President Trump’s South Asia Policy

[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] S [/yt_dropcap]outh Asia has remained one of the world’s most fragile regions due to historical animosities coupled with violent conflicts between two major powers, India and Pakistan.

Unrest in Kashmir and frequent skirmishes have also added to the fragility. In such circumstances, a constructive engagement of the new US administration under President Trump has become inevitable. Starting from the Cold War era, United States has kept close relations with both India and Pakistan. Despite various ups and downs, US’ Asia Pivot policy has consistently shaped South Asia’s regional dynamics.

However, US’s new South Asia policy is crucial for de-escalation of Indo-Pak tension. US envoy to UN Nikki Haley, in her press briefing stated, “It’s absolutely right that this administration is concerned about the relationship between India and Pakistan and very much wants to see how we de-escalate any sort of conflict going forward”. It clearly indicates that the US administration is ready to work with both India and Pakistan.

Nikki Haley further stated “I would expect that the [Trump] administration is going to be in talks and try and find its place to be a part of that. We don’t think we should wait till something happens. We very much think that we should be proactive in the way that we are seeing tensions rise and conflicts start to bubble up, and so we want to see if we can be a part of that,”. This positive approach must be welcomed by both India and Pakistan.

The bone of contention between India and Pakistan is Kashmir dispute and unfortunately both states have been unable to find common grounds for comprehensive peace process. Therefore, United States role must be backed by leadership in Islamabad and New Delhi.

Today’s South Asia is more complex and evolving geo-strategic dynamics have further complicated Indo-Pak relationship. South Asia is moving towards economic transformation. The most cherished project, China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) aims to connect various countries in the region through economic interdependency. Both China and Pakistan have offered India to join CPEC. Unfortunately, India is reluctant to become part of this large scale economic activities. There are multiple reasons of India’s unwillingness to join CPEC. Most importantly, India considers itself a counter weight to rising China and this well-settled narrative in West benefited India both economic and militarily. For instance, India, in recognition for counter-china policy, has received US’s largesse – particularly the 123-agreement and defense partnership. More recently, India and the U.S have signed bilateral Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) that will give the militaries of both countries access to each other’s facilities for supplies and repairs. Besides that, the new US policy called ‘Rebalancing of Military Strategy with focus on Asia-Pacific’ is also an extension of this policy.

In addition to that, India has longstanding territorial disputes with both Pakistan and China. At the same time, India last month refused to participate in China’s grand economic cooperation and development plan famously known as Belt and Road initiative . The major impetus behind India’s reluctant attitude to participate in regional connectivity is its hegemonic design.

President Trump’s economic agenda should also convince India to participate in greater economic activity in the region. South Asia needs extensive economic interdependency so that the intensity of conflicts would gradually decline. A peace a prosperous South Asia is need of the hour and new US administration can play vital role in bringing Pakistan and India on one dialogue table. The long standing disputes can be settled through composite dialogue and it only needs sincere efforts and mediation by great powers. A peaceful South Asia will ensure global peace.