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Prabhavit Dobhal asked: How to describe the meaning of the term ‘strategic’ in international politics, for e.g., strategic importance of water in India-Pakistan relations?

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  • Namrata Goswami replies: The term strategic in international politics embodies interest based priorities, which has short, medium and long-term implications for a country. Strategic could include a region (geopolitics) which embodies the connection of power to geography, and the means to forward a particular interest of a country. Strategic could also embody issues which either forwards or threatens the national security of a state, for instance, dispute over water, terrorism, environmental issues, cyber attacks, energy crisis, etc.

    The term strategic further signifies the connection of means to ends: so what are the means that a state adopts to achieve a particular end goal in the larger international system. For India, strategic regions include South Asia, East Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region, which have direct implications for its own successful survival as a prosperous state.

    Coming to the strategic importance of water in the India-Pakistan relations, it is based on three strategic pillars; namely,

    1. Water cooperation can mitigate long-term distrust and lay the foundation for India-Pakistan normalisation.

    2. On the other hand, water can divide, and lead to escalation of tensions given that the overall structure of the India-Pakistan relation is conflict prone.

    3. Water differences can lead to India getting caught in a quagmire of conflicts with deep implications for its own image in the international system - the ability of Pakistan to create tensions, and its impact on other countries with which India shares rivers, namely, Bangladesh, Nepal, China, etc.

    Posted on July 15, 2014