By : Mustansar Klasra
US Foreign policy in South Asia mainly revolves around three key indicators i.e Economy, Security and issues pertaining to governance. One factor that kills the trustworthy relationship between any two states is the abrupt shift in Foreign policy. Foreign Policy shift in favor of one state at the cost of others is not considered to be a sensible move in the international arena.
That’s what the US did in the last few years in South Asia. Pakistan and US have always remained key partners at different levels of international politics, but after the rise of China, America gets itself involved to deepen its ties with India ignoring the dynamics of South Asia. Pakistan once enjoyed MNNA (Major Non-Nato Ally) status by Americans but now India-US relations are growing deeply day by day. Majority of the foreign policy analysts keep on criticizing American maximum involvement with India as it disturbs the balance of power in South Asia,
Secondly, it was also meant to counter China in the region as well. COMCASA and PECA agreements between India and US are two significant examples of their bilateral relations and the shift in the Foreign policy of the US towards India. Here one thing is for sure sustained bilateral relationships can only flourish between the two states when they are on the basis of equality and trust. Americans need to admit the fact that the world is now moving towards multilateralism. If any key international player creates a vacuum, others will try to fill that gap. That’s why Pakistan was compelled to do so. Pakistan’s tilt toward China was naturally done as It was ignored by the policy experts of the US.
It is beyond doubt that the alliance networks of the US are one of the most enduring and highly successful elements of US foreign policy, but in contemporary world politics, China’s challenge has created significant troubles for US foreign policy experts across the globe. When it comes to South Asia, it is the established truth that India and Pakistan are two highly important rather critical countries of South Asia. Americans’ clear tilt toward India would not only create troubles for Pakistan but also for the US as well. Unrest in Afghanistan, the Presence of terrorist organizations, China’s rise, and Issues with Iran is the very much loud and clear challenges that the US will have to look after being a credible international player.
Americans’ delicate dance with India will no longer be useful to address all these above-mentioned foreign policy challenges in South Asia. One thing that is worth mentioning in the context of US and Pakistan relations is that America needs to view Pakistan through the bilateral prism. Where are the bilateral relations between Pakistan and US? Looks like this angel is missing for the last 75 years. Why Pakistan is always seen in the context of developments happening in the region?
Emerging Indo-US strategic cooperation has significantly changed the security and economic-led architecture of South Asia. China is actively pursuing its economic goals across the region. China’s active model of connectivity overshadows US economy as well as security advantages in the region. The prime objective of Americans in South Asia was always to exercise their dominant role in the region but the fault line of American policy experts for this region was that they were unsuccessful in the formulation of a uniform policy for the South Asian region where the prism of strengthening of the bilateral relations was missing. Americans are continuously making this mistake even today. Indo-US cooperation is to contain China; Pak-US cooperation was always maintained under the context of the Afghan conundrum. Why is it so?
If we come to the challenges for US foreign policy experts in the South Asian region, there exists a long list that the US needs to actively tackle on a serious note. One of the prime and key challenges is the Rise of China and its engagements with SAARC countries at different levels. China is enjoying healthy economic and security relations with Pakistan and at the same time its continuous trade pattern with India despite having border issues with India. SCO is another platform that is connecting almost all South Asian nations including Iran. China is not letting any room free for the US in the region.
US discriminatory policies in the South Asian region, in particular, for India and Pakistan, is creating a trust deficit for Americans in the region. The refugee crisis and unrest in Afghanistan is another policy challenge for Americans and they always tried their level best to counter terrorism but so far despite too much effort they could not maintain peace inside Afghanistan. Marginalizing Pakistan in this context can never be fruitful for Americans. Islamabad and Washington both need to realize that peace and stability can never be achieved without building trust and uniform policies for the region. These adjustments and the revival of trustworthy relationships on equal and bilateral levels are badly needed for the US to engage with nations of South Asia.
Pakistan is the only country in the South Asian region that stood with the US against violence and militancy since 1947. In recent years despite tensions and misunderstandings both US and Pakistan found ways of cooperation and collaboration at different levels. In recent years as US-China competition picked up, it also constrained relations between Pakistan with the United States. There is still space for cooperation between Pakistan, America, and China in Afghanistan. Pakistan has lost its utility for the US as a mediator in Afghanistan.
There is still an opportunity for Pakistan to cooperate with the US efforts to counter any potential resurgence of terrorism in the region. Regional rivalry endures and takes on new dimensions. Pakistan has always remained a key partner for the US in all domains i.e trade, security, and education. Before shifting alliances, the internal dynamics of South Asia are badly needed to be addressed by the International community, in particular by China and America collectively.
The writer is Ph.D. Scholar at Quaid I Azam University Islamabad. Mr. Klasra currently serving as a Visiting Lecturer at the Department of International Relations at the University of Chakwal, Punjab,