In changing regional dynamics, most talked and discussed the Indo-US strategic partnership. With the inter-regional overlapping occurring at a critical point, we see India and the Unites States outlining the vast scope and depth of the present and planned Indo-US military relationship; which includes co-production of advanced defence articles, joint research on advanced jet engines and aircraft carrier technologies, strategic cooperation on maritime security, surveillance sharing and access to Indian military bases for logistic support.
This sort of extended cooperation between India and the US starts a new chapter in the history of South Asia. The United States has far-reaching ambitious plans at hand and India at the moment does the need full. The US Secretary of Defence, Ashton Carter who calls himself a ‘friend of India ‘ has reportedly visited India four times in last one year. In the year 2015, as both countries signed the New Framework for the Indo-US Defence Relationship, Carter described it as the setting of the US and India on a path to increase broad, complex and strategic cooperation to help safeguard security and stability across the region.
Moreover, through these strategic agreements, India has sent out a clear signal that it has no inhibitions about being bound in strategic engagements with the US. From a realistic perspective, the US wants to retain its influence in the region with different priorities and India fits in the equation, replacing Pakistan.
With this Indo-US alliance, there would be some obvious negative implications for Pakistan’s security. India has been the world’s largest arms importers, buying over $100 billions of weapons each year, for the past eight years. Two-third of this pile is already deployed against Pakistan. However, US military and political support through this strategic alliance would encourage India to continue with its aggressive behavior against Pakistan. Besides, support of this intensity from US would only escalate arms race in South Asia.
Further, this Alliance has come up at a time when Pakistan’s converged interests with the US might be fading over Afghanistan. Infact, Pakistan is already feeling the heat. As per reports, Afghan CEO Abdullah Abdullah has shown the desire of increased Indian presence and participation in Afghanistan. While, we see that India has been busy in building infrastructures and training forces, increasing their capacity building. At the same time, we hear from Ashton Carter, telling Indians that US has given up on Pakistan’s cooperation in terms of Afghanistan, wanting India to play a bigger role there, as per the claims of Indian press.
Also, the US has been encouraging closer ties between India and Gulf Cooperation Council. Modi has visited Saudia Arabia recently, with wishes for stronger inter-regional ties. There could be an Indo-Iranian gambit for the strategic concerns associated with intense Indian naval investments and Chabahar port, following the developments at Gawadar. A greater collaboration between US, India and Iran for the stabilization process in Afghanistan cannot be ruled out.
Another important factor is of increased strategic cooperation on maritime security and maneuvering in South China Sea by the US which needs due attention. As outlined in the Joint Strategic Vision released by President Obama and Prime Minister Modi in January 2015, it says that India and the US share the vision of peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific Region. India also has endorsed the US stand on the South-China Sea islands dispute with China, vowing support for “regional security architecture”. Right now, India is the only country in the region that could work in cohesion with the US ambitions for the containment of China.
Meanwhile, Pakistan and China are all weathered friends who have been taking care of each other’s interests very well. As counter, it is expected that China must be sharing its cutting edge weapons with Pakistan, if US provides India with advanced military supplies. The emerging alliance is big while a solution at hand resides in developing robust, dynamic and imaginative policies. Pakistan and China together have that capacity to neutralize effects of any new regrouping.
Pakistan has to reinvent its relations with other regional powers. Russia being biggest arms producer could help Pakistan from elevating its defence stature. Several Russian weapons systems, such as the S300 anti-ballistic missile, the SU-31 and the SU-35s fighter-bombers are among the best in the world. Russia can strengthen relations with China and Pakistan as India moves closer to the US.
Pakistan has to reinvigorate its stance in Afghanistan. The revival of peace will take time; however, Pakistan has to continue engaging Afghan leadership. Being neighbor, Pakistan must engage Iran for peace process in Afghanistan, cutting space for Indian influence, shedding away any regrouping. The need is to take along Iran and Afghanistan for stability on both sides of Pakistan’s western border with the underlined belief of Indian involvement in Pakistan.
Pakistan has to keep its relations intact with GCC, with a special focus to rebuild relations with Saudia Arabia. The Saudia Arabia, alone has that power to deter Indian influence in its region. Pakistan must not detach itself completely from US with its emerging alliance with India.
The US-China rivalry is nowhere to get less. However, the US would engage China in ways other than war because of the deep economic relationship. The US holds the rage but it will come to terms of coexistence and cooperation with the new regional power. Pakistan at this moment must keep nerves calm and exploit opportunities by renovating relations on common grounds with intra and inter-regional players.
— The writer is Assistant Research Officer, Islamabad Policy Research Institute, a think tank based in Islamabad.