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Compiled by: Ms. Komal Khan

Executive Summary

The geostrategic competition between the U.S. and China underscores that the world is moving away from uni-polarity to multi-polarity, thereby creating friction in the international system and regional orders. While this disturbs the status-quo powers, it also offers opportunities and poses challenges for middle powers, including Pakistan.

The U.S. always desired to have India as a friend, and Pakistan was the second-best choice. However, India has been very careful in crafting the language of international agreements to avoid any liability or compulsion to physically get involved in international conflicts. It also continues to benefit from Russia and has 130 billion dollars of trade with China despite border tensions.

Managing Pakistan’s bilateral relations with the U.S. and China, both strategically important countries, is the primary challenge for Pakistan amidst the U.S.-China geostrategic Competition. The U.S. – India Partnership to contain China in the Indian Ocean Region is a serious challenge to Pakistan’s national security as well.

A major concession was made to India by the U.S. in the form of the U.S. – India Civil Nuclear Deal concluded in 2008. India-U.S. nuclear deal provided India with an NSG waiver and a de-facto recognition of India’s status as a nuclear weapon state outside the NPT with none of the obligations of the NPT signatories. Consequently, India would be able to concentrate more on its nuclear capability, as witnessed in the change in India’s language regarding its nuclear doctrine. India is becoming more belligerent in its nuclear discourse because it has the U.S. backing to counterbalance China’s nuclear programme. References were made to the writings by Ashley Tellis, Bharat Karnard, and Vipin Narang, some of the most prominent proponents of India’s policy in this regard.

The U.S.-China strategic competition has complicated Pakistan’s choices to maintain ties with both of these countries which need to be managed in order to avail security and economic benefits associated with mutually beneficial bilateral partnerships with both the U.S. and China at the same time. Successful hedging without becoming overly dependent on either one of them needs to be adopted. If Pakistan can achieve political stability and put its economy back on track, only then would Pakistan have some relevance for the great powers amid competition in the region.

Segment I: Indo-US Cooperation and its Desired Objectives
Speaker: Dr. Sultan Mubariz

Dr. Sultan Mubariz, in the first segment, titled “Indo-US Cooperation and its Desired Objectives,” emphasized that despite undergoing internal changes, India is recognized globally, including by the United States, as a significant actor in both economic and geopolitical realms. Furthermore, India has become a key strategic ally to numerous states, notably to the U.S., as demonstrated by the signing of multiple partnership agreements, with several more in the pipeline.

During the Cold War, Nehru’s commitment to maintaining impartiality and sovereignty hindered the formation of an alliance with the United States. On the other hand, Pakistan aligned itself with the U.S., establishing an anti-communist alliance in Asia. The primary reasons for India’s nonalignment with the U.S. were the perceived incompatibilities arising from its strained relationship with Pakistan and the United States’ concerns regarding the Soviet Union. As a result, the contrasting priorities and divergent strategic interests prevented the United States and India from forging a formal alliance during this period.

The end of the Cold War brought about a transformative shift in global politics and strategic dynamics. During this period, India gained significance in Asia-Pacific due to its secular democracy, economic liberalization, and growing military capabilities. The United States recognized the importance of India and included it in its strategic plans for South Asia. Following the Cold War, the relationship between the U.S. and India gained momentum, leading both countries to determine the course of the balance of power in the region. In contemporary geo-politics, the U.S. regards India as a stabilizing competitor to China in the South Asian region and has designated India as a regional leader. Consequently, the U.S. supports India’s approach to regional issues. Furthermore, the United States has also actively encouraged India to take on a greater role in Afghanistan.

The United States’ foreign policy recognized the strategic significance of India in the Indian Ocean region. Consequently, it developed a bilateral strategic partnership under the deal of “Defining partnership of the 21st century, guided by convergent national interests.” By emphasizing the convergence of national interests, both countries aimed to establish a long-lasting and mutually beneficial partnership that would shape the geo-politics in the Indian Ocean Region and Asia-Pacific.

The Trump administration played a significant role in strengthening the Indo-US relations, which were already strong. The Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC) actively supported President Donald Trump’s campaign and substantially contributed US$898,000 to the Trump Victory Fund. Based on RHC’s connections within the administration, it operated as an anti-Islamic and anti-Pakistan lobby in the U.S. administration and actively pursued enhanced trade, economic, and defense relations between the two countries.

Post 9/11, Obama Administration institutionalized the United States’ collaboration with the defense and security forces of India as crucial to the U.S. national interest in the region. These collaborative initiatives and strategic engagements in the military domain include joint military exercises, joint operational research programmes, co-development and co-production of military weapons, machinery, and equipment, as well as nuclear deals. India’s economic growth and military capabilities provided for integrating India as a crucial hub for the United States in the Asian region in order to advance shared interests and influence regional dynamics.

