Deterring‘ gray zone’ challenges

S Qamar Afzal Rizvi

SEEN from the ongoing perspective, Pakistan foreign policy seems under the constant pressure of a gray zone game — played by Washington, New Delhi and Kabul as to create a conflict situation wherein Pakistan be placed in a fix or turmoil regarding its bilateral relations with these states. To rightly counterpoise these challenges is the real test of Pakistan’s foreign policy managers. Substantially, foreign policy of a country is the total sum of its security needs, geo-strategic and geo-economic imperatives.
Since its genesis, Pakistan as a state, has been fostering a foreign policy based on friendly and bilateral traditions intrinsically based on the norms of promoting regional and global peace. Pakistan strategic culture pays high value to maintain its cordial relations with its geographic neighbours. Two developments have characterized drastic change in the south Asian region. Firstly, the end of Cold War accompanied by the phenomenon of the emergence of Taliban in Afghanistan. Secondly, the event of 9/11 has given birth to new game in the region.
The 15 years presence of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan created an emergence of new forces and factors which give birth to new geopolitical order. The US policy in the region has been to establish a triangle of China, India and Pakistan. For the US, China is considered the competitor in the region, India is considered the strategic allay and Pakistan a tactical partner in the war on terror. But a gradually adopted US tilt towards India has developed strategic object to contain China in the region. China has adopted a policy of peaceful coexistence in region, and the world at large.
Strategically, Pakistan remains pivotal to U.S interests in South Asian region and progressive interaction remains crucial and significant for curbing the cross- border terrorism and religious fundamentalism. Amicable relations with Pakistan is also crucial in managing restrain in the south Asian region for nuclear proliferation of both India and Pakistan. As for India, US administration took it as a strategic partner in the region including its security concerns. Washington has been institutionalizing its relation with India as vindicated by the US-India civil nuclear deal which remained great concern for the whole region since the deal has disturbed the strategic stability.
According to the new US National security strategy: “For establishing balance of power which enhance freedom, is convinced that all nations do the job of responsible status. Those freedom loving countries must fight on terror. Those nations who want international consolidation must try to help out in the control of weapon of mass destruction’’. But unfortunately, America has been violating the principles of its own strategy in the south Asian region only to get its strategic objectives. It is viewed that the post 9/11 has deteriorate the security milieu of the South Asian region. Though the Trump administration seems tilted towards India, the real test of Trump’s political sagaciousness begins now as to how he keeps the balance in his South Asian approach.
AS for India-Pakistan relations, two grave factors do influence the fate of this relationship: first, the Kashmir issue and second being the nuclearisation in South Asia. From its inception, the issue of Kashmir has remained a cardinal credential to the foreign policy of Pakistan. On the issue of Kashmir both India and Pakistan have fought wars of 1965, 1971, and 1999 in Kargil. Since 1998 Kashmir issue has been a nuclear flash point accompanied by an undeniable truth that a 21st century South Asia can no longer avoid to build a resolution on Kashmir.
Both India and Pakistan tested their nuclear weapons in 1998. Should there be any doubt that Indo-Pak relations always remained security centric? And yet, the currents and cross-currents of a nuclearized South Asia show that for strategic peace in the region, nuclear deterrence yet remains inevitable despite the growing concern for strategic instability. Any way, it goes a validated observation that nuclear powers are more likely than non- nuclear states to be involved in gray zone trajectory of crises and conflicts.
The issue of Pak-Afghan relationship complicated by devious and sensitive intricacies, remains yet crucial to Pakistan. The war against terrorism— launched by America against an invisible enemy— put Pakistan on the epicentre of the war. Pakistan has deterred the expansion of terrorism. The geo-strategic environment has impelled Pakistan to adopt a defensive policy in region. India has been trying to contain Pakistan in Afghanistan to fulfil its ulterior motives. After 9/11 again it has become difficult to Pakistan to secure its geostrategic interests in Afghanistan. An India friendly Afghanistan is alarming to both future of Afghan peace dialogue, as well as to Pakistan’s security concerns.
However, in the wake of a growing and cementing Pak-China-Russia geopolitical order, we need to gradually and cautiously get rid of our past policy trajectory, particularly our one sided love with US. Succinctly, contours of our foreign policy/ national interests advocate that in terms of our relations with the US, a policy based on pragmatism; as regard to our relations with Afghanistan, a policy of mass diplomacy-cum-people diplomacy; and finally as for our relations with India, a policy of parallel-cum-nuclear diplomacy has to be respectively followed up. For all good reasons, if Trump wants to demonstrate his deal-making skills, he should initiate to form basis of a South Asian resolution on Kashmir thereby mediating to reset Islamabad’s ties with both India and Afghanistan. A good omen is that both Pakistan and China have astutely focused on strengthening regional and global security via CPEC-an en route towards conflict deterrence by opening economic gateway to other states of region.
— The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-analyst based in Karachi, is a member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies.
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