The geostrategic environment of South Asia is in transition. Pakistan-India relations operate at the centre of South Asian security calculus. The natures of relations between these two states largely shape the political course of action in South Asia. Both sides try to maintain the strategic balance of power in their favour by two ways.
First is done through establishing cordial relations with neighbouring states of the immediate neighbourhood in order to bring them in their clout. Second means to maintain good relations with the extra-regional players’ specially great powers such as USA, Russia and China because of their involvement in South Asia. The post-Cold War era has witnessed an unprecedented rise of Asian nations while old regional alignments have undergone critical transition.
The India-China relations are managed by both sides in order to secure their mutual economic interests while continuing political and military competition as strategic competitors. The Pakistan-China relations have climbed new heights of mutual trust, reciprocal cooperation and comprehensive engagement. The Pakistan-China strategic cooperation has increased from geopolitical dimension to geo-economic dimension by signing $62 billion USD Chinese investment for CPEC (China Pakistan Economic corridor) under the greater clout of BRI.
India also feels that development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and even the 21st Century Maritime Silk Route threatens its economic and strategic interests in South Asia as it would cement Sino-Pak relations and also enhance Pakistan-China geostrategic and geo-economic outlook. This project and Pakistan operate at the heart of China’s one belt-one road strategic initiative. Russia’s relations toward Pakistan are marked with improvement in bilateralism which is a positive development for both sides. Similarly, Russia enjoys historic fraternity with India since 1971 after signing the treaty of friendship.
However, the key determinant of changing the strategic environment in South Asia is Indo-US nexus versus Pakistan-China alignment. Russia can play the role of offshore balancer in the South Asian strategic environment. Therefore, the significance of Russia has increased many folds in the given context. The emergence of Indo-US alliance after strategic partnership agreement has strengthened their consensus on the mutual drive to contain China and achieve favourable political regime in Afghanistan. On contrary, Pak-US relations have drifted into low key working interaction with mutual lack of trust and animosity over divergent perspectives on the peace process in Afghanistan. India’s belligerent attitude towards Pakistan has resulted from its growing economy and strengthened military/industrial complex due to increase in its defence budget, modernization of its military hardware and comprehensive military diplomacy with major powers of the international system.
The US has strengthened Indian propaganda against Pakistan by pressurizing Pakistan for ‘do more’ in its fight against terrorism. Growing Indo-US convergence of interests in Afghanistan has divergence from Pakistan’s stance toward the solution of the Afghan problem. This situation further aggregates security apprehensions of Pakistan. The Afghan state has been playing in the hands of India as its satellite state while India is using Afghanistan as leverage to deteriorating security of Pakistan. This scenario engenders instability in South Asia mainly because of coercive diplomacy of India.
This transition in the regional balance of power implicates security interests of Pakistan. India has adopted more rigid and militaristic foreign and security policy toward the region, especially against Pakistan. Pakistan needs to develop comprehensive national power (CNP) as a response to this emergent strategic environment. CNP is a measure of the general power of a nation-state including soft and hard power. Thus, it is the sum of all factors, including material and ideational variables of a nation.
There is a natural imbalance in South Asia as India its bigger state. India has largest territorial chunk, military and economic resources, higher population, enlarged diplomatic and political clout which adds value to its coercive power in the region especially toward arch-rival Pakistan. Pakistan needs to devise a shear mechanism of integrated use of material and ideational factors of national power in order to counter the threats emanating from India. Political stability, consistent economic growth policies, coordinated policy mechanism between civil-military elite such as National Security Committee (NSC) of federal cabinet and effect communication of nuclear deterrent must be employed in synergy to channelize Pakistan’s potential into a comprehensive national power.
Pakistan needs reinvigorated conduct of foreign policy in order to muster greater international support on policy issues and matters of national interest. Pakistan needs to incentivize relations with its neighbouring states especially Iran and Afghanistan while skillfully and consistently implement China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a measure to strengthen bilateral ties with China. Convergence of interests with USA and Russia without compromise on national interest is another important area of foreign policy concern for Pakistan. Pakistan’s balanced and neutral policy toward the Muslim world, especially in relations with GCC states, must be steered as its guiding principle.
Pakistan’s defence forces have the capability to thwart emergent Indian threats. Pak’s defence policy has clarity about national defence as it has outlined full spectrum deterrence as the basis of Pakistan’s security calculus against full spectrum dominance doctrine of India. Lowering of the nuclear threshold by Pakistan after acquiring tactical nuclear weapons (TNW’s) and short-range ballistic missile defence system capable of a nuclear warhead is the main response to this emerging scenario.
Pakistan’s security stewards need to be cognizant of Indian armed forces conventional and sub-conventional warfighting capabilities as India has endorsed surgical strikes as war operation within the fold of conventional war while its involvement in terrorist activities in Pakistan resonates sub-conventional warfare ambitions of India. Pakistan’s defence forces are engaged in a comprehensive national war on terror with the highest success rate in the world. They need to generate effective and robust network-centric military operations capability to response any kind of threats.
Comprehensive national power is an emerging theme of utilizing the national power of a nation-state in a competitive international system. Pakistan needs to present its image globally as emerging economic and political power in the international system with stakes for global peace and development. Diplomatically, Pakistan must continue its efforts to expose Indian state repression in Jammu and Kashmir at all regional and international fora’s.
Pakistan needs strategic management with effective military and diplomatic deterrent to manage crisis and mitigate threats in South Asia visa-v-India. Pakistan needs to carry out effective political and trade diplomacy as the cornerstone of broadening foreign policy agenda to mitigate the effects of changing the strategic environment in South Asia.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.
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Muhammad Ayaz Nazar is an independent researcher having M. Phil in International Relations from Quaid-i-Azam University. His areas of Interest are included geopolitics, politics of South Asia, especially focusing on India-Pakistan relations.