The features of the change in the international politics have become more perceptible during the recent years. Therefore, today, the states' foreign and strategic policies are in a revamping process. The refurbishing progression would certainly reshape the strategic partnerships and military alliances in the near future. The shift in strategic relations intensify security dilemma puzzle in the international relations, amplify arms race among the strategic competitors and affect the existing regional security architecture. Hence, new global geo-political landscape is evolving and thereby necessitating the understanding of the shifts and priorities of the Great Powers’ for constituting promising foreign and strategic policy.
The trends indicate that militarily capable nations would remain important actors in shaping the new global geopolitical landscape. Therefore, it seems imperative to critically examine the Great Powers’ strategic policies. The shift in Great Powers' strategic outlook would directly and indirectly affect the strategic environment of Pakistan. The following discussion briefly spells out the recent developments in the strategic policies of Great Powers including the leading European nations.
The People’s Republic of China is one of the fastest growing Great Powers in 2016. In Asia-Pacific, it has been developing powerful forces capable of deterring and defeating aggression by any state, including the United States. Since last year, it has been signaling that in South China Sea it would not accept external actors' interference. It seems determined to monitor the navigation operations in the South China Sea and continue developing bases on its islands in the sea. This assertive strategy of Beijing has alarmed the island claimants in the region such as Japan, Vietnam, Philippines, etc.
China and Pakistan announced China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in 2015. The completion of CPEC would be having economic dividends for Pakistan. At the same time, CPEC would provide an alternate and secure trade route to China for trade with Middle East, Africa and South Asia. Of course, it would further strengthen Sino-Pakistan strategic partnership.
Importantly, China has been maintaining bilateral working relations with India. It has very impressive volume of bilateral trade (more than 80 billion U.S. dollars) with India. On August 12, 2016, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited India in connection with the preparations for the 8th BRICS Leaders Summit, which would be held in Goa, India, later this year. Despite having impressive economic relations with China, India has been endeavoring to ruin CPEC initiative. Sushma Swaraj conveyed her Chinese visiting counterpart about India’s concerns on the CPEC. Last year Prime Minister Modi also requested Chinese President to terminate this project. The Chinese, however, are very much committed to complete this project.
India has adopted a multilayered approach to thwart the CPEC. After realizing that diplomatically they are incapable to change the Chinese commitment with the CPEC; the Indians have launched a sub-conventional war against Pakistan. India has been sponsoring terrorist attacks in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to derail CPEC. On August 14, 2016, Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri claimed: “A handful of miscreants, manipulated by the Indian intelligence agency, are involved in anti-peace activities in Balochistan.” Moreover, Indian leadership has been engaged in maligning Pakistan. On August 12, 2016, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “The time has come when Pakistan shall have to answer to the world for the atrocities committed by it against people in Balochistan.” He is maligning Pakistan to camouflage Indian Armed Forces genocide of innocent Kashmiris in the Indian-Occupied Kashmir. The Indian ruling elite's frustration is alarming. It can embroil the region in a violent conflict.
The United States has been endeavoring to maintain its military superiority over any potential rival in the prevalent or restructured geopolitical landscape of the world. Currently, the U.S. Department of Defence (DOD) is working on former Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel’s November 2014 initiative, i.e., Defence Innovation Initiative, which included the Third Offset Strategy. In addition, DOD has been investing in modernizing its nuclear arsenals and also maturing the missile defence system. For improving its allies' confidence, Washington has been assisting them in improving their military capabilities, too.
The American strategic community considers China as an emerging strategic competitor in the current geopolitical landscape of the world. Hence, Asia-Pacific region has become a geostrategic priority for the Pentagon. Obama Administration’s pivot or rebalance strategy in Asia-Pacific was designed in 2011-12 to contain China. On June 4, 2016, Dr. Ashton Carter, U.S. Secretary of Defence, declared China’s activities in the Asia-Pacific region destabilizing. He stated: “China’s actions in the South China Sea are isolating it, at a time when the entire region is coming together and networking.” He added: “Unfortunately, if these actions continue, China could end up erecting a Great Wall of self-isolation.” He pointed out that Asia-Pacific security network includes bilateral, trilateral and multilateral arrangements. Precisely, Washington has been engaged in constituting a viable military alliance to contain Chinese influence in Asia.
The Indo-U.S. strategic partnership has been receiving a positive impetus from both Modi government and Obama administration. The latter appreciates Modi’s Act East policy and is very much supportive of his Indo-Pacific doctrine. The primary objective of the Americans is to build and encourage India to counter China’s increasing significance in Asia. Therefore, Washington facilitated India’s entry into Missile Technology Control Regime in April 2016; and has been lobbying for its membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group since 2010. India and United States also concluded the logistic support agreement, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement, in April 2016.
Russian Federation has been flexing its muscles to regain its former glory in the global politics. During the last decade, it demonstrated thrice that it would not compromise on areas of its strategic interest. Realizing NATO’s creep towards its borders, it occupied two provinces of Georgia in 2008; annexed Crimea in March 2014; and dispatched troops to support its ally, Bashar al-Assad in Middle East on September 30, 2015. These military efforts manifested Moscow’s confidence in its military muscle as a Great Power and also introduced a destabilizing variable in the Western strategic environment. The United States and NATO failed to check the Russian military adventurism against their partner nations.
According to Russia’s National Security Strategy (a fundamental document of strategic planning) Kremlin seriously sees an imminent threat of armed conflict with the United States and its allies. The U.S. is allegedly threatening Russia in the West, in the East and in the Arctic. Europeans imposed tough sanctions against Russia in the aftermath of Crimea annexation. Notably, England was more vocal in favor of punishing Russia and therefore it excluded itself from Franco-German efforts to find a negotiable solution to the Ukraine problem. Similarly, it maintained a firm stance i.e., Assad to be unseated while United States was looking for a way forward with the Russians on Syria.
Recent development reveals that Russia has been restoring its bilateral relations with England, which were deteriorated in 2006 due to the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, a former officer of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and KGB, by Russian intelligence agency in London. Recently, Britishers and Russians have started a process of mending their fences. Prime Minister Theresa May had spoken to Vladimir Putin, and both had agreed to meet in the forthcoming G20 Summit in China. In Asia, the Russian Federation also improved its bilateral relations with China and cultivated better understanding with Pakistan. Despite India’s purchases from American military industrial complexes, Russian Federation has been maintaining pleasant working relations with India.
The Brexit vote instigated Germany and France to deliberate on the next step of “European Security Compact” on June 23, 2016. The French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier issued a joint statement reaffirming their countries’ commitment to “promote a more coherent and a more assertive Europe on the world stage.” They added: “Power politics are back on the world stage and conflict is being imported into our continent. The terrorist threat is growing, feeding on complex networks in and outside Europe and stemming from crisis zones and unstable, war-torn regions all over the world. Europe’s role as a credible force for peace is more important than ever.” On June 5, 2016, French Defence Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, proposed at Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore: “the EU should send military ships to ensure open waterways in the territorially disputed South China Sea.” Whereas; at the NATO summit in Warsaw on July 8-9, 2016, both German and French representatives pleaded for keeping NATO as the primary military guarantor of the European security. Thus, it is difficult to measure the European Union military role in the world as well as the degree of autonomy of its global strategy from the United States and NATO at this stage.
To conclude, Pakistan needs to be cognizant of the transformation in the geo-political landscape for securing and maximizing its gains in the anarchical international society.
The writer is Associate Professor at School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.
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