In the era of emerging multilateralism, the South Asian states of India and Pakistan are left with fewer foreign policy choices. The interplay of power contestation and cooperative efforts between these two nuclear countries shapes the geopolitical landscape of South Asia. In recent years, the power dynamics in South Asia have undergone significant and rapid changes, transforming the region into a battleground for power contestation between China and the United States. Washington is expanding its power tentacles in Asia-Pacific by making alliances and signing multilateral agreements. America’s perception of China as a threat to its hegemony is a classical example of the Thucydides trap.
On one hand, India is becoming the lynchpin of Biden’s Indo-pacific strategy as he said that a relationship with India would define the next century, on the other hand, Pakistan is forging closer ties with China and Russia, signaling shifting sands in South Asia.
Historically, Pakistan has relied on Washington for defense supplies while India has traditionally looked to Russia for such support. However, in recent times there has been seen a reversal in this trend as India is shifting its defense dependency from Russia to America because of the Ukraine war which has made it difficult for Moscow to provide defense weapons to Delhi. Washington is also aiding India to modernize its defense capabilities by providing the latest technology and sophisticated weapons. Narendra Modi, who has been censured by the West as Butcher of Gujrat, has been invited by the Biden administration for a consecutive 5 days official visit to the US. Modi is the third president who is invited by the White House administration after French and South Korean counterparts. Top on Modi’s agenda is to sign defense deals with the USA such as buying drone technology and meeting with Big Tech CEOs such as Tesla, Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc.
Besides discussing agendas, both heads of state were briefed about strategic convergences in Asia. The White House joint statement has rung alarm bells in Pakistan which states “call for concerted action against all UN-listed terrorist groups including Al-Qa’ida, ISIS/Daesh, Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), and Hizb-ul-Mujhahideen. They strongly condemned cross-border terrorism, the use of terrorist proxies and called on Pakistan to take immediate action to ensure that no territory under its control is used for launching terrorist attacks. This direct statement against Pakistan is further off Modi’s agenda against Pakistan by presenting it as a terror-propagating state to deflect attention from his brutal repression in Kashmir. The statement clearly reveals the growing US tilt towards India in South Asia. This also implies that Washington has accepted Delhi’s unsubstantial narrative regarding cross-border terrorism against Pakistan. It might also be an attempt to pressurize Pakistan for Washington’s broader strategy in the region, a price of cooperation with China that Pakistan would have to pay in the future.
The other aspect of this visit which is alarming for Pakistan is increasing defense and technological cooperation between India and USA, as both have agreed to jointly manufacture fighter jet engines. Moreover, the USA has also signed a deal with India to purchase 30 MQ-9B ‘Reaper’ and 31 high-altitude long-endurance drones, which the USA has traded off with a few NATO allies. These drones will enhance the Indian armed forces’ intelligence surveillance capabilities.
India has expressed its intention to collaborate with NASA on a joint mission to the International Space Station scheduled for 2024 for the exploration of space.
This deliberated military and technological advancement of India supported by the US has whipped the stability instability paradox in South Asia and has threatened the strategic stability of the region. India’s incentive to become the hegemon of South Asia is a threat to the peace of this region. Military modernization at the border has also made Pakistan vulnerable to myriad traditional and non-traditional security threats. Hence, Pakistan needs to diversify its interests from strategic ties to technological advancements with Russia and China. Pakistan needs to shift from traditional state security dynamics to technological advancements because the coming age is the age of Artificial Intelligence.
Technologically advanced India would have the capability to utilize propaganda and disinformation more effectively and efficiently against Pakistan. In response, Pakistan should consider establishing technological partnerships with Russia and China to enhance its own capabilities and counter any potential challenges.
The deepening global strategic partnership between India and America is reshaping the power dynamics in South Asia which would have long-term implications for the region, particularly for Pakistan.
This shift in dynamics brings about several immediate consequences, including an intensified rivalry between China and the United States, the emergence of bloc politics, the formation and dissolution of alliances, and an escalation in the arms race across the Asia-Pacific. Pakistan cannot face these challenges without putting its own house in order. Therefore, political, and economic stability is the linchpin to finding stable and mature means to navigate its foreign policy in these difficult times.
The author is a Researcher at Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI). She is Pursuing MPhil in American Studies from Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad. Her area of interest is US politics in South Asia.