India’s Dilemma On The Two Fronts


This research paper aims to unravel various aspects of India’s strained relationship with its two neighbours- China and Pakistan. The rise of China, in recent times on economic and political fronts, has been quite concerning for the political lobby in India. The enmeshed entanglement of China with Pakistan concerning economic projects, increasing military cooperation, and rising influence in Southeast Asia has been a matter of great concern. This paper delves into various contours of this bickering engagement of the three fronts, with appropriate recommendations for India to battle its way out of emerging as a major global power.

Keywords: China, Pakistan, Two-Fronts, Military threat


With the recent changing dynamics in the geopolitical horizon, India finds its back being pushed against the wall, slowly and gradually concerning its two immediate neighbours- China and Pakistan. The former’s position can be rightly understood through Mandal’s theory of Kautilya, wherein seeking peace with one’s immediate neighbour (Ari) is a major political conundrum. With an emerging Sino-Pak Axis, India is faced with a primary impediment of securing its territorial borders while actively trying to counter their growing regional influence and nexus in Southeast Asia. 

In recent times, a lot of attention has been drawn to the CPEC Project- China Pakistan Economic Corridor, an extension of the BRI- Belt and Road Initiative, through which China aims to revive trade relations by redrawing the ancient ‘Silk Route’ between Europe and East Asia. Indian leadership has time and again, objected to this arbitrary development which passes through Pakistan’s Occupied Kashmir Region. This is not just symbolic of proximity in the budding ties of Beijing and Islamabad’s narratives but also makes their despise towards India and its interests, very evident.

Indian External Affairs Minister- Shri S Jaishankar in 2023 highlighted the issue by saying, “The BRI goes through POK (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir). It violates our national integrity and sovereignty. The issue was earlier spoken on in September 2020 by,  the Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat who acknowledged, “Chinese economic cooperation with Pakistan, in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, along with continued military, economic and diplomatic support mandate high levels of preparation by us. This also poses the threat of coordinated action along the northern and western fronts, which we have to consider in our defense planning.”

Beyond the BRI initiative, Pakistan continues to harbour anti-Indian militant and terrorist groups. With the recent taking over of Afghanistan by the Taliban, the situation was anticipated to get worse as conducting transactions through hawala networks and supplying arms would become more swift. Pakistan in recent months has registered staunch opposition to the revocation of Article 370 in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir through official statements, election manifestos, etc. The two-front threat has been greatly acknowledged by top Indian military commanders. Challenges mount for the Indian side as the two fronts continue to have greater intersecting stances on multilateral forums (the United Nations, being the most prominent) globally.


India-Pakistan Relations: India and Pakistan have had a distrustful relationship with mutual suspicion over each other’s intentions over the years. The Indian state has engaged in numerous conflicts with the state of Pakistan, ever since its creation in 1948 on Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s demand and the Muslim League’s campaign. With India’s accession over Kashmir signed by Maharaja Hari Singh following Pakistan’s intrusion into Kashmir, capturing about 13,297 square miles,  also widely known as the POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir), the border tensions between the two countries have been never-ending. The question of Kashmir and the rightful ownership of the territory has hooked the leadership of both countries for decades. The two nations fought humongous wars in 1965, 1971, and 1999 with successive defeats for the Pakistani side. The Indian victory and the latter’s support for separatist groups in India have been instrumental in discrediting the influence of Islamabad’s global profile, especially from its most trusted ally once- the United States of America.

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan has extended support to various non-state actors such as terrorist and militant groups breeding on its home ground, intending to ‘bleed India by a thousand cuts’. The famous attack of 2008, marked a turning point in history disrupting bilateral discourses led by the UPA government in India. Later, the Pathankot, Uri, and Pulwama attacks further broke down any communication channel between the two rivals. These consistent breaches of trust, despite reassurance break down any possible mechanism of diplomatic machinery between the two nations. The NDA captaincy has made it crystal clear that they wouldn’t want to sit at the same table with a country, which is actively sowing roots of terrorism and destruction in India.

Indo-China Relations: India and China continued to enjoy amiable relations in the early 1950s with the signing of the famous Panchseel Agreement under Nehru’s leadership. There wasn’t a lot of anxiety on the side of Indian leadership until Mao Zedong’s government began to work on its Five-Finger Policy in the late 1950s, aiming to encroach the Indian-administered territories of Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. With more and more Chinese intrusions in these regions and military threats, the situation ultimately boiled when both countries came to warring lockheads with each other in 1962. With a massive defeat faced by underprepared and ill-equipped Indian forces, China occupied 38,000 square kilometers of Indian Land-Aksai Chin and continues to claim the states of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. This war has been a very significant episode of the Indo-China trajectory as it consolidated the aggression of the Chinese over their claimed land. Indo-China relations have been a mix of cooperation and confrontation throughout most of the last century. Over the last decade, while our economic relations with China may have improved- the Doklam and the Galwan standoff has brought hostility from both sides. India and China continue to compete economically, among other areas to become a roaring giant in the Southeast Asian region. China continues to assert its influence over the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, putting India’s maritime security at risk. To counter their rise, the Indian leadership has strategized its entry into alliances such as QUAD. Thus, the Indo-China relations have continued to be  ‘abnormal’ as rightly stated by S Jaishankar in March 2023.

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Author: Bhawini Srivastava