India is one of the world’s largest armaments importers. It continues to expand the scope and range of its defense and strategic cooperation with countries like the U.S., France, Israel, and Russia. In 2016, the U.S. recognized India as a “Major Defence Partner,” a title that consents to India buying more cutting-edge and sensitive technologies from the U.S. at par with America’s closest allies and partners and guarantees durable support in the future.

India’s growing strategic partnerships, particularly with the U.S., have had a noticeable impact on the South Asian regional security landscape, specifically in defense cooperation.

The Indo-U.S. strategic partnership has raised concerns about the strategic stability and conventional balance in the South Asian region. Unfortunately, the U.S. is choosing to ignore the delicate security dynamics of South Asia. The consequences of Western arms trade with India have consistently impacted this region. In the realm of South Asia, where ancient histories intertwine, lies an area known for its complexity and fragility. It becomes evident that this land hosts territorial tensions between two nuclear-armed nations, a delicate balance to be maintained.

For decades, Russia remained the significant arms supplier to India, with a 65% share only a few years ago. That has now come down to 45%, while the U.S. share has jumped from 1% to 11 %. Recently, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the U.S. in late June reminded me of the thriving strategic partnership between India and the United States. The warm reception by the Biden administration and the unique honor of addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress underscored their intense dedication to taking the Indo-U.S. relationship to new heights. Prime Minister Modi’s visit was not only filled with symbolic gestures, but it also resulted in significant agreements, including the recent U.S.-India initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology, which seeks to foster bilateral collaboration on technologies such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, quantum computing, 5G, and cybersecurity. The U.S. semiconductor manufacturer Micron Technology announced that it plans to invest $825 million in a new chip assembly and testing facility in India. The U.S. and India have unveiled several defense agreements, including a deal for India to acquire 31 MQ-9B Predator armed drones from the U.S. and a separate plan to produce F414 fighter jet engines for the Indian Air Force jointly with General Electric. Furthermore, the U.S. and India agreed upon specific clauses of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) agreement, already signed in 2020.

The U.S. views India as a crucial ally in South Asia to counterbalance China’s growing influence. A compelling demonstration of this is the signing of four foundational agreements between the two countries in past years, which will bolster interoperability, intelligence sharing, and exchange of geospatial information between their militaries. These include the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA). The U.S. wants to strengthen its allies in the South China Sea (SCS) as it alone cannot check Chinese developments. India is seen as a vital player in countering China in South Asia and other parts of the world, including SCS, for which it has been part of the QUAD (U.S., Australia, Japan, and India). Such developments have direct implications for Pakistan, leading to strategic instability in the South Asian region.

Like Israel in the Middle East, India will likely be a U.S. outpost in South Asia. Growing Indian stature would influence America’s decision-making, especially regarding South Asia. How China and India will interact in the future is still uncertain. What is certain is that India will not play its game against China the way the U.S. thinks. With an ever-increasing trade figure of India with China, India will prove to be an unreliable U.S. ally.

The profitable Indian markets may drive U.S. cooperation with India in multiple defense domains, but its regional consequences will be disastrous in the long run.

With American support, India won’t be reluctant to experiment with its regional military doctrines and policies, particularly against Pakistan.

South Asia is one of the world’s most complex, volatile, and fragile regions. Strategic communities worldwide are unanimous in their views that the Indo-Pak conflict can trigger a nuclear exchange. The Indo-Pak historical enmity is further widening due to India’s unwillingness to engage with Pakistan in a meaningful dialogue. In such circumstances, the massive inflow of deadly weapons to India, without caring for regional sensitivities, further adds to instability.

Pakistan will likely be marginalized with a reduced footprint in the security calculus of the United States. In response to such a threatening environment, Pakistan must make corrections to restore the balance of power in the region and decrease the negative consequences of the Indo-U.S. strategic relationships and civil nuclear collaboration.

Pakistan should capitalize on its cooperation with China in the nuclear energy field. This collaboration would fulfill Pakistan’s energy needs and boost its bilateral ties with China. It needs to diversify its relations with Iran on equality bases as mutual respect and cooperation with Iran would help Pakistan to solve its energy crisis.  Pakistan should continue to build its ties with the U.S. on issues of common interests including cooperative arrangements on climate change, trade, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, narcotics control, and international terrorism.

Pakistan is paradoxical; it must retain an intricate balance in pursuing its ties with the U.S. vis China. Only economically and militarily strong Pakistan can deal with the negative consequences of the Indo-U.S. alliance. Strategic stability in South Asia rests on the balance of power. And as history bears testimony, in the face of India’s hostility, the onus for maintaining and restoring strategic stability in South Asia rests with Pakistan.

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