Pakistan is cornered, isolated and in dire economic straits; this perhaps is the grossest understatement of our times. How has Pakistan come to this pass? Is this part of an unfolding grand strategic design of global powers as they ruthlessly and portentously pursue their vital national interests in Asia/South Asia? Is it the result of rank incompetence of Pakistan’s ruling elites? Or worse; are they complicit, wittingly or otherwise, in furthering this grand strategic design of the powers-that-be? Is the grand strategic design aimed at exploiting this incompetence or crucially, have incompetents been deliberately maneuvered into position for achieving specific objectives of this grand strategic design? Ominously, all hypotheses appear to converge at this most fateful of times for Pakistan. India sponsored cross border terrorism from Afghanistan and Iran continues to further compound the already vitiated strategic environment.
The contours of this grand strategic design will crystallize and emerge sooner than later. It ostensibly aims at isolating China and defeating the formidable Sino-Russo Combine, piecemeal. The end state also visualizes India as playing a significant role in attaining western objectives of circumscribing China’s meteoric rise. This would entail blocking the expansion of the BRI-CPEC further south to the Arabian Sea/Indian Ocean and into the Greater Middle East Region (GMER), Africa, the Mediterranean, Europe and beyond. All powers that could presumably keep India from fulfilling its assigned roles/tasks thus have to be neutralized to give it a free and uninterrupted run against China. To those ends, a strategic partnership between global and regional powers exists; their vital national interests converge against China and menacingly sweep Pakistan in their wake, too!
In the GMER/Asian/South Asian contexts, the China-Pakistan strategic partnership is of vital importance, bilaterally and for the region. Apparently, breaking up this partnership is cardinal and critical to the successful implementation of this grand strategic design. Pakistan has been deftly maneuvered, by default or design, to a state where it is now in grave danger of imploding and splitting. Its political stability, economic viability and territorial integrity are all at stake. The western powers would like the BRI-CPEC to be brought to a grinding halt as it threatens their dominance of global economies. So, they would like to see Balochistan carved away from Pakistan and made an independent nation under western control, tutelage, and protection. That will emphatically blunt the BRI-CPEC’s expansion into the Indian Ocean and beyond and effectively contain China’s sphere of influence. Simultaneously, it would undermine, to a very great extent, the threat of a fearsome two-three front war that India perceives from the Sino-Pak Combine. This would, hypothetically, free up India to concentrate all elements of its powers against China, if it all! However, this policy disregards the importance of Iran’s and its Balochistan’s reaction to this development. Could the two Balochistans, at some point in time, combine to form a Greater Balochistan and complicate the geostrategic environment even further? There are Sunnis on both sides of the border. Such an eventuality would be disastrous for the region and will open it up to even deeper manipulation by hostile external powers. Though far-fetched right now, this is not beyond the realm of possibilities. A collapsed and fragmented Pakistan would directly strengthen Indian positions vis a vis China and deprive Russia of a possible ally in this region too. Furthermore, it would deny Russia a much better route to the Arabian Sea than the cumbersome, multi-modal International North South Transport Corridor that links it to the Arabian Sea through the Caspian Sea and Iran.
The main drivers of this change in the geostrategic environment of the region and Pakistan’s fortunes would be the US-led West, the IFIs and relentless India-sponsored cross border terrorism - though the incompetence and shortsightedness of Pakistan’s ruling elites would have played no less than a key facilitative role. If this grand strategic design ever comes to fruition, then apparently China will have lost its initiative to create regional/global inter-connectivity and economic interdependence while India might start having megalomaniac pretensions of becoming the main regional hegemon and imagining itself as a pole in an ostensible bi/multi-polar Asia! However, this will elicit suitable reactions and counter measures by China and Pakistan who will move unambiguously to keep the strategic balance from going dangerously off-kilter.
Pakistan, however, has all along seen a veritable revolving door of civilian rulers and military dictators; with the latter consistently getting indemnified and legitimized by the courts. Not one of them has been a statesman or visionary of any momentous repute, stature or note. They were essentially political pygmies who left no indelible, positive, long-lasting or note-worthy marks on Pakistan, regional and/or international affairs. They were all unable to come up with any feasible strategic vision and direction for Pakistan and thus no viable long-term policies, strategies and action plans emerged. They all fell short of national aspirations. Pakistan has thus been consistently flailing about from one avoidable crisis to the next. Our ruling elite has generally operated at the tactical and lower levels aimed at short term, petty political and personal gains. Perpetuation in power, through all means fair and foul, has always been and remains to be the overriding and operative sentiment.
Pakistan however, continues to be plagued by whimsical and self-centered governance. The incompetence of its ruling elites has already acquired legendary proportions and notoriety. The debilitating political polarization and instability coupled with an economic meltdown have led it into a veritable strategic cul de sac with nary a viable option visible. The powers-that-be have Pakistan exactly where they want - poorly led, politically destabilized and splintered, practically bankrupt, reeling under relentless terrorist attacks, imploding, isolated and hopelessly susceptible to ruthless coercion and diktat!
Pakistan’s ruling elite cannot be oblivious to all that is happening around it. If it is aware of the economic, geopolitical and geostrategic dynamics at work, then it must pre-empt the obvious and position Pakistan suitably to secure its vital national interests, against all odds!
Has the incompetence of our ruling elite helped create the enabling regional environment for this grand strategic design of major powers?
(To be continued)