The power transition between major powers changes the regional and global political dynamics. The rise and fall of great powers generate new power structures with new political players in regional and international affairs. This power transition often conflicts between the status quo and revisionist powers. No country—mainly those critical to competing forces—can escape this global transformation and power struggle. In the past five centuries, numerous power transitions have occurred; each changing the existing order with a new one. In recent world history, the most noteworthy power transition happened after the end of the Cold War when the United States emerged as the world’s superpower. After exercising its hegemony over the world for over two decades, this great power faces a challenger- China.
The emerging China threatens the US-led world order with its increasing economic and political clout. Furthermore, growing Indo-US ties in the wake of US-China competition coupled with the Afghanistan crisis calls for states like Pakistan to pursue pragmatic and pro-active foreign policy.
US and China: the great power competition
In the 21st century, the US and China are at daggers drawn over global supremacy. The US has exercised global dominance in international politics since the end of the Cold War. Still, China’s rise as a global economic giant has quivered the United States-led world order. Both states are striving to undermine the influence of each other across the world. Furthermore, this changing world order is not confined to US-China Competition; instead, multiple other states (India, Japan, and Indonesia) US-China Competition; instead, numerous other states (India, Japan, and Indonesia) have emerged as solid economies. Parag Kanna writes in the book ‘The Future is Asian that ‘in the 19th century, the world was Europeanized; in the 20th century, it was Americanized. Now in the 21st century, the world is being irreversibly Asianized.’ With the changing global economic power of multiple states, international power structures are also changing, with the United States and China being the central competitors.
China has become the economic powerhouse in Asia; it will, as projected, overtake the US as the world’s leading economy overtake the US as the world’s leading economy within two decades. Both states align with states from Asia to Africa and Europe to protect their respective interests. To undermine the influence of China in Asia, the United States has expanded its strategic partnership with India, as evident from the recent joint statement of Narendra Modi and President Biden.
United States perceives China as the greatest threat to its so-called values-based world order. Thus, it has decided to utilize its partners to contain and confront China within the region.
Now, Pakistan is facing a mammoth challenge as the worsening ties between both powers are eroding the diplomatic space for Pakistan, and it may become inevitable for Pakistan to pick a side. Thus, this changing global power structure demands a calculated decision, as Pakistan needs to find a way to afford to develop ties with one partner at the expanse of its relations with another. Thus, a more balanced and pragmatic approach in sharp contrast with the one that our policymakers adopted in the past is the need of the hour. This strategic rivalry between China and the United States contains another Achilles point for Pakistan’s foreign policy, as in the wake of this competition, growing Indo-US ties are creating strategic imbalances in South Asia.
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and TTP Dilemma
Monumental changes have occurred in Afghanistan recently, with the Taliban taking over in 2021. Pakistan is facing challenges on multiple fronts regarding its relations with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
The primary concern for Pakistan is the Tehreek-e- Taliban Pakistan (TTP) factor which has been using Afghanistan as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against Pakistan. With the onset of the Taliban’s regime in Afghanistan, cross-border terrorism has increased in Pakistan, with hundreds of innocent people being the victims of this menace.
Thus, Pakistan has to engage extensively with the Taliban government to undermine this existential threat to Pakistan’s security. The second notable challenge in front of Pakistan is to sensitize the world about the domestic situation of Afghanistan. To prevent a humanitarian crisis, Afghanistan desperately needs financial assistance, and without the support of Western states, this crisis seems inevitable. As Pakistan has borne the brunt of Afghan refugees since the 1990s, it has to adopt diplomatic maneuverings to sensitize the world for support and extend the Taliban regime’s international recognition. Without recognition from other regional states and significant world powers, Pakistan should only adhere to selective engagement with the Taliban regime, as any abrupt recognition decision might annoy the United States and other Western states. Moreover, the fast-changing geopolitical realities demand a well-thought-out and pragmatic foreign policy approach while maintaining diversity in our foreign policy choices.