Significantly, the U.S. made a major concession to India by entering into the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement of 2008, which had profound implications. This agreement entailed the lifting of multiple sanctions that the United States had imposed on India as a direct consequence of its nuclear tests conducted in 1998. The agreement not only marked a substantial concession on the part of the United States but also symbolized a shift in the bilateral relationship between them. By rescinding these sanctions, the United States demonstrated its willingness to engage with India in the realm of civil nuclear cooperation, thereby altering the diplomatic landscape and fostering an environment of greater collaboration between the two nations.

Cooperation in the defense sector constitutes a significant component of the strategic partnership between India and the United States. Over the past decade, India has made concerted efforts to enhance its standing within the South Asian region and position itself as a potential competitor to China both economically and militarily. To modernize Indian military and defense technology, the Indian government has been focusing on India’s military build-up with substantial investment in strengthening its military capabilities. To meet its strategic objectives, India sought to align itself with the U.S. arms industry, viewing it as a crucial avenue for acquiring advanced defense technologies and equipment. This orientation towards the U.S. arms industry reflects India’s pursuit of military modernization and its determination to establish itself as a significant player in regional security dynamics.

Multiple agreements have been concluded to strengthen defense cooperation between India and the United States, expanding the strategic and security relationship between them. These agreements cover various domains, such as increased integration of naval forces to improve coordination and interoperability for joint operations and joint patrolling; surveillance to enhance maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region; and shared perspectives on Afghanistan and global terrorism to indicate a mutual understanding of common threats, enabling collaborative measures for regional stability. To strengthen the relationship further, Pentagon created an India Rapid Reaction Cell (IRRC), which magnifies India’s growing importance to the U.S. The IRRC, operational for a few months now, is part of the efforts to pursue all aspects of the DTTI.

These significant agreements concluded between the United States and India include the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement of 2008, the New Framework for the U.S. –India Defense Relationship of 2010, the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) of 2012, the U.S.-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region of 2015, Logistic Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) of 2016, Communication, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) of 2018, Industrial Security Annex (ISA) of 2019, and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) of 2020. These agreements signify the deepening strategic and defense cooperation between the United States and India.

Since 2004, India has procured military hardware, equipment, and services from the United States, amounting to a value exceeding US$10 billion. Notable acquisitions include advanced assets such as the P-8 maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, Apache attack helicopters, CH-47 Chinook transport helicopters, as well as C-17 and C-130 transport airplanes. In this regard, U.S. – India joint military exercises hold significance. These include Shatrujeet, Balanced Iroquois and Malabar naval exercises, which is a large-scale exercise that involved over 8,000 personnel, deployment of the U.S. and Indian submarines, a U.S. carrier strike group, and surveillance planes.

In the domain of cyber security, the Indo-U.S Cyber Security Forum was established in 2001 as a track 1.5 dialogue, providing a platform for stakeholders to engage in discussions pertaining to crucial cyber security issues. Additionally, in 2011, both New Delhi and Washington signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that established a connection between the United States Department of Homeland Security and India’s Department of Information Technology. In June 2016, the U.S. and India announced a shared commitment to a framework for cyberspace cooperation. The framework includes 13 common principles and 21 areas of cooperation to advance the shared principles.

To enhance Indo-US cooperation in space also, the U.S. and India have developed a steady pace of cooperation between the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the U.S. President Biden and Prime Minister Modi announced the U.S.-India initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (ICET) in May 2022 to elevate and expand bilateral strategic technology partnership and defense industrial cooperation between the governments, businesses, and academic institutions of the two countries.

Segment II: Indo-US Cooperation:
Technological Transfer and its Implications for Regional Stability

Speaker: Dr. Naeem Ahmad Salik

Dr. Naeem Salik, in the second segment, titled “Indo-US Cooperation: Technological Transfer and its Implications, built an understanding of the institutionalization of the Indo-U.S. collaboration in strategic domains and underscored the relevance of India to the U.S. policy.

He started with the fact that the U.S. has always desired to have India as a friend. The U.S. actively tried to persuade the British and Indian political leaders to somehow prevent the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan. They wanted India to be an undivided, unified entity. This gives the idea that right from the beginning, Americans were opposed to the conception of Pakistan. Therefore, the U.S. had no ambassador to Pakistan for a year after the creation of Pakistan.

