Emergence Of Cold War II: Pakistan’s Challenges And Opportunities In Shifting Global Balance Of Power – OpEd



We’re in a kind of cold war. “We’re witnessing a great strategic competition between the US and China, who are not only playing on their own board but on the global one.”

Jorge Heine, Professor of International Relations at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies, has rightly said, “There’s a growing consensus that we’re facing a Second Cold War,”

Furthermore, in this regard, the most relevant statement made by any head of state is the French president Macron’s statement in the year 2022, during his address to the French ambassadors, that “the era of western hegemony is coming to an end after three hundred years,” which is most relevant today, given what is happening in the world and the shift in the global balance of economic and political power away from the west to the east.

Competition between the US and China encompasses the geoeconomics, geostrategic, and technological domains, but the most worrying phenomenon in the world today is the warlike rhetoric that China and the US exchange on a regular basis. Almost the only topic on which Republicans and Democrats agree nowadays is that China must be curbed economically and militarily.

In the Second Cold War, the US will never engage in direct combat with China or Russia. The United States will advance its major defence partnership with India to enhance its ability to deter China’s aggression and ensure free and open access to the Indian Ocean region, says a new US defence strategy launched over the weekend.

While pursuing aggressive manoeuvres, Washington, on September 16, 2021, forged a new trilateral security agreement with the UK and Australia named AUKUS. Under the garb of “freedom of navigation,” “a free and open Indo-Pacific,” and “rule-based order,” this new coalition entirely aims at countering Chinese power in the Indo-Pacific. the existence of another security coalition named “QUAD,” comprising the US, India, Australia, and Japan in the Indo-Pacific. 

At the geopolitical level, the US will attempt to isolate China or at least circumscribe its rampaging sphere of influence. Simultaneously, it will endeavour to create a coalition of the willing amongst the Indian and Pacific Ocean rim countries. 

The new cold war, or Cold War II, is picking up day by day. The United States is strategically narrowing down on China in many ways after engaging Russia in the Ukraine war. Accumulating military assets in the Black Sea, now Taiwan’s military strength is being enhanced. The high-profile US visits to Taiwan this year and the joint statements are reflective of what is being cooked up in the backyard against China. 

At the geo-economic level, it will deny China access to all innovative technologies, curb profitable trade agreements and ties, discontinue or restrict supply chains emanating from mainland China, and impose economic sanctions where feasible. Most importantly, it will move decisively to delay, disrupt, and/or destroy China’s BRI-CPEC, which is giving it its phenomenal sphere of influence and concomitant strategic reach. 

The United States is aware that China and Russia pose a significant threat to the global order. In its recent National Security Strategy, the White House wrote that “the PRC and Russia are increasingly aligned with each other,” and the Biden administration dedicated multiple pages to explaining how the United States can constrain both countries going forward. The conflict in Ukraine is, by any definition, a “proxy war.” But it is being fought entirely differently by the US, the West, and Russia.

Washington’s objections to CPEC are attributable to two reasons. Firstly, the US considers China a strategic competitor and an ever-rising economic power. The second important reason is India, which is bitterly opposed to CPEC because China would be able to have virtual control of the strategic port of Gwadar. India being of central importance in US policy, Washington thinks that India could play an anchoring role in the peace and stability of the region by both lending a helping hand in Afghanistan and keeping a check on Pakistan.

On the other hand, China’s recently pledged $300 billion of investment in Iran over 25 years, and the most important is the Chinese silent and active diplomacy over the years to counter the US influence in the Middle East, has resulted in a thaw between both Middle Eastern rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran and Saudi Arabia’s rapprochement will transform the region into a New Order in the Middle East. China, Russia, and Iran have been cultivating a sound relationship to counter American influence. They have been brought closer by their mutual grievances against the overarching and unjustified American influence. This landmark agreement has the potential to transform the Middle East by realigning its major powers with China.

However, the new Cold War between the two opposite camps in Asia, particularly in the Middle East, may cause great threats to the peace and security in the region, as pointed out by Noam Chomsky. He said that the Americans became what he calls “the godfathers” of the world. And this “godfather” was to lead the Mafia, which consisted mainly of the Western powers and Israel in the Middle East.

Pakistan’s position in the new Cold War

The competition between the two powers, the US and China, each seeking global hegemony, is increasing pressures, risks, and opportunities for other countries, and Pakistan is one of those countries to face such challenges and grab opportunities out of the emerging Cold War II.

In such a situation, the first question that comes to mind is, “Will Pakistan be a geo-political football between China and the US?” as it was in the first Cold War fought between the US and the former USSR. This apprehension became evident when a devastating flood hit Pakistan, and Pakistan approached the world community, including the US, for financial assistance. In response, statements were issued from Washington and Beijing in this regard. Secretary Blinken urged Islamabad to engage China on issues of debt relief and restructuring so that Pakistan could recover from floods quickly. China retorted angrily to this out-of-context statement. Terming Pakistan as a genuine friend and brother in times of need, Beijing desired Washington to desist from passing unwarranted criticism on Sino-Pakistan cooperation.

Now the big question is: does a country like Pakistan have a choice if it is being made a geo-political football by big powers? No, unfortunately, it doesn’t have any choice. If you think about it, would it not play to the tunes of bigwigs?

if they so desired? Unless the house is put in order and the country is able to stand on its own two feet, there seems no choice. Givers choose.   Not beggars. 

The new shift in international relations in the shape of a new emerging Cold War between its closest partners US and China in the region is a very interesting and complicated time for Pakistan because Pakistan is the centre of gravity in terms of its location and in terms of its role where there is turbulence or transformation in the region.

