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As winter sets in, the Kashmir Valley would hopefully get some respite from the combined efforts of the Pak sponsored terrorists and the anti-India separatists who continue to encourage instability by funding the stone pelting mobs that our security forces have had to battle for months on end. But in turn, the relentless anti-terrorism operations have resulted in their gunning down some 200 terrorists. However, that is only half the battle since a political solution, if ever there would be one, is so far away that there is room for optimism. And even though we blame the Pak army for fomenting trouble in the Valley, India cannot ignore its own failures over the Kashmir issue. To that extent, US warnings to Pakistan to mend its ways carries little weight with Pakistan now, as Pakistan now hedges its bets on the Chinese bailing it out - with the CPEC - of the financial woes and its increasing diplomatic isolation. But there are a few realists in Pakistan who are willing to look at themselves in the mirror, as an essay in this issue notes. But Pakistan apart, China's rising ambitions in the Indian Ocean, is the next big challenge for India - the success of the Doklam standoff notwithstanding - where India would find itself confronting the Chinese more frequently in these waters. But is there a way forward apart from confrontation? Essays in this issue, offer some thoughts. One option is the emerging 'Quad' of US, Japan, Australia and India, to counter China's aggressive designs. But the question is: will India be willing to shed its usual strategic ambiguity and make a firm choice, or just muddle along? Modi-led NDA government has been keen to exploit the strategic potential of the Andaman Island chain. If so, now is the time for it.

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