India is emerging on the international stage as both an aspiring voice for the global south and a strategic partner for Western democracies that perceive it as a counterweight to China. Its rise is accompanied by regional and domestic conflicts. The traditionally restive western border with Pakistan remains on edge, as the Kashmir conflict continues to fester. The northern border with China has been unstable since the deadly clash of April 2020, with tensions between the two Asian giants increasingly enmeshed in the U.S.-China rivalry. An ethnic conflict is raging in the state of Manipur, bordering Myanmar, threatening to destabilise the country’s north-eastern region. Meanwhile, concerns are growing about the steady erosion of India’s democracy. Crisis Group monitors and analyses India’s foreign policy and domestic conflicts with the aim of providing policymakers effective frameworks for better understanding and addressing these internal and external dynamics.

Read our CrisisWatch entries on India-Pakistan (Kashmir) here.

CrisisWatch India

Unchanged Situation

Govt’s inflammatory rhetoric stoked religious and political tensions as national polls commenced, ethnic conflict in Manipur state in north east derailed voting and security forces killed dozens of Maoists in centre.

Amid govt’s divisive electoral rhetoric, concern grew over new ruling party term. First phase of election for national parliament 19 April began, with voting scheduled to run until 1 June, against backdrop of mounting tensions over arrest of opposition leaders and allegations of electronic voting manipulation. Addressing rally in Rajasthan state (north west), PM Narendra Modi 21 April deployed Islamophobic rhetoric by referring to Muslims as “infiltrators” and asserting that opposition Congress party would seize wealth of Hindus and redistribute it among community with “more children”; remarks prompted outrage. With ruling Bharatiya Janata Party seeking to implement range of Hindu majoritarian policies, critics such as historian Ramchandra Guha fear another BJP term could weaken India’s status as secular republic; Guha warned “stigmatisation of Muslims will continue, and perhaps even sharpen” with BJP’s third term.

In Manipur state, insecurity prevented free and fair polls. As voting in national polls commenced in Manipur state (north east), extremist Meitei militia Arambai Tanggol 19 April captured polling stations, damaged voting machines and tampered with votes, forcing Election Commission to void results of at least seventeen of 3,000 polling stations across state. In sign of unending conflict, gunmen in camouflage 13 April killed two Kuki men at border of Kangpokpi and Imphal East districts before mutilating bodies; gunfight between gunmen of Kuki-Zo and Meitei communities 28 April killed one in same location. Suspected militants 27 April killed two central security forces personnel and injured two others in Bishnupur district.

Security forces launched large-scale anti-Maoist operation in centre. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), security forces 2 April killed thirteen Maoists in Bijapur district. Security forces during operation 16 April killed 29 Maoists in Bastar region, which marks state’s most lethal anti-Maoist operation ever; Maoists claimed that seventeen of 29 were slain in cold blood, which security forces rejected. Maoists 26 April killed opposition Congress member Joga Podiyam in Bastar region. Security forces 30 April shot dead ten Maoists in Bastar region.

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