Tuesday, 16 February 2016
Pakistan in the Asian Pacific Politics
The growing influence of Asia Pacific in the making of new world system is an open truth by now. The region has been the centre of academic debates because of Sino-US eyeball-to-eyeball economic and covert military competition. More specifically, according to the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), Asian countries have now begun to spend more on defense than European ones. According to SIPRI, China’s defense spending increased by 750%, from $18 billion to $188 billion dollars, from 1989 to 2013.
At the same time, Japan’s increasing assertion on its military profile, the shift of global politics towards Asia owing to the rise of China and India as second and third largest economies, India’s qualitative and quantitative development of its defense forces under the guise of Indo-US strategic partnership especially nuclear deal and “Pivot to Asia” policy of President Obama’s administration designed to ensure the preservation of America’s dominant position in Asia have enabled the region to serve as a strategic juncture in International geopolitical and geo-economical arena.
Interestingly, Pakistan, being an important neutral player in quadrilateral initiative of democratic countries (Australia, India, Japan and the US) against China (Non-democratic) as well as due to its strategic geopolitical significance, possesses the rank of a pivot in Asian Pacific juncture of international politics.
Pakistan, however, faces a number of challenges to be able to cash this opportunity in this context. Socio-economic problems in Pakistan have not only given rise to non-traditional as well as traditional security threats to its national security but also decreased its capacity to deal with these issues in the recent past. Indeed, since its inception, there has been leadership crises in Pakistan coupled with fragile civil-military relations and fractured intra-party democratic values, which have been the front of all other issues that eventually lead to the weak foreign policy decisions.
On the opposite, fortunately, the upcoming picture is not very glimpse. As, first of all, the leadership change in China, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan changes the foreign policy directions of each state with the change of decision-making echelons. This changed behavior led to the initiation of cooperative bilateral relationships among South Asian countries and beyond the region as well. Sino-Pak relations are continually expanding in the positive direction.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan enabled the two countries to reaffirm the importance that they attached to their strategic relationship and declare their intention to strengthen it further. They also signed a number of agreements and MOU’s aimed at implementing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and several other projects in energy, communication, and infrastructure sectors in Pakistan involving in all Chinese investment and financial support amounting to $46 billion. For Pakistan, it would be the forerunner of economic growth by bringing in the Chinese investment in infrastructure, communication, and energy sectors in Pakistan.
There has also been an improvement in Pakistan-Russian relations that have not been very good in the past. Similarly, elections in Afghanistan have positive implications on South and Central Asia, as nonviolent Afghanistan would augment the likelihood of development on Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India (TAPI) and Central Asia-South Asia (CASA) projects. In addition, on the diplomatic front, the decision of Pakistan’s political and military establishment to tackle Yemen conflict diplomatically is a welcome decision.
Also, the qualitative development of armaments by Pakistan in the shape of surface-to-air missile FM-90 that has the capacity to engage aerial targets, together with cruise missiles, drones and air-to-surface guided missiles and is able to operate efficiently even under adverse electronic counter measures (ECM) environments is a rational response to India’s qualitative and quantitative improvement of military might that would, in one way or another, help in maintaining strategic equilibrium in the region. Last but not the least, the importance of Pakistan in successful operationalization of China’s new Maritime Silk Road strategy as well as on-going developmental work on Gwadar port has surely increased Pakistan credentials in the region.
Evidently, Pakistan’s leverage in global and regional politics is increasing day-by-day. Hence, it is equally important for United States to consider Pakistan’s apprehensions in regards to its nuclear deal with India. At the same time, Sino-Pak strategic relationship should not by secretive anymore. On the Pakistani part, it is also need of the hour for its decision-making elites to make foreign policy objective more explicit because failure in this would throw Pakistan in limbo if region undergoes even a minor conflict between existing and emerging major powers in future.