China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is on the Indian radar. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is making statements about Balochistan. India’s human rights violations in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IOK) are systematic and deliberate, and international community seems disinterested in the issue. The US and India are getting a lot more serious about military-to-military ties. Indo-Afghan relations are strengthening after the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) signed between the two countries in 2011. BJP government is eveloping close relations with countries in the Arab world that have traditionally been seen as Pakistan’s allies. Modi is also the first Indian prime minister to have visited all five Central Asian states.
India has, moreover, been actively working on its SAARC-minus-one strategy for economically integrating the region without Pakistan. Moreover, US recognises India as a “Major Defense Partner.” US helped India to join the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and though India has not fulfilled a key condition of membership of Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG), which is the ratification of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the US presses for India’s speedy inclusion in the group. If India becomes member of the NSG, it will give India improved access to advanced civilian nuclear technology, allowing it to concentrate its indigenous nuclear program on weapons development.
Another agreement between both the countries is signed on September 1, 2016. It is Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), under which the US military will be able to routinely use Indian ports and military bases for rest, resupply and repair, including the forward positioning of supplies. Implementation of this agreement will invariably result in the stationing of US troops in India. It shows that the ties between India and US are transforming from just a buyer-seller defense relationship into a deeper strategic alliance in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean Region. The development comes at a time when relations between Pakistan and India are strained by the ongoing violence in IOK.
In aligning with the US, India is also tightening the strategic encirclement of China as Act East Policy. It is aggressively asserting its claim to be the hegemon in South Asia, demanding that its smaller rivals acknowledge its predominance and pushing back against the growth of China’s economic influence. The US pivot to Asia and promotion of India as its junior partner is entangling small South Asian states in the US-China confrontation. China welcomed the LEMOA by hoping this cooperation between India and the US would work to promote stability and development of the region. However, an editorial in the Chinese state-run Global Times titled “Is India heading toward alliance with US?” urged India not to give up its neutrality.
Recent visit by John Kerry to India is also alarming for the whole South Asian region. John Kerry has been engaged in extensive strategic and commercial dialogue with Foreign Minister SushmaSwaraj. Pakistan for so many times has issued warnings that the Indo-US strategic partnership has overturned the balance of power in South Asia. However, the US anxious to cement its anti-China alliance with India has ignored these warnings.
LEMOA may not make India feel safer but will make it a centre of geopolitical rivalries in Asia.The common border between India and China remains in dispute. India and Pakistan, the rival state created as a result of the communal partition of the Indian subcontinent, both nuclear-armed, have fought three declared and numerous border skirmishes over the past seven decades.
Pakistan needs to follow a proactive strategy that serve its interests better. If the Indo-US axis assumes a greater threat than it is at present, there should be no hesitation for Pakistan to seek closer strategic ties with China and Russia. This strategy should center on institutionalising the relationship with the Arab world clarifying the nature of defence and security cooperation. It should also develop trade, energy and connectivity projects with its neighbours and build relationships with Afghanistan and Iran independent of their ties with other countries in the region.
—The writer is a Researcher at Islamabad Policy Research Institute, a think tank based in Islamabad.