Pakistan and India are the two traditional rivals in South Asia since their independence. Both the countries have fought three full-fledged wars i.e. in 1947, 1965 and 1971 and tackled numerous low-high intensity conflicts. The transition from war to the low-intensity conflicts was possible due to nuclear polarity and balance of power among the states. The threat of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) has not allowed the states to engage in war. The international community has also played a vital role during such crises. The world has pursed pressure on both the states to resolve any crisis and not spiral into total war. Because in case of a total war; both the countries have enough nuclear capabilities to devastate the world. US’ increasing tilt towards India will create an imbalance in South Asia. This analysis attempts to understand the implications of Indo-US ties towards Pakistan’s security.
Rejuvenation of Indo-US Ties:
The foundation of Indo-US relations was laid in the early 1990s when the US became a sole world power, and India shifted towards the US. The US’ response was not very supportive in the1990s as it was against the nuclear program of India. Later, in the new millennium, Indo-US relations attained new heights.
A cordial diplomatic relation between India and the US started with the visit of the US President Bill Clinton in March 2000. It was the first presidential visit to India since 1979. This started a new era of Indo-US relations. Both the countries jointly established science and technology forum to work on environment and energy. The diplomatic relations took off over a discussion on energy cooperation. Both countries strengthened their ties with the signing of a new framework of “Indo-US Defence Relationship”. Under the framework, both states would cooperate in maritime security, humanitarian assistance and counter-terrorism. India and the US also jointly conducted naval exercises followed by air and land exercises. In 2006, the two states signed an agreement on the civil nuclear deal that allowed the trade of nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes. In response, India put its civil capacities under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Later in 2008, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) allowed India to engage in nuclear trade for peaceful purposes under the IAEA safeguards.
Over a decade, the Indo-US relations expanded from the field of civil nuclear cooperation to economic, strategic and cyber-security interests. The US increased its trade with India to be India’s biggest trading partner. The table below demonstrates US’ trading trend in the region in 2019.
Trade among the states is directly proportional to the market available. The trade between the US and India is not an issue. But the US’ approach towards South Asia and its discrimination of Pakistan in international regimes is problematic. It is the US’ strategy to make India a regional hegemon to counter China’s growing influence in the region.
US’ Discriminatory Approach in South Asia:
The US has given itself a position of the world police-man. Its foreign policy goals include the promotion of world peace along with a secure global environment and maintaining balance of power among states. The increasing Indo-US ties are causing an imbalance in the South Asian status-quo. Both India and Pakistan are not parties to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). Both the states became nuclear powers in May 1998. US has exhibited a discriminatory behaviour towards Pakistan on several occasions. In 2010, China wanted to conclude a civil nuclear deal with Pakistan. It was highly criticised and was not approved by the US and other members of NPT. Similarly, Pakistan is not allowed to be a part of NSG for international civil nuclear trade. On the contrary, the US is rather complacent toward India and is selling its nuclear material to India since 2006. It allows international nuclear trade for peaceful purposes with India since 2008.
Besides the nuclear domain, US also discriminates among the South Asian states in international organizations. The former US President Barack Obama backed Indian bid of permanent membership in the UN Security Council. The current President of US, Donald Trump, has also remained silent on Indian aggression i.e. the controversial “Citizenship Amendment Bill”. He did not voice any concern on the illegal seizure of “Jammu and Kashmir”, during his 2020 visit. The discriminatory behaviour of the US towards Pakistan and its support to India, internationally and regionally, allows India to behave as a regional hegemon.
Indian Aggressive Attitude in the Region:
Since the fascist government of Modi was established in 2014, India adopted aggressive posture internally and externally. Currently, India is in conflict with four out of six of its neighbouring countries. In 2019, Indian government issued a new political map claiming disputed territory of Kalapani as part of its Union. It arisen the tension between India and Nepal. In response, Oli’s regime also issued a map claiming the territory of Kalapani and Lipulekh Pass with the addition of Limpiyadhura. Besides, since May 2020, there is a military stand-off between China and India. This impasse at Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh and at Naku La in North Sikkim is in response to Indian reinforcement in the region. Thus, the issue of Lipulekh pass directly creates a tripartite issue involving China, India, and Nepal. Likewise, India also invalidated Kashmir’s special status and made it an Indian union territory. All these border issues of India with neighbouring countries have a long history but recently it seems India activated all of its border issues intentionally.
Furthermore, the Indian aggression in the region did not remain limited to border clashes. It encompassed other political and security means as well. There have been continuous violations at LoC and Sialkot border. Persistent efforts are made to destabilize Pakistan via proxies of Indian intelligence agencies in the region, especially in Baluchistan. India and US also plotted against the economic initiatives of Pakistan i.e. CPEC. The growing Indo-US ties are not trade based only. US also asserts India’s bid in international politics. Thus, India is asserting its power in the region. But Pakistan being the arch-rival of India will not accept it as a regional hegemon.
Since, Imran Khan established his government in Pakistan in August 2018; he took the initiative of establishing peace with India. Telephonic conversations were held and written letters sent, to open the way for resolving all outstanding issues. Unfortunately, Indian response has not been very progressive. Out of good-will, Islamabad opened the Kartarpur Sahib corridor for Indian Sikh pilgrims during the rising tension between the two countries. Pakistan should keep its door open for the resolution of issues with India via negotiations. Meanwhile, it should focus on its regional integration with China, Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics (CARs). India is a bigger economy but Pakistan has geo-strategic benefit. Thus through regional integration, Pakistan offers a bigger market. Pakistan needs to emphasize on CPEC and should not let US-backed Indian propaganda against the CPEC succeed. Pakistan should develop its bilateral relationship with US beyond Afghanistan but not at the cost of its existing economic initiatives.
The growing Indo-US ties possess many challenges to the region in general and Pakistan in particular. Pakistan can deal with all of these challenges with effective policies. It should focus on its economic integration within the region and beyond. Pakistan can counter the growing Indo-US ties with its growing economic cooperation with China. Meanwhile, it should be responsive to the prospects of cooperation with the US. Concerning India, the option to resolve issues via negotiations, with possible economic integration, should always be an option for Pakistan.