The contemporary global order largely shaped by the United States is still very much in existence, but meanwhile, the global distribution of power is inevitably shifting with the rise of China and the resurgence of Russia. Due to its innate geo-political and geo-economic significance as well as proximity to China, Central and West Asia, the Middle East, and East Asia, great power competition has had impacts on South Asian regional politics. The situation in Afghanistan, earlier as a fallout of the Cold War and later in the form of the US invasion, the US efforts to contain China, and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war explain the implications of global order in South Asia. The region is mired in an intricate history of wars, territorial disputes, and mistrust. The major power rivalry underpins these challenges, contributing to overlapping threat perceptions and the introduction of multifaceted capabilities.
Historically, India championed non-alignment; however, it was more agile in practice than it was in theory as it chipped away from its traditional stance of non-alignment and welcomed assistance from both powers during the period from the 1950s to the 1960s. Soon after the partition, India occupied Kashmir in 1948, violating the partition plan. On September 6, 1965, India crossed the international border between Pakistan and India which resulted in a full-fledged war between the two countries. This was followed by the war in December 1971 which resulted in the tragic event of East Pakistan’s separation. In 1971, India signed a defence pact with the USSR which was a complete departure from its traditional stance on non-alignment. In addition, India nuclearised the region by conducting its first nuclear test in 1974, threatening regional peace and stability.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, India emerged as a key US ally in the region to promote the US grand strategy by containing China. New Delhi relaxed its adherence to strategic autonomy and moved closer to the US and its allies, becoming a net security Provider` to the region. Since then, it has been benefiting from the US-led world order, receiving defence support, improving its conventional and nuclear capabilities, and furthering its strategic goals. The US has already provided an exceptional Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) waiver in 2008 and increased defence ties with India. Also, India holds a key place in the US Indo-Pacific strategy and the QUAD. Besides, the US and India have signed multiple agreements aimed at enhancing military cooperation between the two countries, which include the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) signed in 2002, the Logistic Exchange Memorandum Agreement (LEMOA) signed in 2016, the Communication Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) signed in 2018, and the Basic Exchange Agreement (BECA) signed in October 2020. Recently, the two countries concluded a roadmap for deepening defence industry cooperation during the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to the US.
The intrinsic contradiction continues to be the principal plank of India`s policy. India, one of the main beneficiaries of the US-led global order, is likewise pitching itself as a great power nation. This has encouraged the belief in regional hegemony in Indian strategic thought, as well as the desire for a prominent global position. India sees the escalating strategic competition between the United States and China as a chance to promote its great power ambitions, while at the same time representing itself as a key country for promoting the US interests in the region. Furthermore, India continues to deepen its strategic ties with the US, meanwhile, depending on Russia for advanced military technologies with the recent purchase of the S-400 missile defence system the case in point.
The US is enhancing India`s military capabilities at the cost of Pakistan`s security, affecting strategic stability in the region and fueling an arms race. The deepening Indo-US strategic partnership, which has led to improvements in India`s conventional and nuclear capabilities as well as a more aggressive military posture, has deep impacts on the region and Pakistan at large. The traditional rivalry between India and Pakistan has intensified with the arrival of the Modi-led BJP government, which is a staunch follower of the RSS and Hindutva. The BJP is exploiting the Hindutva card, promoting Hindu nationalism, giving a boost to regional hegemony, and India`s quest for global power status. While India projects its role as a rising power and plays a larger role in the world, its hegemonic ambitions undermine efforts for peace and stability in the region as well as the world.
As China is rising at a rapid pace and Russia is challenging the US position in the world, in particular in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, the US is trying every possible option to retain the status quo, the world is facing a future of intense competition between the great powers, and its implications for South Asia are quite evident. Though nuclear deterrence has helped diminish each adversary`s war-waging potential and prevent military engagements and conventional wars, emerging shifts at the global level are fueling the arms race, the introduction of modern military technologies, and aggressive military doctrines, thus intensifying rivalries and nuclear risks in this conflict-prone region.