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Pakistan-China Relations: Improvement in Security Domain within the 21st Century

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China–Pakistan relations started in 1950 when Pakistan was among the primary nations to conclusion official political relations with the Republic of China (or Taiwan) and recognize the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government on Terrain China. Since at that point, both nations have set significant significance on the support of a greatly near and steady extraordinary relationship and the two nations have routinely traded high-level visits coming about in an assortment of understandings. The PRC has given financial, military, and specialized help to Pakistan, and each nation considers the other a near key partner.

Two-sided relations have advanced from a starting Chinese approach of nonpartisanship to an organization with a littler but militarily capable Pakistan. Conciliatory relations were built up in 1950, boundary issues settled in 1963, military help started in 1966, a vital union was shaped in 1972, and financial co-operation started in 1979. China has ended up Pakistan’s biggest provider of arms and its third-largest exchanging accomplice. China has given Pakistan an advance of US$60 million which was afterward made a give after East Pakistan broke absent. As of late, both countries have chosen to coordinate in making strides Pakistan’s respectful atomic control division.

Keeping up near relations with China could be a central portion of Pakistan’s remote arrangement. In 1986, President Muhammad Zia-Ul-Haq gone by China to move forward conciliatory relations, and Pakistan was one of as it were two nations, nearby Cuba, to offer significant back to the PRC after the Tiananmen Square dissents of 1989. China and Pakistan too share near military relations, with China providing a run of advanced deadly implements to the Pakistani resistance powers. China underpins Pakistan’s position on Kashmir, whereas Pakistan underpins China on the issues of Xinjiang, Tibet, and Taiwan. Military participation has developed, with joint ventures creating deadly implements extending from warrior planes to guided rocket frigates.

International Relation researchers have watched that in spite of the PRC and Pakistan being “exceedingly unique social orders and polities with clashing sees on central worldwide issues”, the two states have all things considered manufactured a energetic relationship over a few decades – something which underpins the thought that realpolitik propels outside approaches within the universal framework. Amin composes that relations between China and Pakistan “speaks to a striking and paradigmatic case of how state control contemplations, instead of culture, philosophy, financial intrigued or composition of administering elites, can decide remote approach behavior – as conceptualized by the neo-realist school of Universal Relations (IR) theory(Pakistan China Military Relations Wikipedia, n.d.).

Historical Perspective of Strategic Relations between Pakistan and China

Strategic Relations is a zone of information based on political science, law, economy, human science, logic, and other social sciences. Customarily, it not as it were treats the relations between country states, but moreover, Worldwide Organizations and non-state performing artists within the worldwide field, like non-governmental organizations, and multinational corporations.

Considering the tremendous range of the subject, Key Relations can ended up fantastically complex. The subject is additionally in some cases known as “foreign relations”. Pros in this field staff political organizations overseas, give interview to businesses which are considering to set up branches abroad, and help charitable non-governmental organizations with their missions.

China-Pakistan: A Journey of Friendship (1950-2020)

Pakistan and China set up discretionary relations on May 21, 1951. The primary high-level official assignment gone by China fair after three months of freedom, on January 4, 1950. But the bonds of fellowship have gone back to centuries-old exchange relations, when Chinese dealers travel through Pakistan on their commerce trips to the Middle-East, Europe, and the rest of the world through old Silk Course. Over 2,000 a long time back celebrated figures such as the friars Fa Xian and Xuan Zang traveled through regions which are nowadays known as Pakistan. This relationship was built on the quality of progressive accomplishments and gets to be imposing with each passing day and year. The authority of both nations is committed to taking this relationship forward.

To understand the depth of this unique relationship, here is a glimpse of the milestones reached over the years(Pak China Friendship, n.d.):

•             1950 – Pakistan becomes the third non-communist country, and the first Muslim one, to recognize the People’s Republic of China and dispatched a high level delegation to China on January 4, 1950

•    1951 The two countries established formal diplomatic relations on May 21, 1951.

•             1955 Visit of Vice President Madam Song Ching Ling to Pakistan marked the first high level visit from Chinese side.

•             1956 Visit of Prime Minister H.S. Suhrawardy to China, was the first high level visit from Pakistan.

•             1963 Historic Visit of Foreign Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to China.  In 1963 Pakistan and China conclude boundary agreement through peaceful negotiations. Pakistan is the only and most friendly country in the neighborhood who has never had any difference of opinion or border dispute with China.

