In recent developments, the US Department of State has released a policy document outlining its priorities in the South Asian region, specifically focusing on Pakistan. This comprehensive policy addresses key aspects such as regional stability, strategic equilibrium, prevention of nuclear proliferation, responsible nuclear stewardship, and encouraging diplomatic engagement between Pakistan and India. The US, acknowledging its potential influence, can play a pivotal role in addressing conflicts, overcoming challenges, and fostering peace and stability in the region.
Over the past two decades, the US has strategically aligned itself with India, contributing to the intricate complexities of the region’s security, political, and economic landscape. Designating India as a Major Defense Partner, the US has entered into multiple defense agreements, enhancing military support and granting access to cutting-edge military and dual-use technologies. Despite concerns over India’s nuclear policies and instances of material theft, the US has facilitated a civilian-nuclear deal and provided an exceptional Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver, indicating a shift in US policy. This shift positions India as a counterweight to China, overlooking developments in India’s missile program and potential nuclear weapons testing.
The US’ acceptance of India’s purchase of S-400 under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) further highlights the evolving dynamics, showcasing India’s status as a crucial ally in the region.
India’s favored status with the US and its Western allies empowers it to dismiss initiatives proposed by Pakistan, such as the Strategic Restraint Regime. While Pakistan consistently exhibits responsibility and restraint, instances like India’s supersonic nuclear-capable cruise missile, BrahMos, landing in Pakistani territory test the limits of nuclear stability. Additionally, India’s involvement in false flag operations, particularly during the Pulwama-Balakot crisis, underscores the precarious nature of the India-Pakistan relationship.
India’s persistent illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir, accompanied by significant human rights violations, adds fuel to the longstanding tensions. The recent abrogation of Article 370 and its endorsement by the Indian Supreme Court indicate a potential crisis brewing in the region. India’s opposition to regional economic development initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), coupled with allegations of sponsoring terrorism in Balochistan, necessitates international intervention, especially from the US.
In recent years, the traditional rivalry between India and Pakistan has intensified under the policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. While Pakistan seeks reconciliation and resolution of longstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, India has shown reluctance to respond positively to peace offers. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s visit to India for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit exemplifies Pakistan’s diplomatic willingness.
India’s historical tendency to level baseless accusations hindered the establishment of a cordial atmosphere.
Pakistan, as a responsible nuclear state, considers nuclear security a top national responsibility. Establishing a thorough and efficient nuclear security regime covering all nuclear and radioactive materials, Pakistan actively engages in non-discriminatory regional and international initiatives. Being a signatory to conventions prohibiting biological and chemical weapons, Pakistan adheres to international standards and guidelines concerning chemical, biological, and radioactive weapons. The foolproof nuclear command and control system ensures the secure management of Pakistan’s nuclear assets.
Contrastingly, historical instances indicate proliferation activities in India, raising concerns about the control of nuclear assets by Hindu fundamentalists. The urgent and dispassionate role of the international community, particularly the US, is imperative to address these risks.
The policies driven by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Hindutva ideology not only pose threats to regional peace but also manifest as global challenges. India’s pursuit of nuclear supremacy, the alleged involvement of the Indian Intelligence Agency in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil, and revelations of a plot to harm a Sikh separatist on American soil underscore the far-reaching consequences.
Regional peace and stability are intricately tied to resolving enduring issues like Jammu & Kashmir.
With its influential position, the US has the potential to shape the broader goals of stability and peace in Asia. The US can support diplomatic engagements between Pakistan and India, prevent an arms race, and advocate for risk reduction measures. However, it is essential to avoid imbalances and biased policies hindering regional stability. The potential for collaboration between India and Pakistan on economic, political, and security issues depends on both countries. An unbiased assessment of the regional stability and security environment is crucial for promoting enduring peace.
As South Asia navigates its complex geopolitical landscape, the United States stands as a key player with the capacity to influence and shape regional dynamics. The evolving relations with India and the historical tensions between India and Pakistan underscore the delicate balance required to foster peace and stability. Through judicious diplomatic engagement, the US can contribute significantly to resolving disputes, preventing conflicts, and promoting a lasting equilibrium in the region. Free from bias and imbalance, regional stability is not only a regional necessity but a global imperative that demands the attention and proactive involvement of the international community, especially the US.
The writer is Islamabad based regular contributor.