Strategic Triangle is defined as three states binding in a triangle’s strategic relationship. It is focused on three factors. 1) A state must be sovereign and rational in its foreign policy. 2) Action of one state in a triangle must affect the other two states. 3) Two states must have the potential to be united against other.
The Strategic Triangle has four models: unit veto, stable marriage, a romantic triangle, and ménage à trois. 1) Unit-veto means that all three states must have a different nature. 2) Stable marriage means that the relationship between two states is better than both with the other. 3) Romantic triangle means that good relations exist between one pivot and two states. In contrast, good relations don’t exist between two states when the relation between two states and one pivot is compared. 4) Ménage à trois means where all three states enjoy good relations.
The roots of contention between India and Pakistan can be traced since independence, while the rivalry between China and India has existed since the Sino-India war in 1962. However, due to this rivalry, India is considered a threat to both (Pakistan and China). India underwent three times for a full-scale war against Pakistan and once to a full-scale military conflict, while India and China went to war in 1962. India struggles to influence the South-Asian Region, which has increased the foundation of a Geostrategic triangle (Pakistan-China and India). The triangle evolved in Asia after the Sino-India war in 1962 when Pakistan and China signed an agreement on the border delimitation in 1963. Pakistan handed over the Trans-Karakoram tract to China, a territory claimed by India in Kashmir. The bilateral dispute between (India and Pakistan) turned into a trilateral (China-India & Pakistan).
This triangle has a crucial role in the international arena, changing the dynamics of power. The triangular relationship between China, India, and Pakistan is one of the key drivers for Asian security. Indo-US relations strategically have been getting deeper for the last two decades, and their ties with China are under high strain. There is a massive growth in Pak-China strategic relations that is essential for peace and balance in the region. It is due to an Indian hegemony dream after Sino-India, and Indo-Pak wars. Pakistan, China, and India have nuclear capabilities. This triangular nuclear chain increasingly connects geopolitical competition with the nuclear issue. China, India, and Pakistan must be cautious in their nuclear trilemma.
Nuclear weapons are a strategic tool that creates deterrence and restricts the concerned state from full-scale war. China believes in cooperation and the concept of mutual security. Geopolitical muddles will have impacts on the regional nuclear situation. China has adopted “no first use” nuclear weapons under any condition or circumstances since declaring itself a nuclear state. It will not threaten any non-nuclear state or zone that does not hold nuclear weapons. China is stable, responsible, and committed to its nuclear policy.
Pakistan is a responsible state in this region. Pakistan successfully conducted its first nuclear test in May 1998, aiming to respond to the Indian nuclear test, and declared itself a nuclear power. Pakistan has adopted a “full spectrum deterrence” policy rather than “no first use,” which deters India from conventional war or nuclear war since 1998. The conventional war between Pakistan and India cannot be ruled out; however, under nuclear weapons, the conflict between Pakistan and India may escalate to a full-scale war.
India adopted a “no first use” policy but will retaliate with nuclear weapons if any major incident that counters India with chemical or biological weapons. India considers Pakistan one of its immediate rivals, while China is a long-term target for its nuclear weapons and the most significant military potential threat. India has security concerns over civil nuclear cooperation between Pakistan and China. India argues that Pak-China strategic alliance is a rivalry and perceives this growing threat to its security.
Both countries (China and India) became neighbours after China declared Tibet as an integral part in 1951. The border tension is arising and sharpening the geopolitical rivalry between China and India. An incident occurred recently between China and India in Galwan valley in June 2020 that triggered a conflict between China and India, resulting in military casualties. After this incident, the bilateral relations between China and India went to the lowest. On the Line of Actual Control (LAC), concerned states (China and India) deployed much equipment and troops. They were on the brink of limited military conflict. Major sources of contention between China and India are border infrastructure and the issue of terrain gaining in Ladakh and Dokhlam.
An incident occurred in Pulwama in Indian-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Indian authorities blamed Pakistani Security Agencies without solid evidence; however, former Prime Minister Imran Khan demanded to share evidence-based reports against Pakistan, if any, but the Indian authorities failed to share any factual evidence. The armed forces of Pakistan and India were on high alert, and a series of armed clashes occurred on the Line of Control (LOC). India violated Pakistan’s air space on 26 February 2019, which was very concerning to Pakistan, but on 27 February 2019, Pakistan shot down the Indian fighter jet Mig-21 and arrested Indian Fighter Pilot Abhinandan Varthaman. It occurred for the first time since 1971 when Indian fighter jets crossed the Line of Control, and both nuclear-armed states were at the brink of nuclear war; however, the former premier of Pakistan endured to stop both states from nuclear escalation. India launched either intentionally or unintentionally unarmed missiles toward Pakistan in March 2022, which crashed in Mian Channu (a city in Punjab). India Defence Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh claimed that there was a technical malfunction in the routine maintenance of missiles that carried accidental firing of missiles in Pakistan. Pakistan immediately summoned an Indian envoy, protested, and showed deep concerns over the firing of an Indian missile. However, Indian negligence or aggressive attitude can be harmful to regional peace. These kinds of incidents may lead to a nuclear war.
China is emerging as a superpower. India is rising as a regional power and is offensive in its approach towards other states like China, Pakistan, etc. Late Indian Chief of Army Staff (COAS), and Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Bipin Rawat said the Indian Army is on two fronts. We have brought many changes in our capabilities. The Indian Army, Air Force, and Navy are fully prepared for any eventuality from any side. India wants its hegemony in the South Asia region and maintains the balance of power with China. The US is a strategic partner of India that supplies arms to India and shares civil nuclear technology, which disturbs the balance of power in South Asia and concerning for Pakistan’s security. Pakistan is defensive in its approach toward Indian hostility. China is a strategic partner of Pakistan that addresses Pakistan’s security concerns and maintains the balance of power in the South-Asia region. The attitude of China, Pakistan, India, and the U.S. will affect the South Asia region. Nuclear capability characterizes the geographical proximity of the strategic triangle, where any military confrontation may lead to a nuclear war.