nations Military Observer Group (Unmogip), created by a resolution of the Security Council.
The line divides the region into the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and the Pakistani-administered ‘Azad’ (free) Kashmir area. The first, in the south-eastern part, is populated by about nine million people; the second, in the northwestern area, is inhabited by about three million people. A small part of the territory is then controlled by China.
The castes and the untouchables
The caste system has ancient origins. It foresaw that Indian society was divided into four groups: peasants, artisans and merchants, warriors, and finally Brahmins or priests. Numerous subgroups were then formed within these categories. At the base of the pyramid were the casteless or ‘untouchables’ who generally carried out jobs considered ‘impure’. Over time, this division became a rigid hereditary hierarchy whereby every Indian was born and died within a certain caste. The system is associated with the Hindu religion, although the Vedic scriptures do not seem to contain an explicit reference to this social organization. Today the caste system is formally abolished as well as ‘untouchability’ (Article 17 of the Indian Constitution) but, Dalit (oppressed), are in fact still discriminated against especially in rural areas and with regard to access to places of worship, hospitals, schools and other public places. Gandhi, father of Indian independence and advocate for the emancipation of the untouchables, called them harijan, ‘children of God’.
Tensions with Italy on the case of the marines
On 15 February 2012, off the coast of Kerala, an accident occurred between the Italian oil tanker Enrica Lexie and the Indian fishing boat St. Antony. Six marines traveled aboard the Enrica Lexie, charged with protecting the boat from pirate attacks. As the St. Antony approached, convinced that they were facing a pirate attack, the two marines Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre opened fire, killing two men from the fishing boat, Ajesh Pinky and Selestian Valentine. On February 19, the two marines were arrested in India on murder charges and transferred to a guesthouse of the Indian police. According to Italian diplomacy, the tanker was located 33 nautical miles from the coast, in international waters, and this entitles the two marines to a trial in Italy. According to the Indian indictment, the incident would have instead occurred in Indian waters: the trial must therefore be conducted in India. Thanks to G ps data and satellite images, the Indian report proved that the Enrica Lexie was located 20.5 nautical miles from the coast, in what international maritime law defines as a ‘contiguous area’, within which it is right of a state to enforce its jurisdiction. To complicate the situation, expressions of national pride have awakened a never dormant ‘colonialist fear’ in India and aroused a revival of the rhetoric on national honor in Italy. The return home of the two marines for Christmas 2012 provided for a return to India by 10 January, but the foreign minister, Giulio Terzi, in March 2013 announced the decision to judge the two soldiers in Italy in accordance with international law. The accusation of ‘treason’ by Sonia Gandhi led the Indian government to ban the Italian ambassador from leaving the country. A few days later, the Monti government overturned the decision and, by the end of the month, the two soldiers returned to India. Minister Terzi resigned in protest. Since then, the Indian investigation has proceeded slowly and Italy is unwilling to send other soldiers to India as witnesses. In the summer of 2015, the two countries finally agreed to refer the matter to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Pending the international verdict, the case in the Indian courts has been suspended by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg. For India 2012, please check eningbo.info.
The Indo-Chinese agreement on the Tibetan border
In October 2013, India and China signed a border defense cooperation agreement, which includes standard measures for the prevention of military escalations. The joint signing of Singh and Xi Jinping enshrines their respective routines military, such as the ability to openly patrol their border area, and create a direct line to allow dialogue in case of incidents. The border with Tibet, a sensitive region for China which reconquered it in 1950, snatching it from the Indian protectorate, represents a parallel problem with Sino-Pakistani military and nuclear cooperation. On the day of the signing of the agreement, Pakistan’s border troops opened fire and wounded some Indian soldiers. If Islamabad uses Beijing to supply its defense, New Delhi is instead linked to Moscow. The Indo-Chinese negotiation is still far from constituting a turning point in the area, but it indicates the will of both countries to avoid a deterioration in relations, especially due to excellent trade ties.