16 August 2017



Southern Asia’s evolving geopolitics are leading to the intensification of the China-Pakistan nexus, a development that has been greeted in Pakistan with exuberance. Although the China-Pakistan “all-weather” friendship goes back decades, there appears to be in recent years a greater willingness in Islamabad to air frustrations with the United States while embracing China as the “cornerstone” of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Much of this is in response to the deeply entrenched perception in Islamabad that Washington is tilting inexorably toward New Delhi. The Trump administration’s recent condemnation of cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan and its potential designation of Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism are lending credence to the notion that Washington is once again on the verge of abandoning a longtime partner. The shifting allegiances on the subcontinent have pushed Pakistan into the arms of China, even as it questions the value of its relationship with the United States.

Since India and the United States signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement in 2005, Pakistan’s response to perceived American slights has been to cry foul. While there may be some merits to Pakistan’s position, its responses to these exogenous shocks have been dictated by emotion and incredulity. If Pakistan is to navigate the evolving strategic environment in South Asia and compete for its interests effectively, it must adopt a more calculated, clear-eyed approach. This process must start with honest assessments of Pakistan’s strategic environment, what it might stand to gain or lose from spurning other powers (including the United States), and how to avoid provoking its neighbors into aligning with India. Pakistan needs to re-evaluate its tendency to antagonize the United States, avoid reflexive escalation vis-à-vis India, and be more honest with itself about the limitations of its Chinese partnership.

No comments: