Prof Abdul Shakoor Shah
THE literature on US strategic interests in South Asia is comparatively not rampant as weighed against the rest of the global regions especially in the areas right away to the east and the west. The rationale is not far-flung to inquire about. US strategic interests in South Asia are of minor significance, confronted only by central Africa for the last zone on American map of uneasiness. There is no predictable future looming military jeopardy for the US from South Asia so far as American interests in the world are being obstructed; South Asia is of lesser importance for operational base purposes against its major adversaries. Similarly, from an economical viewpoint, South Asia was also not on US’s priorities but now China has turned tables by challenging the US trade in the world. That is why now the US is more serious either about her interest in South Asia or to obstruct China. In this regard, several strategic projects have been launched in South Asia dreaming to generate a US, Israel and Indian territorial bloc. Before the rise of China as the economic giant of the 21st Century, the American interests in South Asia had been on pseudo moral and political grounds and were convincing enough.
A third of humanity dwelling in South Asia is an intriguing phenomenon but had never been immediately relevant to the US interests earlier than the Chinese raise. The two draconian one dreaming continuation of world supremacy and the other of Asian superpower are stepping forward for their vested interest by neglecting human rights violations in Kashmir. Now the US has lost her dogma of conscience satisfaction over the prevailing poverty in South Asia which challenged America earlier than Chinese rise. Poverty and dwindling Asian democracy had never been the targets of the US, rather America kept her presence in the region for long term US future interests. Earlier it was to some extent to watch out Russian and now for Chinese. From a business point of view, Asia can be a giant for American goods and on the other hand to maintain balance of power in South Asia.
The past objective of the US in South Asia was to maintain balance of power in the region so that there will be zero chance for any third party entry. Decades before it was an illusion that India could counterweight China. Now this spell has ended in smoke. Another reason for the US lack of interest in the region is that there is no single supreme country. India and Pakistan both have been cancelling each other out as factors on the Asian scene. India with its multitudes of internal and external problems can never be the region’s supreme power. India is not in the good books of its neighbouring countries. Kashmir has now turned to a nuclear flash point. Without resolving the Kashmir nexus, India can never step ahead in its dreams of dominance in Asia. There are some other pundits who assert that the US must keep its hold in South Asia not for Asia’s sake but for its potential to counter Russia. Americans’ interests in South Asia will be safe by their involvement and presence in the region. Aside from countering China and Russia, the US has to stay in South Asia to influence global policies.
There is another aspect of American interests in South Asia, it is near to the regions where the US either has greatest interests or it can counter future strategic problems. The US will continue subjugating the region through its modern imperialistic ways for global subordination under the US flag. The US will also ponder over to the global concerns to avoid fatal distortions in American policy towards South Asia. The US policy for South Asia and especially for the sub-continent is in flux concerning trans-regional motives of security. The US has to keep balance in relation in South Asia by concentrating and prioritizing the US interests as there is no single giant in Asia. The US must also give due contemplation to the conceptual map by hewing out a security policy for South Asia. The US policy makers in the past have been defining and devising American interests in South Asia in terms of neighbouring regions rather than giving pivotal significance to South Asia. But now the scenario has entirely changed in the context of Chinese rise, Afghan peace agreement and Chinese ties with Iranians and the rest of the Gulf States.
South Asia’s relationship to these regions takes on special, even decisive importance. American leaders, since at least the time of Eisenhower, have sought to ‘include’ South Asia into either Southeast or Southwest Asia rather than handle the region as an entity on its own. Several regional states have shown a liking for this attitude of linking South Asia with some other policy region or zone instead of dealing it as a single entity. The US must prefer Pakistan to India in the context of the South Asian bloc as Hindu State, India is on daggers’ drawn with all its neighbours. On the other hand strengthening ties with Pakistan will help the US out in developing ties with rest of the Muslim States for better strategic policy in the best interest of the US and Asia. Pak-China historical relations may further resort the US in eliminating China-US existing gulf. Russia has also drawn hand from the Hindu game in South Asia, it is an indication for the US pundits for devising the US strategic priorities in South Asia. Asian countries neighbouring India are now bending to China due to Hindu mindset of India. The US strategic interests in South Asia have been expanding as compared to the past; the confronting factors challenging the US interest in the world and especially in South Asia are growing rapidly. There is dire need for the US to reshape its South Asian strategic policy.
—The writer is Prof in English and freelance columnist.