Chief Editor: Ansar Mahmood Bhatti

Indo-US nexus:

By: Mustansar Klasra.

Factors determining the geo-political dynamics of our region have a name. It is Modi’s concept of ‘Act Asia’ and Obama’s idea of ‘Pivot to Asia.’ In fact, both the concepts emanate from their failed post 9/11 Afghanistan policies:The 2005 Indo-US Strategic Partnership was aimed at establishing Indian hegemony over the territories from Afghanistan to Bangladesh. For this purpose, Afghanistan was declared a part of South Asia, giving a free hand to India to use Afghan soil as the base for the “Coalition Spy net-work”, against all the neighbors of Afghanistan, particularly Pakistan.

Consensus was also reached on a civilian nuclear deal, and to get the deal, India voted against Iran’s nuclear programme and agreed to jointly work with the US and its coalition partners, to contain and curb rising Islamic extremism in the region. The US and coalition partners failed on all counts.Modi’s present strategic embrace of the US adds new dimensions to the geo-political dynamics of the region. Being a“non-aligned country, India is moving away from its encrusted ideology of non-alignment to a multi-aligned approach. “India has now been drawn into a closer long term military relationship with the US in a swathe, extending from the Gulf of Eden to the Straits of Malacca.

A defense framework agreement was renewed for ten years and the Defense Technology and Trade agreement was signed to help India build an aircraft carrier. India has also entered into the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, dominated by US and Japan and will be actively engaged “to counter Chinese New Silk Road Partnership, based on Euro-Asian land bridge and the String of Pearls connectivity, stretching from the Middle East to China.”Modi’s prime objective is to achieve “economic growth that could reach the poor, not by the pernicious limitations of the trickle-down theory, but by a trickle-up theory, in which swift financial empowerment of the poor is matched by the goods manufactured in India. Obama wants a piece of India’s rising growth and a dominant role in Asia. US technology can help it along. Modi knows that.” Therefore, India and the US now have set the goal of increasing trade from the present US$ 100 million to US$ 500 million a year, matching with that of China. A significant outcome of the visit is the breakthrough in finding the formula to remove the discord over India’s nuclear liability laws.

Despite the strategic embrace with the US , India’s policy of multi-alignment is pragmatic and far more practical and will continue to draw India towards China and Russia, exerting pressure on “America’s ability to adjust to a multi-polar world shaped by Delhi and Washington, although the rise of India is a geopolitical fact of our time and the manner in which it rises is critical to the future of the global order.”

The geo-political demands of Pakistan had made it a preferred American ally since the 1950s, the period of the cold war, and it got a bitter experience of the strategic embrace. Pakistan was used by the stronger partner when it suited them and was abandoned when not needed. The worst happened in 2001 when the American mind-set demanded from Pakistan: “You are either with us or against us , forcing Pakistan to take the most immoral and illogical decisions to join America’s war on Afghanistan, a brotherly and friendly country.” As a consequence Pakistan suffered immensely and continues to suffer even now.

Recent developments are ominous for Pakistan, particularly at this point in time, when the political turmoil within and the war on our north-western borders make the situation more complex. Yet there are some positive indications which demand very careful policy decisions and initiatives to mould these opportunities into assets. It is but logical to assume that the declared objective of Indo-US Strategic Partnership is to contain and curb the rising economic and military power of China, and “has set an alarm in China’s mind, facilitating a defacto understanding between China, Pakistan and Russia, who have recently developed significant military and economic relations”, strengthening Pakistan’s external security dimensions. Moreover, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani recently declared at the Heart of Asia Conference in Beijing, that “the future of Afghanistan will be determined in a very inclusive manner and in close coordination with its six neighbors of the Inner Circle – namely, Pakistan, Iran, China, Russia and the Central Asian countries.” He leaves India and the US out, whose post 1990 machinations had plunged Afghanistan into the civil war. The Afghans are now determined not to be cheated again and will take matters into their own hands, for a peaceful transfer of power and a peaceful border with Pakistan. The present situation also offers the opportunity to Pakistan to construct a new narrative of the Pak-US relationship, based on mutual self-respect and interests, knowing the fact that, “the US isn’t just another country. It is a super power that has made the world a more dangerous place. Where ever the US has recently intervened it has left a mess, worse than the earlier dictators did, as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.” It is therefore imperative for Pakistan to loosen the US bear hug, and opt for a more friendly and comfortable embrace, one in which to breathe freely.

The dynamics of strategic stability in South Asia are facing tremendous challenges. The troubled bilateral relations of India and Pakistan and external influence of the US are undermining the prospects of strategic stability in South Asia. The growing Indo-US nexus is making India an arrogant regional player, who wants to dominate the region at its own terms. Pakistan, in order to maintain a stable deterrent relationship, has been following unilateral strategic restrains and wanted to pursue bilateral strategic restraints to improve wide-ranging confidence building measures with India. A discriminatory and biased approach by the US is making Pakistan vulnerable against Indian hegemonic ambitions. Based on this assumption, the paper argues that the US policies of engagement in South Asia did not help promote strategic stability. However, the US can play a positive role in strengthening strategic stability in South Asia by following an unbiased and balanced approach. This paper is aimed at finding answers to questions related to the nature and impact of the US engagement on South Asian strategic stability, and prospects of the US role to stabilize strategic relationship between India and Pakistan.

The role of the US has always been a very significant factor in political, economic and security dynamics of South Asia. Its initial engagement during the Cold War period in South Asia was to contain the expansion of communism. Similarly, to pursue its broader geo-political interests in the post-Cold War era and particularly after 9/11, the US enhanced its engagement with Pakistan to fight its war against terrorism and formed its strategic partnership with its natural ally, India, to contain increasing influence of China. The US, on the one hand, followed a policy of denials, restrictions and pressures against Pakistan. While on the other hand, US-India strategic partnership, US-India 10-year Defense Framework Agreements, the Indo-US nuclear deal to make India as an exception at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for the international nuclear trade, US efforts for India’s entry into the NSG and its advocacy for India’s permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have complicated India-Pakistan deterrent relationship.Trust and confidence building measures, absence of arms race and reduction in conventional asymmetry, stable political environment and economic integration can build a stable deterrent relationship between India and Pakistan.This would not help to avoid chances of nuclear war, but it would definitely serve as a key to achieve lasting peace and prosperity in South Asia. Existing US foreign policy objectives and geopolitical interests in the South Asian region has been accelerating conventional and nuclear arms competition between India and Pakistan. The already troubled relations coupled with nuclear arms competition could ultimately lead towards conventional war escalating into a nuclear one. Through a constructive and balanced approach, the world’s sole super power, the US can contribute towards reducing the chances of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan. In this regard the US, especially under the new leadership, should reconsider its policy towards South Asia which should be aimed at promoting a stable environment in the region, but not at making countries like India, the only player to decide the fate of South Asia. The US should also consider Pakistan as an equal important player in this region and as an equal responsible nuclear power.