However, Pakistan, because of its own security compulsions, needed external assistance to strengthen its security. Therefore, Pakistan desired to have favourable relations with the Americans and, therefore, entered into security agreements like SEATO and CENTO. However, the Americans continued to support India economically by providing large amounts of assistance during the Sino-India War in 1962, and supplied large quantities of weapons and equipment without consulting Pakistan. The same defense technology was used by India against Pakistan during the 1965 and 1971 Wars. The Americans always had greater interest in India than Pakistan. Notably, in the post-USSR disintegration period, Pakistan was immediately subjected to sanctions, specifically under the Pressler Amendment. This episodal relationship of the U.S. with Pakistan continued after 9/11, as seen in the case of the post-U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, wherein the Americans now show lack of interest in Pakistan.

Coming to the U.S. – India technological cooperation, in 2005, India and the U.S. signed two landmark agreements on cooperation in defense and high technology. The Defense Cooperation Agreement was signed during the Indian Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to the U.S., and the technological cooperation agreement was signed during the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Washington in July 2005.

The later agreements encompass cooperation in peaceful nuclear technology, civilian applications of space technology, and other advanced technologies. These agreements, by all accounts, were the brainchild of the former U.S. Ambassador to New Delhi, Robert D. Blackwill; and were conceptualized by Ashley Tellis, a reputed American analyst of Indian origin, and was pushed through the U.S. administration by the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. The agreement had strong backing of the U.S. Department of Defense, while the more skeptical Department of State was kept away from all this.

India and the U.S. have institutionalized defense cooperation between the two countries through an agreement on defense cooperation signed in 1995 that has since been extended twice for ten year periods and has intensified the exchange between their respective armed forces. At the strategic level, the process was carried forward through extensive Jaswant-Talbott dialogue process initiated in the aftermath of the May 1998 nuclear tests. On the political front, the Clinton administration adopted the India-first policy in South Asia. On his visit to the region, Clinton spent five days in India and five hours in Pakistan. His address to the people of Pakistan was also delivered from the premises of the U.S. embassy in Islamabad. This indicates the clear difference in priority the American policymakers have set between the two states. The Bush Administration, disinterested in Clinton’s strong inclination towards the CTBT implementation in South Asia, pursued the India First policy with even greater vigour.

The National Security Strategy of the United States unveiled in early 2002, called for developing the agenda for cooperative actions with main centers of global power. These centers were identified as Russia, India, and China. The National Security Strategy elaborated that the administration perceives India’s potential to become one of the greatest democratic powers of the 21st century and provides the opportunity to transform the U.S. – India relationship accordingly. Since then, the U.S. has undertaken a transformation in its relationship with India, with a bilateral commitment to democratic principles of critical freedom protected by representative governments. Furthermore, with India moving towards greater economic freedom, the U.S. has decided to collaborate with India on shared common interests, particularly, in the free flow of commerce, including through the vital sea lanes of the Indian Ocean. The recent Indo-Pacific Strategy identifies India as the net security provider in the Indian Ocean region. Finally, the U.S. commits with India to share an interest in fighting terrorism and creating a strategically stable Asia.

The U.S.-India, Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) initiative, signed in January 2004, extended their bilateral cooperation in civilian nuclear capabilities, civilian space programme, and high-technology trade, besides cooperation in BMD research and development. New Framework for India – U.S. Defence Relationship 2005 was the follow-up of the agreement on defense cooperation signed in 1995 and defined the course of their relationship for the next ten years. The shared interests identified in this deal were: maintaining security and stability, defeating terrorism and extremism, preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and associated materials data and technologies, protecting the free flow of commerce via land, air, and sea lanes. The two states have already been cooperating in many of the areas identified above, and the mention of these constituted the recapitulation of the common goals, specifically deterrence. Their interoperability mechanism includes joint exercises and collaboration in multilateral operations, and these validate their common interests. Interestingly India is careful in its use of language in agreement with the United States and uses the word ‘cooperation’ in multilateral operations instead of collaboration because “collaborating” would mean that India will have to physically participate in joint military operations under the U.S. flag.

This cooperation is aimed at serving the following objectives: (i). strengthening the capabilities to promote security and defeat terrorism and enhancing capabilities to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Interestingly, it serves two purposes: one is non-proliferation, and the other is counter-proliferation, which means also to have the possibility of the use of force. These provide opportunities for technology transfer, collaboration, and research and development. (ii.) Expanding collaboration in missile defense. Herein, Indians have been acquiring missile defense technologies from the U.S. and have been attending tabletop exercises in relevant domains. (iii.) Contact exchanges on defence strategy and defence transformation. During the past few years, strategic-level discussions by senior leadership from the U.S. DOD and Indian MOD have been institutionalized in the form of a 2+2 dialogue where the U.S. Secretaries of Defense and State meet their Indian counterparts every year in Delhi and Washington, alternately.

