Asia's Rising Giants And Pakistan's Options

Asia's Rising Giants And Pakistan's Options
In International Relations, there is no permanent friend or enemy – instead, national interests are supreme. So, keeping in view the national interests, despite their border tensions, China and India are enjoying diplomatic and economic ties. Both countries are part of various regional and international organisations. India is also part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), BRICS, G-20 and Quad group. China is also part of the SCO, BRICS and G-20. It is interesting to observe that how India is defending and further pursuing its economic interests in the new emerging global order.

India has very strong historic ties with Russia and at the same time it is enjoying very good bilateral ties with United States. Key regional developments of the past decades include the “strategic shift” of US foreign policy in South Asia after the “civil nuclear deal” between United States and India. A poverty-stricken India is gradually pursuing its global role as fifth growing economy despite its poor human rights record and border tensions with Pakistan, Bangladesh and China.

For its part, Pakistan is also not ready to accept Indian hegemony in South Asia. The arms race between the two nuclear states will definitely not serve the interests of both the countries and the whole region, where majority of the people are already living in extreme poverty and the per-capital income is decreasing gradually.

Recent political instability in Pakistan is actually causing economic instability in the country. A huge population is living below the poverty line. Exports are declining. The budget deficit is increasing. Inflation is at its peak and directly affecting the purchasing power of the people.

The current account deficit is further destabilising the economy. Due to political turmoil, the government is unable to attract foreign investment. Foreign debts are increasing due to the devaluation of Pakistani currency.

Due to the price hike in the energy sector, all major industries are facing a severe crisis. All three major sectors ie, agriculture, manufacturing and services are in trouble. The incident of 9 May has only increased threat to the state of Pakistan. Keeping in view this economic and political crisis, Pakistani policy makers should seriously review the domestic and foreign policy choices for the country.

Without a doubt Kashmir is a bone of contention between the two nuclear neighbours. Now it is time for India and Pakistan to start a composite dialogue on all outstanding issues including Jammu and Kashmir, so as to normalise their relations for regional stability, economic development and for the international peace and security.

Recently India has organised a G-20 meeting in occupied Jammu and Kashmir and gave the impression to international community that Kashmir is an integral part of India. Such methods will benefit neither India nor Pakistan. Both countries will eventually have to address the Kashmir dispute in the light of the United Nations resolutions.

Keeping in view the recent strategic shift in South Asia, the US has assigned India the role of a regional “policeman” or “watch dog”. But Pakistan is committed to a balance of power in South Asia. A conventional and unconventional arms race between the two countries will definitely not serve the interests of both the people who are already living below the poverty line.

SAARC is one of the important platforms for economic, political, and social, and cultural exchange among the member countries. But due to the strained relationship between the two nuclear rivals, SAARC is almost dead.

China is also trying to pursue its national interests in a new geostrategic environment, especially in the oil producing Middle Eastern countries. In the recent past the Chinese president was warmly welcome by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia. MBS is also looking for new friends in the new multipolar world and to further extend economic ties with China and Russia.

Recently China has played a very important role in resuming diplomatic ties between two regional oil-producing rivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran were strained for many decades and both regional powers were supporting armed proxies in the region – which further destabilised the strategic situation. Relations hit an all-time low when Saudi Arabia hanged an eminent Shia scholar.

Keeping in view its own interest in the region, China has played a very important role in normalising relations between the two regional economic players. Later, both countries signed a peace deal in Beijing in the presence of the Chinese foreign minister and now resumed diplomatic ties after so many years. Any regional conflict between oil-producing countries in the Middle East is not in the interest of the growing Chinese economy. The growing Chinese economy needs alternative energy resources for its future economic growth.

MBS is interested in his country joining the BRICS. The BRICS countries recently appear to be paving the way to begin trade in their own currencies. In the recent past, MBS refused the request of the US president to increase oil production to help counter the recession in the United States.

It is noteworthy that India has very strong ties with Israel and at the same time has been able to strengthen its bilateral relations with the Arab states. India is further increasing its trade volume with regional players in the Middle East.

Analysts are observing that Western economic sanctions on Russia after the Ukraine conflict are not very effective due to Russian export of oil to its allies in local currencies. While talking to Western media on economic sanctions on Russia, Indian Foreign Minister Dr Jai Shankar has defined his country’s foreign policy in terms of “national interest” and strongly opposed Western expectations in this regard. In another speech to Western media, Dr Jai Shankar also strongly opposed the role of the US in supporting dictators in the developing countries and strongly advocated India’s historic defense ties with Russia.

Now it is time for Pakistani policymakers to think and plan how to get maximum opportunities from the growing Chinese influence on the regional and international stage. At the same time, it is also time for India and Pakistan to normalise their relations and to start a constructive and meaningful dialogue on Jammu & Kashmir, and on all outstanding issues.

India continues to attempt to gain permanent membership of the UN Security Council without a solution of the longstanding issue of Jammu and Kashmir. Were this to happen, it would be a disaster for regional stability.

Pakistan very seriously needs to explore its foreign policy choices in a multipolar world, especially in terms of economic interests, keeping in view the growing economies of the two big giants of Asia, India and China. But to truly work, a successful Pakistani foreign policy will have to be underpinned by reforms and a better domestic economic performance – otherwise its vulnerabilities and dependencies will continue to limit its regional and international role.