•             1964 Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) started its flights to Beijing, becoming the first non-communist country airline to fly from Beijing, entering into a new era of linkages between the two countries. Pakistan was the window for China to interact with the rest of world.

•    1965 Agreement on Cultural Cooperation signed, promoting understanding and harmony.

•             1970 Pakistan facilitates first visit by US President Nixon to China, paving way for the first-ever US-China official contact, leading toward the normalization of Sino-American relations.

•             1976 Agreement on Scientific and Cultural Cooperation signed, opening huge opportunities for Pakistani scientists and students.

•    1978 The Karakoram Highway, a construction miracle, linking mountainous Northern Pakistan with Western China officially opened, linking China to the Arabian Ocean.

•    1983 Pakistan and China sign MoU on Educational Exchanges, which led 32,000 Pakistani student studying in China today.

•             1989 The two countries sign an agreement on Reciprocal Encouragement and Protection of Investments. China is the largest investor in Pakistan.

•             1995 Agreement for Traffic in Transit is signed between the Governments of Pakistan, China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, opening avenues of transit trade with other central Asian states and whole of Eurasia.

•             1995 Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto visits China as a special guest to attend the 4th Women’s Conference in Beijing, bring the women of the two friendly nations close to each other.

•             1999 The contract to jointly develop and produce the JF-17 was signed, a landmark event for Pakistan’s defense Industry.

•             2001 Premier Zhu Rongji visits Pakistan on the occasion of 50 years of the establishment of Diplomatic Relations.

•             2001 China and Pakistan sign agreement on Tourism Cooperation, opening unlimited opportunities in the development of the tourism industry.

•             2003 Preferential Trade Agreement is signed between the two countries, providing market access to Pakistani exports.

•             2005 Bilateral MoU on Cooperation in Information Technology is concluded, with China leading and providing Pakistan with a huge opportunity to learn from Chinese achievements.

•             2005 Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits Pakistan. In 2005 “Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Good Neighborly Relations” is signed between the two countries, further cementing ties of friendship.

•    2006 Chinese President Hu Jintao pays an official visit to Pakistan. In 2006 China and Pakistan sign Free Trade Agreement, leading toward enhanced exports to China.

•    2008 Pakistan welcomes the Chinese Olympic Torch in Islamabad

•    2010 Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits Pakistan. In 2010 JF-17 inducted in Pakistan Air Force as backbone of our Air Force and already exporting to other countries.

•    2013 Premier Li Keqiang visits Pakistan in May and both sides issue a Joint Statement on

Deepening Comprehensive Strategic Cooperation, which became the basis of CPEC. In 2013 Pakistan and China sign the landmark Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation for the Long-term Plan on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project of Chinese mega initiative in the BRI. In 2013 Pakistan awards a contract fo the construction and operation of the Gwadar Port to China. Gwadar will become the economic hub of world trade and economic activities after its completion in 2030. Prime Minister Mohammad Nawaz Sharif visits China in 2013 and both sides agree to the Common Vision for Deepening China-Pakistan Strategic Cooperative Partnership in the New Era. Both countries sign Memorandum of Understanding in 2013 on the Cooperation of Developing China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Long-term Plan and Actions, opening the flow of Chinese FDI and investment into Pakistan.

•    2014 the governments of Pakistan and China agree on the construction of the 27 km Orange Line metro train project in Punjab.

•             2015 The two countries celebrate 2015 as the Year of Friendly Exchanges 2015 – Trade between the two countries reaches US $16 billion. In 2015 Chinese President Xi Jinping undertakes a landmark visit to Pakistan, both countries signed over 50 documents including the agreement on CPEC outlining projects worth USD 46 billion. The pledged investment already raised USD 62 billion.

•             2016 The two countries celebrate the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. China-Pakistan unveils the Long-term Plan of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in 2016, paving the ways for further cooperation and collaboration.

•    2017 Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif attends the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.

•             2018 Prime Minister Imran Khan pays a historic visit to China and both sides agree to further strengthen the All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership and jointly build Closer China-Pakistan Community of a Shared Future in the New Era.

•             2018 CPEC enters in its Second Phase, focused on social-economic development of Pakistan on a faster pace. Phase-II of the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement was signed in 2018, facilitating Pakistani exports. Prime Minister Imran Khan attends the First China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai. A leading initiative of China for opening its markets to Pakistani products. In 2018 Groundbreaking of Rashakai Special Economic Zone was done, Pakistan launches Remote Sensing Satellite-1 (PRSS-

1) from China’s Jiuquan Satellite Centre in 2018, enabling Pakistan to the membership of prestigious Space Club.

