Old chessboard, new players

The return of the global balance of power paved the way for major powers to set-up a Eurasian chessboard, once again, for global dominance. But this time, the confronting players are the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China, along with Russia as well. It is not wrong to say that a power-hungry lion of the forest losing its hegemony or the status of the sole superpower started the great power competition to regain its domination in the forest back. The containment strategy has again become the reality of the world. The aforementioned players are confronting each other on a number of fronts—from the Middle East to the Indian and Pacific oceans as well.
On the Middle Eastern front, the US brokered Abraham Accord paved the way for its entrance in Middle Eastern politics by aligning its staunch allies. The UAE and Israel are working to establish a spy base in the Yemeni Island of Socotra with the aims of monitoring Iran, China and Pakistan. Socotra overlooks the strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait, a main shipping route that connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea. This base can provide critical security services to the US regarding Chinese economic activity, especially its trade with Europe and Africa. It might be possible that the Israel-UAE deal would include India as well; then this triangle would surely pose a serious threat to Pakistan as well.
The Turkey-Greece conflict is also a part of the strategic competition. The skirmish in the Eastern Mediterranean, due to Turkey’s exploitation of resources, gave leverage to American allies to advocate for Greece amid tensions. However, the hostile posture against Turkey is mere because of its alignment with the Sino-Russian bloc in contemporary times.
The Indian Ocean is home to major sea routes and geographically connects the Middle East, Africa and East Asia with Europe and the Americas along with other significant global choke points like the Strait of Hormuz, Bab el-Mandeb Strait, and Strait of Malacca. These vital sea routes facilitate maritime trade in the Indian Ocean region and carry more than half of the world’s sea-borne oil. China’s growing influence in this region prompted Washington to opt for India as their player to counter increasing Chinese influence by playing on the front of the Indian Ocean.
In response, India is initiating a ‘necklace of diamond strategy’ which aims to encircle China’s strategy. India is expanding its naval bases and also improving relations with strategically placed countries to suffocate China. Its alliances include the Changi naval base of Singapore, Sabang port of Indonesia. Duqm port of Oman, Assumption Island and Seychelles.
On the front of the Pacific Ocean, China has long been accused of using ‘cheque-book diplomacy’ to gain favour with nations around the world. It means that China is using unsustainable loans to gain influence with Pacific island states that aren’t able to repay them. The US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Agreement created a vacuum which was later filled by China which started growing its influence in Solomon Island, Polynesia, Oceania and around. Political tensions have been building over the past years as more pressure was put upon these countries by their traditional western partners to either reverse their relation with Beijing or at the very least ‘balance’ them out by reengaging with the Australia and the US, two of the four countries that comprise of the so-called ‘Quad’ alongside India and Japan which are collectively intended to contain China.
Washington is going to build a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) as an Asian NATO to counter the growing expansion of China in the Indo-Pacific region. As US Deputy Defence Secretary, Stephen Biegun said, that the US wants defence relations with India, Japan and Australia. Biegun’s statement reveals that Washington’s goal is to get the four countries, and others in the Indo-Pacific region to become a bulwark against a potential challenge from China.
Pakistan, an experienced player of the Eurasian chessboard, paves the way for China in diverting its trade route from the insecure Indo-Pacific region to a highly secured China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC). Additionally, the Prime Minister, Imran Khan, stated that our economic future is with China. Our decision of opting to support the Chinese corner caused many internal insurgencies and unrest which were backed by foreign actors.
The first challenge that Islamabad faces is hybrid warfare by its rival India. Major Gaurav Arya was endeavouring to divert the minds of the people of Pakistan by spreading misinformation through social media. The character assassination of the defender of CPEC, namely Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa, was an attempt by India to exploit the country’s grand project and create misunderstandings between the citizens and its armed forces. The second challenge is increasing sectarian violence in Pakistan which is entirely foreign backed and paved the way, by non-state actors, to weaken the country internally. The third challenge is Pakistan’s placement in the ‘grey list’ of the FATF. It might be possible that the country would remain in the grey list as the West is using it as a tool to build pressure on Pakistan.
It is not wrong to say that the containment ring is incomplete without Pakistan. So, the West and its allies would endeavour to exert more and more pressure on Pakistan to opt their bloc—be it economic, military or political. Therefore, it is the need of the hour to put our house in order to get less affected by western and Indian tools of exploitation.

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