Regional Implications of Strategic Triangle of China-India & Pakistan
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.
Ways to Overcome Afghanistan Crisis in Post-Republic Collapse
On August 15, 2021, the Afghan Republic government collapsed and the Taliban took over the Afghan capital city of Kabul. The last American military flight that airlifted the last American soldier, Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, left Kabul on 30th August 2021 at 11.59 pm Kabul time that ended America’s longest nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan.
Consequently, the abrupt withdrawal created a political vacuum that resulted in a humanitarian and political crisis with far-reaching consequences. During the last two decades, there have been several areas of improvement, notably, in education, civilian government institutions, the media, the economy, civil society, healthcare sectors, and regional connectivity.
Most importantly, the literacy rate significantly improved. The adult total literacy rate (aged 15 and older) was estimated at 43% (2018) which includes 55.5% male, 29.8% female, and 13.3% elderly (65 years old and above). Youth total literacy rate (aged 15-24) is estimated at 65.4% (2018); that contains male 74.1%, and female 56.3%. Now, under the current circumstances, there is a risk of reversing the hard-earned gains of the last two decades. To preserve the hard-earned gains of the last two decades and prevent the impending socio-economic and political-security negative spillover effects, the United States of America, the United Nations, the European Union, China, Russia, and neighboring Central Asian republics should use preventive diplomacy and find a constructive solution to the crisis in Afghanistan.
Current challenges and problems
Women and girlsmake up 49 percent of the estimated 40 million Afghan population who are excluded from public life, including a ban on attending high schools and universities, as well as restrictions on access to work. Studies suggest Afghanistan is one of the worst repressive countries for women and girls, particularly due to the Taliban’s strict restrictions. Direct international development assistance, which accounted for 75 percent of public expenditures, has been suspended after the Afghan Republic government collapsed. 28.3 million people, two-thirds of the Afghan population, are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance in 2023, and 17 million people are at risk of acute hunger.
Insurgent groups are resurging in Afghanistan including the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Khorasan (ISIS-K), a regional affiliate of ISIS. According to a UN Security Council assessment, ISIS-K gained “ strength and visibility” in Afghanistan after the Taliban assumed control of the country and could create concerns beyond Afghanistan.
During a recent hearing in the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, the Army Gen. Michael Kurilla, who leads U.S. Central Command warned that the terrorist group will be able to carry out attacks beyond Afghanistan against American and European interests within six months “with little to no warning.” As a failing state, Afghanistan could turn into an unwitting host to terrorist groups, and the Taliban’s reluctance to sever ties with Al-Qaeda could further exacerbate security in the region and beyond.
Due to the absence of conflicts, there has been an overall security improvement that contributes to the reduction of the number of casualties since August 2021. However, soaring inflation, economic instability, widespread human rights violations, extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, ban on women and girl education from secondary and tertiary education, restrictions on working in international NGOs, and saying “female NGO staff had broken dress codes by not wearing hijabs”, and international sanctions further exacerbated the livelihood.
Quality education is a fundamental human right that should be accessible to all Afghan citizens, regardless of gender. Freedom of expression and thought is a human right that should not be criminalized or subject to extrajudicial measures. Furthermore, reports of revenge killings could further create concerns among former government officials in the country. Afghans are seeking risky ways to escape from the country, with 1.6 million new arrivals to neighbouring countries, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan following the Taliban takeover.
What can regional and extra-regional actors do?
The Bonn agreement, which took place under the auspices of the United Nations among Afghan political elites in 2001 and led to the establishment of a new western-supported government in Afghanistan. The newly established government received immense political and financial support from the EU, U.S., and other countries toward the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the country. Despite facing numerous challenges, the support helped to steer the country on the path to progress.
Currently, the Taliban, a religious group, rules Afghanistan without internal legitimacy through elections or external recognition from any country. Their exclusionary approach may worsen the security and political situation in the country. They have shown no willingness to hold elections, and do not plan to do so since they believe their legitimacy comes from religious interpretations. This political stalemate may drive the country to the brink of another conflict and crisis.
Before the situation worsens, the U.S., UN, EU, Russia, China, and Central Asia through preventive diplomacy can contain the delicate situation from implosion. In terms of financial aid for Afghanistan, the U.S. is the largest donor. The aid includes over $2 billion for humanitarian and development assistance, and $2.7 billion allocated for FY 2022 to the Department of Defense for transportation and sustenance of Afghan evacuees. Additionally, the U.S. made available the transfer of $3.5 billion in Afghan central bank assets to the Afghan Fund, a Swiss-based trust fund.