•    2019 Groundbreaking of Allama Iqbal Industrial City (M3), Faisalabad Special Economic Zone. Prime Minister Imran Khan visits China in 2019 to attend the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. JWG (Joint Working Group on International Coordination and Cooperation launched in 2019. Visit of Chinese Vice President to Pakistan in May, 2019.The two sides celebrate 2019 as the year of sister-city/ province, China-Pakistan shares several MoUs signed as sister cities or provinces. Pakistan hosts the Third China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Foreign Ministers Dialogue 2019 in Islamabad, a breakthrough in diplomacy toward resolving the Afghan crisis. Prime Minister Imran Khan to China in October, 2019. CPEC Authority has been set-up to coordinate and monitor progress on CPEC Projects in 2019. A CPEC Cell was also established in the Prime Minister’s Office in 2019. 9th JCC took place in Islamabad in November, 2019

•             2020 CPFTA-II became operational from 1st January, whereas Pakistan may enjoy better access to the Chinese market.  Extensive bilateral coordination in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic; China is the major contributor who extended the largest amount of assistance to Pakistan in fighting the outbreak in 2020. Visit of the President Alvi to China in March 2020. MOUs signed including MOU to establish JWGs on Science & Technology and Agricultural Cooperation.

Pakistan and China have enjoyed close and friendly relations since the establishment of diplomatic relations on May 21, 1951. Over the years, the relationship has blossomed into an “All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership”, with the CPEC at its core. Pakistan considers China as one of its closest friends and partners and China considers Pakistan as its “Iron Brother”.

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S. Jaishankar’s ‘The India Way’, Is it a new vision of foreign policy?

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S. Jaishankar has had an illustrious Foreign Service career holding some of the highest and most prestigious positions such as ambassador to China and the US and as foreign secretary of India. Since 2019 he has served as India’s foreign minister. S. Jaishankar also has a Ph.D. in international relations from JNU and his academic background is reflected in this book.

His main argument is simplistic, yet the issues involved are complex. Jaishankar argues that the world is changing fundamentally, and the international environment is experiencing major shifts in power as well as processes. China is rising and western hegemony is declining. We are moving away from a unipolar system dominated by the US to a multipolar system. Globalization is waning and nationalism and polarization is on the rise (p. 29). The old order is going away but we cannot yet glimpse what the future will look like. This is the uncertain world that Dr. Jaishankar sees.

Dr. Jaishankar also argues that India too has changed, it is more capable and more assertive. The liberalization program that began in 1991 has made the Indian economy vibrant and globally competitive and it is well on track to becoming the third biggest economy in the world, after China and the US.  The war of 1971 that liberated Bangladesh, the liberalization of the economy after 1991, the nuclear tests in 1998 and the nuclear understanding with the US in 2005, Jaishankar argues are landmarks in India’s strategic evolution (p. 4). So given that both India and the system have changed, Jaishankar concludes, so should India’s foreign policy.

But his prescription for India’s foreign policy, in the grand scheme of things, is the same as before – India should remain nonaligned and not join the US in its efforts to contain China. India will try to play with both sides it seems in order to exploit the superpowers and maximize its own interests (p. 9). But he fails to highlight how India can find common ground with China other than to say the two nations must resolve things diplomatically. He also seems to think that the US has infinite tolerance for India’s coyness. In his imagination the US will keep making concessions and India will keep playing hard to get.

Jaishankar has a profound contradiction in his thinking. He argues that the future will be determined by what happens between the US and China. In a way he is postulating a bipolar future to global politics. But he then claims that the world is becoming multipolar and this he claims will increase the contests for regional hegemony. The world cannot be both bipolar and multipolar at the same time.

There is also a blind spot in Jaishankar’s book.  He is apparently unaware of the rise of Hindu nationalism and the demand for a Hindu state that is agitating and polarizing India’s domestic politics. The systematic marginalization and oppression of Muslim minorities at home and the growing awareness overseas of the dangers of Hindutva extremism do not exist in the world that he lives in. He misses all this even as he goes on to invoke the Mahabharata and argue how Krishna’s wisdom and the not so ethical choices during the war between Pandavas and Kauravas should be a guide for how India deals with this uncertain world – by balancing ethics with realism (p. 63). Methinks his little digression in discussing the ancient Hindu epic is more to signal his ideological predilections than to add any insights to understanding the world or India’s place in it.  

