The sudden shift in the month of March 2021 not only captured the world’s attention but shocked the world as well. The shift was a display of flexibility in moves and statements in inter-state relations of the two arch-rivals and nuclear “haves” states of South Asia, namely India and Pakistan. The world’s media is pointing at the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as behind this shift. However, the UAE doesn’t possess such weight in its voice but the Pentagon does. It is therefore undeniable that the script was written by the United States of America.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is playing the role of an ambassador of peace once again suggested that “for the sake of peace of South Asia, we should build-up cordial relations and India should make a possible move.” While on Pakistan Republic Day, March 23, 2021, reciprocally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent his warm wishes to his counterpart PM Imran Khan and greeted him on Khan’s fast recovery from Covid-19.
Since the partition of two aforementioned countries in 1947, Pakistan’s security spectrum revolves vis-à-vis an offensive India. Recent incidents such as in Balakot (2016), and Pulwama (2019) are examples of India-Pakistan hatred in inter-state relations. Along this, both nations have multiple bilateral issues i.e., the Kashmir issue, Sir Creek, water and the Siachen conflict.
Since the very first day, as Prime Minister after winning the elections in 2014, Modi’s gestures towards Pakistan have been offensive in nature and his speeches are full of anti-Pakistan rhetoric. The arrival of Trump in the Oval Office, soft sentiments for India and harsh words for Pakistan gave more strength to the offensive ambitions of India as well as provided a massive confidence boost to Modi. It played a key role in further derailing relations of India and Pakistan.
The arrival of Biden as the new president of the US and Indian-American Vice President Kamala Harris in January 2021, changed the nature of relationship with India. The aim to use India as a tool or counter balancer against the rising People’s Republic of China (PRC) is the same but how to use it is a bit different. Withdrawing from the one-year long border conflict with China and the current words of Modi towards Pakistan is a script which is written by Pentagon for its ally India as well as for its “Major defence partner and net security provider”.
The founder of modern American diplomacy and foreign policy Henry Kissinger once said that “America has no permanent friends or enemies but only interests”.
Peace in southern Asia is interlinked, interconnected and unified with the inter-state relations of India and Pakistan. Any conflict among them can lead them towards a catastrophic nuclear war. So, the Biden administration now has more focus on containing China and the “Pivot to Asia 1.0”, “Pivot to Asia 2.0” or “Indo-Pacific” strategies, which were introduced by Obama and Trump respectively; India has much importance in these strategies and Biden does not want any India-Pakistan hostility. Containing China and neutralising the influence of China from South Asia may be the first priority of the Biden administration and its national security strategy. Alongside this, a peaceful Afghanistan is essential for the stability and peace of South Asia and Pakistan’s role is important for this.
Secondly, since 2019, after winning the second term elections and becoming the PM, Modi’s outward posturing towards Pakistan and particularly on the Kashmir issue is more offensive in nature. The abrogation of Article 370, ‘surgical strikes’, intimidation, threats and warnings by India to Pakistan, violation of human rights, amendments to the Citizen Act in India which is against the Muslims of India, disturbs the soft image of India at the regional as well as global level. In the context of diplomatic frameworks, the rising voice of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan for right of self-determination of innocent Kashmiris at the global as well as regional level i.e., UNGA, UNSC, SCO, AESEAN, OIC and SAARC further dispenses with the so-called soft image of India and shows the real face of India, which is truly offensive in nature.
Thirdly, the Biden administration is aware that the two-front war concept of India would not only damage but dismember India itself. As the concept of a two-front war requires self-reliant elements of national power, which India doesn’t possess; it entirely relies on international powers, not only in the military but in the economic sphere as well.
In the changing international scenario, Pakistan, ought to take steps wisely. Any wrong move will drag the country into an arduous situation. The national interests of Pakistan should be given first priority, no matter whoever puts pressure on Islamabad, as it still possesses the potential to conquer the geopolitical battlefield.