By Marjan Akhtar
The region of South Asia comprising of two nuclear states India and Pakistan – which also happen to be long time rivals – is the flashpoint of future conflicts. These conflicts would most likely arise from the on and off imbalance of nuclear deterrence, trans-border terrorism, water disputes or the much clichéd Kashmir issue. But one must note here that these conflicts won’t come into play without the role of foreign involvement like the United States and China.
The United States is on the verge of losing balance in the region because of economic constraints, as a result of the failing War on Terror in Afghanistan. It is therefore, looking for a way out which seems to be not that easy. The expansion of its influence into Asia-Pacific for economic ties with partners like South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and India is gaining the required media hype. The recent visits of President Obama on the eve of Asian Economic Summits have proven that America can no longer sustain the decade long war and is now claiming its dominance as an Asia-Pacific power in the region. One wonders where that is going to lead the superpower.
China on the other hand, being a superpower in its own region has managed to match the American economy and has the potential to leave it behind in the near future. China is strong economically and militarily and is an apparent threat to the United States and India alike. Pakistan being an old ally of China, is taking every advantage of the “friendship” to improve its security, economic and energy problems. In other words, Pakistan provides a platform to China in the heart of South Asia which is a strategic gain for the latter.
The construction of Gawadar Port, Pakistan Navy bases in the Makran Coast, the construction of different dams, construction of communication lines and the “increased” Chinese presence in the Gilgit-Baltistan province of Pakistan is a prick to the United States and subsequently India. All these developments would help expand the Chinese effect across the Gulf.
Obviously the United States is now insecure of the Chinese hegemony in Pakistan; it has turned to India to counter the effect. For that matter, the United States is predominantly supporting the Indian presence in Afghanistan. This means that after the so-called withdrawal of U.S. forces, India would help sustain stability in the country. Also, both the U.S. and India have performed joint amphibious exercises at the U.S Marine base in Okinawa, Japan attempting to intimidate China. The civil- nuclear deal between the two is also proof that the United States supports a nuclear India, but objects over a nuclear Pakistan.
India is also playing a covert role in destabilizing the already vulnerable state of Pakistan. It is doing so by manipulating innocent people of Balochistan through RAW, hiding behind groups like Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF). The five Indian consulates operating in Afghanistan help provide training to Balochs in sniper shooting, GPS handling and operating wireless gadgets to carry out terrorist attacks in Pakistan. The agency is provoking the locals to go against the government and demand for independence from Pakistan. Furthermore, Afghanistan is doing no less in pointing fingers at Pakistan for supporting the Haqqani network and Quetta Shura.
This all leaves Pakistan in the middle of nowhere. Every actor for which Pakistan sacrificed its sovereignty and shed blood at the cost of innocent civilians and army personnel seems to be going in vain. Pakistan is being encircled by India on both the western and eastern fronts with the backing of the United States. The only way out for Pakistan is to strengthen its ties with China for economic benefits.
The writer is a post-graduate in Strategic & Nuclear Studies from National Defence University, Islamabad. She is currently working as a research fellow at the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute, Islamabad.