One aspect of his work that I found interesting is his awareness of the importance of democracy and pluralism. He states that India’s democracy garners respect and gives India a greater opportunity to be liked and admired by other nations in the world (p. 8). Yet recently when he was asked about the decline of India’s democratic credentials, his response was very defensive, and he showed visible signs of irritation. It is possible that he realizes India is losing ground internationally but is unwilling to acknowledge that his political party is responsible for the deterioration of India’s democracy.

This is also apparent when he talks about the importance of India improving its relations with its immediate neighbors. He calls the strategy as neighborhood first approach (pp. 9-10). What he does not explain is how an Islamophobic India will maintain good relations with Muslim majority neighbors like Bangladesh, Maldives, and Pakistan.

The book is interesting, it has its limitations and both, what is addressed and what is left out, are clearly political choices and provide insights into how New Delhi thinks about foreign policy. So, coming to the question with which we started, does India have a new foreign policy vision? The answer is no. Dr. Jaishankar is right, there is indeed an India way, but it is the same old way, and it entails remaining nonaligned with some minor attitudinal adjustments.  

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India’s open invitation to a nuclear Armageddon

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Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said that “India was not averse to the possible demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier ,  the world’s highest battleground and an old sore in India-Pakistan ties , provided the neighbour accepted the 110-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) that separates Indian and Pakistani positions. Acceptance of AGPL is the first step towards demilitarisation but the Pakistan side loathes doing that”. He said, ‘The Siachen situation occurred because of unilateral attempts by Pakistan to change status quo and countermeasures taken by the Indian Army’ (Not averse to demilitarisation of Siachen if Pak meets pre-condition: Army chief, Hindustan Times January 13, 2022).

Reacting to the Indian army chief’s statement, Pakistan’s former foreign secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan reminisced that the Siachen could not fructify into a written agreement because India wanted Siachen and Kashmir to be settled together. India’s approach ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’ scuttled the agreement. As for Kashmir, “a simultaneous effort was made through the backchannel …in what is commonly known as the Four-Point Formula” (Siachen recollections, Dawn January 16, 2022). Riaz laments Indi’s distrust that hindered a solution.

Shyam Saran, a voice in the wilderness

Shyam Saran, in his book How India Sees the World (pp. 88-93) makes startling revelations about how this issue eluded solution at last minute. India itself created the Siachen problem.  Saran reminisces, in the 1970s, US maps began to show 23000 kilometers of Siachen area under Pakistan’s control. Thereupon, Indian forces were sent to occupy the glacier in a pre-emptive strike, named Operation Meghdoot. Pakistani attempts to dislodge them did not succeed. But they did manage to occupy and fortify the lower reaches’.

He recalls how Siachen Glacier and Sir Creek agreements could not fructify for lack of political will or foot dragging. He says ‘NN Vohra, who was the defence secretary at the time, confirmed in a newspaper interview that an agreement on Siachen had been reached. At the last moment, however, a political decision was taken by the Narasimha Rao government to defer its signing to the next round of talks scheduled for January the following year. But, this did not happen…My defence of the deal became a voice in the wilderness’.

Saran says, `Kautliyan template would say the options for India are sandhi, conciliation; asana, neutrality; and yana, victory through war. One could add dana, buying allegiance through gifts; and bheda, sowing discord. The option of yana, of course would be the last in today’s world’ (p. 64, ibid.).

India’s current first option

It appears that Kautliya’s last-advised option,yana, as visualised by Shyam Saran, is India’s first option nowadays. Kautlya also talks about koota yuddha (no holds barred warfare), and maya yuddha (war by tricks) that India is engaged in.

Cartographic annexation

By unilaterally declaring the disputed Jammu and Kashmir its territory does not solve the Kashmir problem. This step reflects that India has embarked upon the policy “might is right”. In Kotliyan parlance it would be “matsy nyaya, or mach nyaya”, that is big fish eats the small one. What if China also annexes disputed borders with India?  India annexed Kashmir presuming that Pakistan is not currently in a position to respond militarily, nor could it agitate the matter at international forums for fear of US ennui.  

India’s annexation smacks of acceptance of quasi-Dixon Plan, barring mention of plebiscite and division of Jammu. . Dixon proposed: Ladakh should be awarded to India. Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (including Gilgit and Baltistan) should remain with Pakistan. Whole Kashmir valley should have a plebiscite with no option to independence. Jammu should be divided on religious basis. The river Chmab should be the dividing line. Northern Jammu (Muslims dominated) should go to Pakistan and Hindu majority parts of Jammu to remain with India.