The EU allocated €222 million and €174 million for humanitarian support through humanitarian organizations operating in the country and the surrounding region for the years 2021 and 2022, respectively.
Humanitarian support by U.S., EU, and other states may help temporarily ease the humanitarian crises. However, an impending socio-economic and politico-security crisis would spill over beyond Afghanistan and may have implications for the region and beyond. To overcome an impending socio-economic and political-security implications stemming from Afghanistan from escalating, the countries in the region and beyond, particularly, the U.S., China, Russia, and the EU must step up their diplomatic, political, and economic leverage.
The U.S. and the EU possess the necessary means and capacity to intervene and mitigate the potential crisis from exacerbating. Particularly, the EU has diplomatic presence and special envoys in Afghanistan and neighbouring states, thereby enabling them to exert their influence and leverage coupled with political pressure upon the Taliban to initiate a political settlement dialogue encompassing all facets of the Afghan political landscape. The EU and Central Asia Special Representatives and Special Envoys for Afghanistan’s latest meetings in Brussels are effective initiatives but require a tangible push to change the behavior of the Taliban’s leadership.
The U.S. EU, and China have the capacity to overcome the current humanitarian crisis by providing humanitarian assistance through aid organizations operating in Afghanistan and the region and encouraging other countries to step in to address the crises. Additionally, U.S. EU, and China can encourage other countries in the region to exert their influence on the Taliban to show willingness, initially through a traditional Loya Jirga, which could consequently pave the way for more representative government, elections, meaningful representation of women in all socio-political sectors, and respect for human rights.
Gulf countries, especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates could play an influential role by leveraging their politico-religious influence. Moreover, other regional countries especially in neighbourhood, namely: Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, which often express concerns about current and impending spillover effects. These countries could be encouraged to play a constructive role.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has Programme Offices in Central Asia and Field Missions in the region. These offices could help address certain spillover effects of Afghanistan, particularly, drug trafficking and human rights abuses.
To sum up, Afghanistan has experienced tumultuous political upheavals over the past four decades, culminating in the current political impasse that reflects the recurrence of political errors. The U.S., the EU, China, and other actors in the region should closely monitor the rapidly evolving situation in Afghanistan to prevent escalation.
To consolidate political stability and ensure comprehensive representation across all strata of society, establishing a broad-based and inclusive government is imperative. An inclusive government has the potential to protect human rights, guarantee meaningful representation for women and ethnic and religious minorities, and address the menace of terrorism and extremism. It can also ensure access to education for all, which could help overcome the protracted crisis that has encompassed Afghanistan.
A Coercive Democracy?
Imagine the opposition leader of a major democracy being bundled off to jail for supposedly defaming the surname of the ruling party’s leader but it is exactly what has happened in India. Rahul Gandhi has been given a two-year sentence and has 30 days to appeal. The case was originally brought by a plaintiff named Purnesh Modi in 2019; he is a member of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly and a BJP stalwart.
It is certainly odd that the incident in question occurred not in the recent past but in 2019. Why 2023 for the hearing is then the obvious question until one is informed that Indian elections are to be held in 2024 and the main opposition leader behind bars will certainly make the job of the ruling BJP much easier. It all sounds very much like someone dusted off the files and wondered what could be done with the whole affair.
In his speech, Gandhi apparently pointed out recent notable fraud cases in India — the fugitive Indian diamond tycoon Nirav Modi, the Indian Premier (cricket) League chief Lalit Modi and added the name Narendra Modi. He then used the words which became the basis of the trial: “Why do all thieves have Modi as their surname?” Thus the complainant could say he had “defamed the entire Modi community.” To make matters worse, Modi is not an uncommon name in Gujarat.
There is more than a grain of truth in Gandhi’s charge. For example, there is Modi’s friend and supporter Gautam Shantilal Adani. He heads one of the top three industrial conglomerates in India, the Adani Group, with personal wealth in excess of $30 billion.
Hindenburg Research is a group which focuses on activist short selling. They noticed that Adani was using an auditing firm with 11 employees, four of whom were partners in the firm, as auditors for an enterprise worth $100 billion. Given the size, most reputable auditors would virtually have an office there to monitor activity.
Hindenburg’s scathing review of Adani enterprises showed opportunities for a huge profit or the short side. Following a 2-year investigation, they published a well researched 32-page report, and their clients certainly profited. The $100 billion value is down to $45 billion and for the individual investor the stock is down since January from about 4 to 2 thousand rupees.
