US’s South Asia Policy

Recently, the United States Department of State released a policy document concerning Pakistan. The document points out the US priorities in the region, which are: regional stability in South Asia; maintaining strategic stability in the region; preventing nuclear weapons and materials from falling into the hands of terrorists as a US national security imperative; encouraging Pakistan to continue demonstrating responsible stewardship of its nuclear assets; and encouraging Pakistan to engage diplomatically with India. There is no denying that the US can play a crucial role in preventing conflicts, addressing the daunting challenges the region is currently facing, and promoting peace and stability.
Over the past two decades, building strategic partnership with India, and supporting its military capabilities, is adding to the complexity of the region`s security, political, and economic landscape. The US has designated India as a Major Defence Partner and signed multiple defense agreements with India, which aim at enhancing US military support to India and providing India access to cutting edge military and dual-use technologies. Despite India`s dubious policy and the nuclear material theft cases that pose a risk of proliferation and instability in the region and beyond, the US signed a civilian-nuclear deal with India, followed by the provision of an exceptional NSG waiver, which is helping India enhance its nuclear production capability. Meanwhile, India is the largest recipient of US conventional arms. The US continues to overlook the development in India`s missile program’s intercontinental ranges, ignoring its propensity to resume nuclear weapons testing, not even questioning its strategies to fight a limited conventional and pre-emptive war under nuclear overhang. Ironically, the US did not penalise India for purchasing the S-400 under CAATSA. All these developments signify a remarkable shift in US policy towards the region, which seeks the role of India as its counterweight to China.
India enjoys the impunity of the US and its allies in the West, thereby continuing to reject Pakistan’s initiatives, such as the establishment of Strategic Restraint Regime. Pakistan has always shown responsibility and exercised restraint, time and again. Notably, Pakistan exercised unprecedented restraint when India`s BrahMos, a supersonic nuclear-capable cruise missile, landed in Pakistani territory, which is a dangerous and unique incident in the nuclear age. Furthermore, India, for years, has been involved in false flag operations against Pakistan for political gains. The BJP`s attempts to gain electoral benefits through whipping up war hysteria and false claims led to the dangerous escalatory risk after the Pulwama-Balakot crisis. India continues to illegally occupy Jammu and Kashmir, committing significant human rights violations and making the lives hell in the occupied valley. The abrogation of Article 370 by the Indian government and its upholding by the Indian Supreme Court in its recent verdict is a clear indication that the Indian side is pushing the region towards a serious crisis. In addition, India is making conspiracies against the regional economic development initiatives such as BRI and CPEC, and indeed, India is the only country that is openly opposing these initiatives and sponsoring terrorism in Balochistan to sabotage the mega project, thus calling into play the role of the international community, in particular the US.
In recent years, the traditional India-Pakistan rivalry has been exacerbating due to Modi’s government policies. While Pakistan wants to bury the hatchet and resolve all the issues, including the long-standing issue of Jammu and Kashmir, through negotiations, India has always shown reluctance to respond positively to Pakistan`s peace offers. Earlier this year, Pakistan`s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari visited India to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, which was the first senior leader`s visit to India in 12 years. The visit reflects Pakistan`s willingness to engage diplomatically with India. However, India, as it has traditionally done, labelled baseless accusations against Pakistan and could not create an atmosphere of cordiality and hospitality.
Pakistan is a responsible nuclear state and recognises nuclear security as an utmost national responsibility. With that goal, it has accordingly established a thorough and efficient nuclear security regime that covers all nuclear and radioactive materials. Pakistan has always proactively considered and engaged in regional and international initiatives and agreements that are non-discriminatory and ensure equal and undiminished security for all. Pakistan is a signatory to the Conventions on Prohibiting Biological and Chemical Weapons and adheres to international standards and guidelines for chemical, biological, and radioactive weapons. Pakistan`s nuclear assets are under the control of a foolproof nuclear command and control system. History shows that it is India where proliferation activities have been reported many times. The Indian nuclear command and control is under the control of Hindu fundamentalists, who are creating the risks of a nuclear exchange, thus demanding the urgent and dispassionate role of the international community, especially the US.
The BJP`s Hindutva-driven polices are not only threatening regional peace but it is evolving into a global problem which is exemplified by India`s pursuit of nuclear supremacy, the involvement of the Indian Intelligence Agency in killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil, and the revealing of plot to kill a Sikh separatist on American soil. Peace and stability in the region is inextricably intertwined with the resolution of regional disputes especially the enduring issue of Jammu & Kashmir. The US can play crucial role in promoting the boarder Asia goals by supporting diplomatic engagements between Pakistan and India, preventing the arms race, and supporting risks reduction measures. Regional stability cannot be built through imbalance and biased policies. The potential for collaboration between India and Pakistan in economic, political and security issues is contingent upon both the countries. There is a need for unbiased assessment of regional stability and security environment to promote durable peace in the region.

The writer is a Research Officer at the Balochistan Think Tank Network (BTTN) in Quetta, Pakistan.

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