Challenges for Pakistan

Now the question is: Can Pakistan survive such a shift in global politics? The answer is yes, as we survived in the past provided our leadership, both civil and military, comprehended the situation well in time and played a balanced role between the western countries, the European Union led by the US, China, and Russia by making them friends rather than foes through robust foreign policy made by foreign policy specialists sitting in the foreign office rather than security personnel as we have done in the past. In the emerging scenario, Pakistan matters in terms of its past history, size, location, and being the only Muslim country with nuclear power located in the region, which is the centre of geopolitics in the world and also geoeconomics at the same time because we have the centre of gravity in terms of routes passing to Central Asia, South Asia, China, the Gulf region, Iran, Afghanistan, and Russia. 

Now the question is, did we benefit from our geography in the past? The answer is yes, Pakistan did. Pakistan received billions of dollars, sophisticated arms and ammunition, and military training from the US since joining western alliances in the 1950s against the former Soviet Union until its dismemberment in 1989 and specifically after 9/11 during the war on terror. Pakistan became a nuclear power in the face of western opposition through the Symington and Pressler amendments only because of its services to the US-led alliance during the Afghan war. Though we became a nuclear power and gained military power as well, we became economically weaker because the rent money we received in terms of billions of dollars against our geostrategic location went back abroad due to rampant corruption by both civil and military elites.

Opportunities for Pakistan 

There are a lot of opportunities for Pakistan in the recent global shift of power from west to east and the emergence of a new Cold War in the region because the US is no longer a sole superpower and the west is weakening. As the founder of Pakistan said in his first interview with foreign journalists in 1948, “Pakistan is the pivot of the world, placed on the frontier around which future geopolitics revolves.” Therefore, neither the west, led by the US, nor China or Russia should ignore the country. That is why Pakistan benefited during the Cold War era and played a bridge role between the US and China in 1970. They were extracted a lot during the Afghan War and specifically after 9/11. On the other hand, it has received about 30 billion dollars in projects out of a total of 65 billion dollars in committed amounts from China for the flagship programme of CPEC. Unfortunately, for the last three and a half years, the Chinese border remained closed for trade because of flawed policy by the Imran Khan government with regard to CPEC and Chinese security in the country, bureaucratic hurdles, and what we promised we could not deliver with regard to the CPEC projects. 

There are lot of other opportunities for Pakistan to extract from the start of the new cold era provided, one, all the organs of the state, particularly the institutions, work within the boundaries of their specified role enshrined in the constitution and avoid ingresses into the domain of other institutions, keeping the house in order. The recent political polarisation and economic meltdown, coupled with a judicial and constitutional crisis, are more dangerous than the 1971 debacle. This must be stopped and an amicable solution within constitutional boundaries found forthwith.

Second, the end of the military establishment’s role in foreign policy with regard to India and Afghanistan is necessary because you cannot wish away the neighbours, and the relationship with both countries in the establishment’s foreign policy framework has been counterproductive for a long time. Pakistan should normalise its relations with both because it is the first time that China, India, and Pakistan have the same view with regard to the Ukrainian crisis. Pakistan should also fine-tune its policies with regard to Iran and Russia. We should restart the IPI gas pipeline and the TAPI pipeline with Afghanistan and get Russian oil at a subsidised rate.

Countries are not switching allegiances but multiplying them. But Pakistan’s foreign policy keeps beating to the rhythm of an extinct world. Our foreign relations have no doubt had great success stories. But there has been a visible decline from the successful diplomatic manoeuvring of the past that had leveraged Pakistan’s geopolitical position and defence capability to the country’s advantage. Years of living dangerously have weakened Pakistan, which has come to depend on others. Its diplomacy has now been left to seek loans and bailouts. That is shrinking our diplomatic space.

To develop relations with both China and the US, Pakistan’s diplomacy needs to be flexible. China is a strategic partner but cannot be a substitute for relations with others, particularly the West and the US. The ties with China may be indispensable, but those with America are necessary. Pakistan also needs to review its ties with India. The old model has become unsustainable.

Last but not least, Pakistan’s foreign policy makers must keep in mind Henry Kissinger’s forecast of a future world led by the USA. He explained in his analysis of the current situation in the world forum of geopolitics and economics that the United States is baiting China and Russia, and the final nail in the coffin will be Iran, which is, of course, the main target of Israel. We have allowed China to increase its military strength and Russia to recover from Sovietization to give them a false sense of bravado. This will create an all-around faster demise for them. 

Sher Khan Bazai is a retired civil servant who served as the Secretary of Education for the Government of Balochistan. If you have any feedback or questions for him, you can reach him at [email protected].

Sher Khan Bazai

Sher Khan Bazai is a retired civil servant, and a former Secretary of Education in Balochistan, Pakistan. He can be reached at [email protected].

2 thoughts on “Emergence Of Cold War II: Pakistan’s Challenges And Opportunities In Shifting Global Balance Of Power – OpEd

  • April 11, 2023 at 1:26 am

    How can Pakistan trust US when US wants India to be regional power, and India wants Pakistan vanished from the world map. China is emerging superpower chose China.

    • April 12, 2023 at 2:09 am

      The analysis about situation and geostragic importance of Pakistan in the context of emerging multipolar world has beeen described well, however the conclysion and especially the role of Pakistan needs more clarity. in my view now it will be geoeconomics , whivh will guode and should be guidong privople of the foreign polucy of Pakistan. our geostrategic location will oy be stenghtened if we may shift our from security towards geo evonomics. as renowned scholar Prag khanna has predicted about the rise of Asia and Asian century so being an important cou try of Asia , Pakistan needs to have a clear vision abput its role in strengthening forums like, SAARC, ASEAN, OIC and other forums and work towards improving its relationship with Iran and Afghanistan first and than india.


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