In short Muslim areas should have gone with Pakistan and Hindu-Buddhist majority areas should have remained with India.

India’s annexation has no legal sanctity. But, it could have bbeen sanctified in a mutually agreed Kashmir solution.

India’s propaganda

India portrays the freedom movement in Kashmir as `terrorism’. What about India’s terrorism in neighbouring countries?

The world is listless to accounts of former diplomats and RAW officers about executing insurgencies in neighbouring countries. B. Raman, in his book The Kaoboys of R&AW: Down Memory Lane makes no bones about India’s involvement up to the level of prime minister in Bangladesh’s insurgency.

 Will the world take notice of confessions by Indi’s former intelligence officers and diplomats?B. Raman reminds `Indian parliament passed resolution on March 31, 1971 to support insurgency. Indira Gandhi had then confided with Kao that in case Mujib was prevented from ruling Pakistan, she would liberate East Pakistan from the clutches of the military junta. Kao, through one RAW agent, hijacked a Fokker Friendship, the Ganga, of Indian Airlines hijacked from Srinagar to Lahore.

India’s ambassador Bharath Raj Muthu Kumar, with the consent of then foreign minister Jaswant Singh, `coordinated military and medical assistance that India was secretly giving to Massoud and his forces’… `helicopters, uniforms, ordnance, mortars, small armaments, refurbished Kalashnikovs seized in Kashmir, combat and winter clothes, packaged food, medicines, and funds through his brother in London, Wali Massoud’, delivered circuitously with the help of other countries who helped this outreach’. When New Delhi queried about the benefit of costly support to Northern Alliance chief Massoud, Kumar explained, “He is battling someone we should be battling. When Massoud fights the Taliban, he fights Pakistan.”

Death of back-channel

In his memoirs In the line of fire (pp.302-303), president Musharraf had proposed a personal solution of the Kashmir issue.  This solution, in essence, envisioned self-rule in demilitarised regions of Kashmir under a joint-management mechanism.   The solution pre-supposed* reciprocal flexibility.

Death of dialogue and diplomacy

Riaz warns of “incalculable” risks as the result of abrogation of Kashmir statehood (Aug 5, 2019). Both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers. In the absence of a dialogue on outstanding issues, war, perhaps a nuclear one,  comes up as the only option.

Concluding remark

Sans sincerity, the only Kashmir solution is a nuclear Armageddon. Or, perhaps divine intervention.

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Major Challenges for Pakistan in 2022

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Pakistan has been facing sever challenges since 1980s, after the former USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan. The history is full of challenges, but, being a most resilient nation, Pakistan has faced some of them bravely and overcome successfully. Yet, few are rather too big for Pakistan and still struggling to overcome in the near future.

Some of the challenges are domestic or internal, which can be addressed conveniently. But, some of them are part of geopolitics and rather beyond control of Pakistan itself. Such challenges need to pay more attention and need to be smarter and address them wisely.

Few key areas will be the main focus of Pakistan in the year ahead. Relations with China and the US while navigating the Sino-US confrontation, dealing with Afghanistan’s uncertainties, managing the adversarial relationship with India and balancing ties between strategic ally Saudi Arabia and neighbor Iran.

Pakistan has to pursue its diplomatic goals in an unsettled global and regional environment marked by several key features. They include rising East-West tensions, increasing preoccupation of big powers with domestic challenges, ongoing trade and technology wars overlying the strategic competition between China and the US, a fraying rules-based international order and attempts by regional and other powers to reshape the rules of the game in their neighborhood.

Understanding the dynamics of an unpredictable world is important especially as unilateral actions by big powers and populist leaders, which mark their foreign policy, have implications for Pakistan’s diplomacy. In evolving its foreign policy strategy Pakistan has to match its goals to its diplomatic resources and capital. No strategy is effective unless ends and means are aligned.

Pakistan’s relations with China will remain its overriding priority. While a solid economic dimension has been added to long-standing strategic ties, it needs sustained high-level engagement and consultation to keep relations on a positive trajectory. CPEC is on track, timely and smoothly progress is crucial to reinforce Beijing’s interest in strengthening Pakistan, economically and strategically. Close coordination with Beijing on key issues remains important.