To return to Rahul Gandhi: There was a reason for his maximum two-year sentence. It turns out that if a parliamentary member is sentenced to two years or more in jail, he has to vacate his seat in the legislative assembly. His comments to the press recalled his great grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru’s (India’s first prime minister) time in British jails and likening himself as a similar martyr to tyranny.
One has to wonder if Rahul is the brightest bulb in the Nehru pantheon when he wants to relinquish a platform that easily. Fewer opposition critics would suit Modi fine.
There may, however, be a bright side though it remains to be seen. The fractured opposition (including Rahul Gandhi’s Congress Party) having observed what has been done to him have an incentive to come together and form a united front against the BJP. How successful they will be remains to be seen. Just that it can’t be any worse than it is now.
Will the “Rule of Law” in Our Country Always be an Unreliable Myth?
Modern democratic societies place a strong emphasis on the “rule of law.” It implies that the rule of law must be upheld by all parties, including the government, and that justice will be served fairly. Recent occurrences, though, have cast doubt on the validity of this principle. The absence of consistency in its application is the first factor that leads some people to doubt the reliability of the rule of law. However, because laws are not always applied equally to all parties, justice is not always upheld. Because of their position, resources, or connections, some people might be given preference. People may lose faith in the legal system as a result of this inconsistency and begin to doubt the reliability of the rule of law.
Undoubtedly, every democratic society must adhere to the rule of law. It is the notion that everyone is treated equally by the law and that the law ought to be applied to all people equally and impartially. The rule of law, regrettably, is an unattainable myth in many nations, including Pakistan. Human rights abuses, political unrest, and corruption have plagued Pakistan for a very long time. The legal structure of the nation is complicated, involving a judiciary that is frequently swayed by political pressure and multiple sources of law. Although Pakistan’s constitution upholds the rule of law, the legal system there frequently acts arbitrarily and inconsistently.
Moreover, corruption is one of the main causes of the mythical impossibility of the rule of law in Pakistan. At every level of the government and society, from the police to the judiciary, corruption is rife. Public trust in the legal system can be damaged by corruption, which also threatens its integrity. Officials weaken the rule when they abuse their position for selfish gain or to advance their interests. Bribery, nepotism, and theft are just a few examples of the various ways corruption manifests. Therefore, this means that the wealthy and powerful can frequently sway the legal system to their benefit, while those who are poor and marginalized are denied access to justice. This has made it challenging for common people to access justice because they might not have the money to bribe officials or pay for pricey attorneys. Many Pakistanis lack faith in the legal system as a result of its inability to provide justice.
There have been initiatives to combat corruption and reform the legal system in recent years. Some of the actions taken to combat corruption include the establishment of national accountability bureaus and the creation of specialized anti-corruption courts. Additionally, by offering legal aid to underprivileged and marginalized communities, the government has improved access to justice. Similarly, the influence of traditional and religious customs is another factor contributing to Pakistan’s lack of a functional legal system. Particularly when it comes to issues like gender equality and human rights, these traditions frequently run counter to the principles of the rule of law. For instance, Pakistani laws favor men and a frequently biased judiciary subjects women to discrimination in the legal system.
Contrarily, if the government disobeys court orders, holds people without charge or trial, or commits extrajudicial killings, it sends a message that the law does not apply equally to everyone. A culture of impunity can be established when the government steps in to decide who is right and wrong. However, in numerous instances states respect and uphold this law. For instance, Scandinavian countries like Norway, Denmark, and Finland consistently rank among the best in the world for upholding the rule of law. These countries are characterized by strong legal frameworks, independent courts, and low levels of corruption. This demonstrates that it is not an impossibly high ideal but rather a goal that is attainable with the right institutions and culture.
Last but not least, this law is necessary for upholding individual rights and promoting social stability. Without it, there is a possibility of the use of power arbitrarily, which can result in unrest and instability. It ensures that everyone is subject to the same laws and that justice is done fairly. It is a foundational element of democratic societies, and its preservation is necessary to ensure the efficient operation of society. Modern legal systems are predicated on the idea that everyone, regardless of social standing or position, is subject to the law and that the law is applied fairly and consistently. This means that everyone must abide by the same laws and legal processes to resolve legal disputes and that no one is above the law. In a society where the rule of law is upheld, there is a fair and predictable legal framework that guarantees that individual rights are protected and disputes are settled through the legal system rather than through force or personal influence.
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