Mr. Tilak Devasher is a member of India's National Security Advisory Board and specializes in security issues especially pertaining to India's neighborhood. He is the author of the widely acclaimed books 'Pakistan: Courting the Abyss' and ‘Pakistan: The Balochistan Conundrum’
1. What was your inspiration behind writing and addressing Pakistan in your book, an issue that has always remained contentious?
Mr. Devasher: My interest in Pakistan began quite early in life thanks to the stories my father, an Indian Air Force officer, told us about two Pakistan Air Force officers who had been his flight commanders in the Royal Indian Air Force during the 2nd World War, flying Hurricanes and Spitfires over Burma and also after the war. The Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971 further heightened my interest in Pakistan. In college and university, I studied the history of the freedom movement and the Partition of India. And I was hooked. During my service career, I had the opportunity to study Pakistan professionally. For these reasons I study and write about Pakistan.
2. What would you comment on the current position of India in the region, with the neighborhood first policy, its relations in South Asia, and the dynamics, with an overall view and the future?
Mr. Devasher: The short answer would be that the Indian position in the neighborhood is strong. Barring Pakistan, we have good political, economic, and civilizational relations with the neighbors. There are differences but we have always resolved them through dialogue. This will continue.
3. With the current scuffle and hostile relations with its neighbors, what seems like the best approach for India in terms of its foreign policy? Also, will this situation be the right time and opportunity for Pakistan to increase its dominance over Baluchistan?
Mr. Devasher: Indian approach has been to seek peace and better relations with all the neighbors. This policy is likely to continue. Pakistan has been dominating Balochistan since its forcible accession in March 1948. Since then it has been exploiting its resources. My book ‘Pakistan: The Balochistan Conundrum’ has a detailed exposition on the subject.
4. What threats do the friendly relations between China and Pakistan pose for India?
Mr. Devasher: Every country is entitled to have friendly relations with any other country, and we respect that. However, a hostile collusion between China and Pakistan that is targeted against India does pose a security threat for us. However, it is something that we are aware of and prepared for.
5. Are the dynamics of India-China trade relations really going to change course and do you feel it's going to be permanent? How do you see the two nations in the near future?
Mr. Devasher: Yes, they will change. It cannot be business as usual with China trying to unilaterally change the LAC. Unless China pulls back, relations cannot normalize.
6. Tensions have flared up in Ladakh after China allegedly attempted to occupy the Indian Territory by firing shots in the air. What are your views on this?
Mr. Devasher: China has tried to alter the LAC leading to tensions. India will not allow this to happen. That accounts for the tensions.
7. There have been several instances where China has tried to raise the Kashmir issue in the United Nations. With the growing support it has been offering to Pakistan, how do you think this new bond is going to affect the rest of the region? (Talking about South and South East Asia.) And what do you think are the underlying reasons behind the over the friendliness of the 2 nations?
Mr. Devasher: Both China and Pakistan would like to curb the growing power of India. Pakistan wants China’s support to balance its inferiority vis a vis India, while China wants to use Pakistan to try and keep India tied down in South Asia. China raising the Kashmir issue in the UN had no takers and they had to beat a retreat.
8. India’s trade deficit with China accounts for about 50 percent of the country’s total trade deficit. How does this factor come into play with respect to the volatile relations between India and China?
Mr. Devasher: Trade and economic relations are important but not when it comes to sovereignty and territorial integrity.
9. India been at the receiving end of defective and substandard testing kits from China at hugely inflated markups, how has this affected the need to become less dependent on the supply of goods from China?
Mr. Devasher: We certainly need to develop our own manufacturing capability. The COVID-19 crisis has been a wake-up call not only for India but the whole world to become less dependent on China. So, this is an opportunity for us.
10. According to you, how has India’s rejection of participating in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) affected the relations between the two countries? As it clearly shows India’s skepticism toward Chinese investment.
Mr. Devasher: Yes, it does show Indian skepticism. Moreover, the flagship project of BRI is the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that passes through Indian territory in the illegal occupation of Pakistan. We have made this clear to China and so we can never accept let alone participate in such a project.
A detailed explanation of the problems with the state of Pakistan and about the future of Afghanistan can be found here (cr. Defense Offense)