Pakistan wants to improve ties with the US. But relations will inevitably be affected by Washington’s ongoing confrontation with Beijing, which American officials declare has an adversarial dimension while China attributes a cold war mindset to the US. Islamabad seeks to avoid being sucked into this big power rivalry. But this is easier said than done. So long as US-China relations remain unsteady it will have a direct bearing on Pakistan’s effort to reset ties with the US especially as containing China is a top American priority. Pakistan desires to keep good relations with the US, but, not at the cost of China. In past, Pakistan was keeping excellent relations with US, while simultaneously very close with China. When the US imposed economic blockade against China and launched anti-communism drive during the cold war, Pakistan was close ally with the US and yet, keeping excellent relations with China. Pakistan played vital role in bring China and the US to establish diplomatic relations in 1970s. Yet, Pakistan possesses the capability to narrow down the hostility between China and the US.

Pakistan was close ally with the US during cold war, anti-communism threat, war against USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1980s, and war on terror, etc. Pakistan might be a small country, but, possesses strategic importance. As long as, the US was cooperating with Pakistan, Pakistan looked after the US interest in the whole region. In fact, Pakistan ensured that the US has achieved its all strategic goals in the region. Since, the US kept distance from Pakistan, is facing failure after another failure consecutively. The importance of Pakistan is well recognized by the deep state in the US.

US thinks that withdrawal from Afghanistan has diminished Pakistan’s importance for now. For almost two decades Afghanistan was the principal basis for engagement in their frequently turbulent ties, marked by both cooperation and mistrust. As Pakistan tries to turn a new page with the US the challenge is to find a new basis for a relationship largely shorn of substantive bilateral content. Islamabad’s desire to expand trade ties is in any case contingent on building a stronger export base.

Complicating this is Washington’s growing strategic and economic relations with India, its partner of choice in the region in its strategy to project India as a counterweight to China. The implications for Pakistan of US-India entente are more than evident from Washington turning a blind eye to the grim situation in occupied Kashmir and its strengthening of India’s military and strategic capabilities. Closer US-India ties will intensify the strategic imbalance in the region magnifying Pakistan’s security challenge.

Multiple dimensions of Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan will preoccupy Islamabad, which spent much of 2021 engaged with tumultuous developments there. While Pakistan will continue to help Afghanistan avert a humanitarian and economic collapse it should not underestimate the problems that may arise with an erstwhile ally. For one, the TTP continues to be based in Afghanistan and conduct attacks from there. The border fencing issue is another source of unsettled discord. Careful calibration of ties will be needed — assisting Afghanistan but avoiding overstretch, and acknowledging that the interests of the Taliban and Pakistan are far from identical. Moreover, in efforts to mobilize international help for Afghanistan, Islamabad must not exhaust its diplomatic capital, which is finite and Pakistan has other foreign policy goals to pursue.

Managing relations with India will be a difficult challenge especially as the Modi government is continuing its repressive policy in occupied Kashmir and pressing ahead with demographic changes there, rejecting Pakistan’s protests. The hope in establishment circles that last year’s backchannel between the two countries would yield a thaw or even rapprochement, turned to disappointment when no headway was made on any front beyond the re-commitment by both neighbors to observe a ceasefire on the Line of Control.

Working level diplomatic engagement will continue on practical issues such as release of civilian prisoners. But prospects of formal dialogue resuming are slim in view of Delhi’s refusal to discuss Kashmir. This is unlikely to change unless Islamabad raises the diplomatic costs for Delhi of its intransigent policy. Islamabad’s focus on Afghanistan last year meant its diplomatic campaign on Kashmir sagged and was limited to issuing tough statements. Unless Islamabad renews and sustains its international efforts with commitment and imagination, India will feel no pressure on an issue that remains among Pakistan’s core foreign policy goals.

With normalization of ties a remote possibility, quiet diplomacy by the two countries is expected to focus on managing tensions to prevent them from spinning out of control. Given the impasse on Kashmir, an uneasy state of no war, no peace is likely to continue warranting Pakistan’s sustained attention.

In balancing ties with Saudi Arabia and Iran, Pakistan should consider how to leverage possible easing of tensions between the long-standing rivals — of which there are some tentative signs. With Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman keen to use economic power to expand his country’s diplomatic clout by making strategic overseas investments, Pakistan should use its political ties with Riyadh to attract Saudi investment through a coherent strategy. Relations with Iran too should be strengthened with close consultation on regional issues especially Afghanistan. The recent barter agreement is a step in the right direction.

In an increasingly multipolar world, Pakistan also needs to raise its diplomatic efforts by vigorous outreach to other key countries and actors beyond governments to secure its national interests and goals.

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