An important question in the discipline of International Relations and foreign policy making is of how to examine states’ behaviour. States in international system have identities and those identities define their behaviour. Hence, the exclusiveness of all states having a set of significant political, cultural, economic, social, or religious features influences their foreign policy. However, relative power (power measured in relation to other actors) or its pursuit thereof is the main driving force behind all policy and decision making. And, the purpose of power is to influence others to do what they would not do otherwise.
The key principle of Realist theory is that states are responsible for advancing their own security and interests by using military power and state diplomacy. In such a scenario, most states that have rivalries with each other try to maintain the Balance of Power in their respective regions. The Balance of Power theory suggests that national security is enhanced when military capability is distributed so that no one state is strong enough to dominate all others.
In history, security imperatives have upset the power distribution among states, hence bringing the routine complexities of states’ interaction in the pursuit of power. Consequently, states seek opportunities to advance their power over rival states to dominate them. The Realist theory, in this scenario, presents various arguments: first, the international system is anarchic; second, the uncertainty about other state’s intentions; and finally, survival is the primary objective.
The triangular relationship of the US, India and Pakistan reflects a situation where the Indo-US strategic partnership is an example of such power politics against Pakistan. Indo-Pak relations have remained very complicated and hostile due to numerous historical and political reasons. After the partition of British India in 1947, the Kashmir issue, four wars, numerous border skirmishes, and military stand-offs define the relationship between the two states. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s national security policy has always revolved around India because of Indian aggressive designs, its military build-ups and technological and nuclear developments — all directed against Pakistan. Though Pakistan faces many other challenges, its threat perception is essentially India-centric and increasingly concerned regarding Afghanistan because of the presence of the US troops and Indian influence in that country. Pakistan, an ally of the US has suffered the most in the war on terror and has been expressing its concerns about the strategic partnership between India and the US. Pakistan-US relations have remained inconsistent as the US has always exploited Pakistan whenever it was needed to serve its interests. History is witness to the fact that once the US interests are served, it has always abandoned Pakistan, thus affecting the Balance of Power in the region. The increasing India-US military ties including co-production of advanced defense related equipment, joint research on advanced jet engines and aircraft carrier technologies, and strategic cooperation on maritime security will surely upset the regional Balance of Power.
The increasing India-US military ties including co-production of advanced defense related equipment, joint research on advanced jet engines and aircraft carrier technologies, and strategic cooperation on maritime security will surely upset the regional Balance of Power.
The strategic partnership between India and the US was struck during the second term of President George W. Bush for cooperation in defense including nuclear trade. Under President Obama the US not only reiterated its commitment to support India for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council but also intensified defense cooperation which obviously would have a negative impact on Pakistan’s security, keeping in mind the Indian aggressive ambitions for supremacy in South Asia and the adjoining regions. An important agreement was the Communications, Compatibility, and Security Agreement (COMCASA), which would enable India’s entry to advanced defence systems club and facilitate it to utilize its present US-origin platforms.
Pakistan repeatedly expressed its concerns regarding the strategic partnership especially the civilian nuclear agreement that was signed in 2008. Under this agreement, the nuclear sanctions against India were lifted and it was allowed to have civilian nuclear trade along with its nuclear weapons program. Under the nuclear deal, the US recognized the nuclear status of India, while continuing to keep Pakistan out of the nuclear club. The US officials view Indian case as unique and do not consider Pakistan to qualify for a similar status. India’s unique status for the US is viewed by many quarters, as part of the US grand strategy and the defence cooperation as a significant element in the US’s rebalancing strategy towards Asia-Pacific. This is because the US perceives India as a rising economic and democratic power in Asia.
The overwhelming US tilt towards India and vice versa owes to the increasing economic and military power of China and its all-weather friendship with Pakistan that is seen as a potential threat to the US hegemony in world and India’s in the region.
The US policy to deal with Pakistan revolves around India’s ambition which is its strategic partner. To court India, it has adopted a policy of containing China and to influence Pakistan to do away with China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – an eyesore for both India and the US. It can be stated here that a common factor for both India and the US is China or that this relationship is China-centric. India endorsed the US stand on the South China Sea islands dispute with China and China has supported Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir. China, India and Pakistan share borders and some territories on these borders are disputed. Moreover, the three countries, along with the US, maintain arsenals of nuclear weapons and missiles. The US is also concerned about Pakistan’s shift in its foreign policy, that is to say, Pakistan’s increasing diplomatic advances with Russia, Turkey, Iran and Central Asia.
The Indian role in Afghanistan and its aggressive propaganda against Pakistan — that it is a state sponsoring terrorism — finds resonance with the current US Administration despite the fact that various instances prove India’s involvement in cross-border terrorism in Pakistan through Pak-Afghan border. Both India and the US further require Pakistan to rollback CPEC as it overshadows the global and regional interests of both strategic partners. Interestingly, the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor makes India as part of Belt and Road initiative (BRI), but the question is whether the US would be able to persuade India to get out of it.
Moreover, India had longstanding military cooperation with former Soviet Union and the current Russian Federation. During the Cold War, some US policy makers viewed India’s political and strategic tilt towards Moscow as cooperation with their key rival, yet there was no direct hostility between India and the US. Although, the US has been looking for a defense relationship with India since the Cold War, Russia has remained the main supplier of weapons to India. Most recently, the purchase of Russia's S-400 air defense system has perturbed the US Administration. However, the COMCASA deal will offer the US a justification to enhance India's defence capability and preparedness and the US is hoping that it may stop India from buying the S-400 air defence system from Russia.
India-Iran relations are viewed as another obstacle between the US and India. Indian backed Chabahar Port complex and oil imports are issues of concern for the US. India is the second largest importer of oil from Iran. The US has demanded zero oil imports from Iran, but Indian response has yet to come. The US desire to bolster ties with India explains why the US downplayed its concerns over India’s ties with Russia and Iran.
The US’s increasing ties with India have clear and significant negative impact on Pakistan’s security. India, for the past eight years, is the largest arms importer and two-thirds of it are deployed against Pakistan. The US is also encouraging its allies and particularly Israel to enhance political and military relations with India. On the other hand, the US has imposed severe and discriminatory restraints on Pakistan’s acquisition of advanced weapons system and dual use technology from the US or its allies, which will further embolden India’s aggressive behaviour towards Pakistan HH.
The writer is an Assistant Professor of International Relations at University of Peshawar.
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