KARACHI: With the political climate between Pakistan and India tense at best, a seminar held by the Centre for Peace, Security and Developmental Studies (CPSD) on Tuesday addressed several looming possibilities in the near and distant future with regard to strategic coercion and global dynamics.
The CPSD is a public policy organisation that conducts research on security, political and economy issues of national and international importance.
Speakers at the seminar were well-versed in the geoeconomic, political and security apparatus in South Asia, and in particular the tussle between Pakistan and India and so offered robust and enlightening perspectives to the audience.
‘Relationship between India and US put a strain on Pakistan’
Michael Kugelman, the deputy director of the Asia programme and senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars in Washington DC, was present on Skype and spoke about how the relationship between India and the United States is evolving, which is putting a strain on Pakistan. He said that after the Balakot air strikes, the US had been openly supportive of India militarily engaging with Pakistan “in self-defence”, which indicates very clearly the downward shift in the relationship between the US and Pakistan.
Mr Kugelman also discussed the repercussions of the US becoming disengaged with the global order, in particular under President Donald Trump. India, he explained, draws benefit from an active US, and the receding US influence in the region will negatively impact it. This is, however, good for Pakistan because it allows other countries to fill the power vacuum the US leaves behind and most of these countries, such as China and Russia, are friends of Pakistan.
India the hegemon
Dr Moeed Yusuf introduced the hub and spoke model which he used to justify how and why India considers itself the hegemonic power in the region with regard to size and economic strength. India operates on the expectation for the surrounding countries to tow its line when necessary and Pakistan, he added, is the only neighbour that refuses to do so which is why there is a constant struggle between the two states.
In current times, India is getting more space and recognition globally, and has become an economic force, and thus has more reason to believe that it can relegate Pakistan to the spoke, which Dr Yusuf believes is the long-term plan.
Pakistan is lagging behind economically in the region, is heavily strained due to the security paradigm shifts that take place within, and there is a growing differential in almost all areas when compared to India. Citing a World Bank report, Dr Yusuf explained that trade with India and China is the real game changer for the growth of Pakistan and can minimise this differential and greatly benefit Pakistan in the long-term.
CPEC must be extended to include Afghanistan and thereby extending to US interests and investment, along with connecting the N-S axis with the E-W axis, he added. Bring in as many players as possible and allow different countries to invest in Pakistan, including India; only then can the country maximise on its pivotal geostrategic location.
A role for Iran
A similar suggestion was put forth by Maxim Shapovalenko, deputy director, Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, Russia. He said the key to breaking the chain of threats that Pakistan is surrounded by is to develop a relationship with Iran and marrying the economic interests of China, Iran, Russia and Pakistan. Iran is one of the key players in the region which could help stabilise the situation in South Asia and in turn would be very instrumental in breaking the evolving crises circling Pakistan, he said.
There was also plenty of debate on the machinations within Pakistan that tend to disrupt the peace process, that have turned the lives of citizens upside down due to security lapses and terrorism, and have negatively impacted the image of the country internationally.
Tariq Khosa, a retired inspector general, highlighted the internal security problems of Pakistan, and pointed out the role of three Ms that have determined the path of the country and its descent — “mullahs or religious extremists; the military which is a big part of the problem and an even bigger part of the solution; and militants in the shape of non-state actors who have eroded the authority of the state.”
According to Mr Khosa, there is a need for the state and the military to be on the same page with regard to the rule of law, justice, and elimination of proxy forces that deter Pakistan from becoming a key global player at peace with its neighbours and on the path to economic sovereignty.
Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2019