Agreement on nuclear cooperation was signed during the visit of Manmohan Singh and was a major departure from the U.S. non-proliferation policy that was based on the principle that the U.S. will not share nuclear technology with any state that is non-signatory of the NPT or has not accepted the full scope IAEA safeguards. To serve this purpose, the U.S. had to change section 123 of the atomic energy act, thereby allowing the transfer of nuclear technology to India. The U.S. also promised to provide fuel for the Tarapur nuclear power plant, which was previously cut off. In return, India gave some concessions as it committed to separate its civilian and military nuclear programmes. Along with that, India put eight out of the sixteen unsafeguarded nuclear reactors under IAEA safeguards.

Among four foundational agreements between the U.S. and India, BECA is of critical importance because it allows for the reciprocal sharing of real-time intelligence gathered by American and Indian intelligence sources. Its recent demonstration was seen during the India-China conflict wherein the U.S. shared with India intelligence about the movement of Chinese security forces in the Ladakh Sector. This sets a precedent for future conflicts wherein this kind of data sharing would help India in the accurate targeting and guidance of India’s long-range weapons like ballistic and cruise missiles.

Segment III: China’s Maritime Strategy in Asia-Pacific with a Focus on the South China Sea

Speaker: Mr. Usman Ghani

Mr. Usman Ghani, in the third segment, titled “China’s Maritime Strategy in Asia-Pacific with a Focus on the South China Sea,” discussed China’s offensive capabilities in the maritime conflict zones of the Asia Pacific.

China’s military strategy in the Eastern Pacific is characterized by several key elements. Firstly, China has pursued a significant military build-up and modernization, enhancing its military capabilities in the region. This includes the development of advanced weaponry, expanding its naval forces, and investing in cutting-edge technologies. Additionally, China has engaged in the construction and militarization of artificial islands, asserting its territorial claims and projecting power in the Eastern Pacific region. Maritime law enforcement has been a prominent aspect of China’s strategy, employing its coast guard and other maritime agencies to enforce its territorial claims and assert control over disputed areas. Furthermore, China has adopted an Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) strategy, aiming to limit or deny foreign military access to the region through the deployment of advanced weaponry and systems.

The U.S. strategy for the Asia-Pacific region in response to the challenges posed by China has been based on the following elements: Firstly, the U.S. has emphasized the importance of freedom of navigation and adherence to international law. Secondly, active engagement in diplomatic efforts and promoting dialogue among countries in the region. This involves addressing security concerns and managing regional disputes. Third, the U.S. supports international rules and multilateralism as essential to the sustenance of world order in the Asia-Pacific. Lastly, the U.S. maintains security alliances and partnerships in the Asia-Pacific, which serve as a cornerstone of its regional policy. Through its alliances, such as those with Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Australia, and India, the U.S. seeks to strengthen defense capabilities, deter offensives from regional states such as China and North Korea, and promote security cooperation. Collectively, these responses demonstrate the U.S. commitment to the U.S. – led stable Liberal order in the Asia-Pacific region and its recognition of the importance of cooperation and interoperability in countering regional challenges, with China being the most significant one in contemporary geo-politics.

The U.S.-China Competition in Asia Pacific is characterized by the strengthening of existing alliances and the emergence of new partnerships to create an extended and integrated deterrence theatre in the region to preserve the U.S.-led order. Amid this geostrategic competition for regional order determination, China’s bilateral relations with regional states are shaped by several key elements. Bilateral negotiations and dialogue mechanisms serve as important channels for communication and cooperation between China and its partners. These mechanisms provide platforms for discussing issues of mutual concern, resolving disputes, and promoting understanding. Furthermore, bilateral economic cooperation plays a significant role in China’s relations with other nations, fostering trade, investment, and economic ties.

In contrast, the United States pursues alliances and partnerships as part of its foreign policy approach. Treaty alliances form the foundation of the U.S. security commitments to enhance collective defense capabilities, deter aggression, and promote stability. Additionally, the U.S. engages in security cooperation with various nations, including joint military exercises, intelligence sharing, and defense technology cooperation. Partnerships with ASEAN countries are also crucial for the U.S., fostering diplomatic, economic, and security collaboration in the Southeast Asian region. Moreover, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, involving the U.S., Japan, Australia, and India, and the recent AUKUS agreement are strategic initiatives aimed at deepening security cooperation among like-minded nations. These alliances, partnerships, and dialogues reflect the U.S. commitment to promoting regional stability, upholding shared values, and addressing common challenges in the international arena.

Segment IV: Pakistan in-between U.S –China Geostrategic Competition: Challenges and Opportunities

Speaker: Komal Khan

Ms. Komal Khan, in the fourth segment, titled “Pakistan in-between U.S. – China Geostrategic Competition: Challenges and Opportunities,” discussed the adversities and prospects of the geostrategic competition between the U.S. and China for Pakistan as a medium power within the South Asian strategic theatre.

She stated that the geostrategic competition between the United States and China has led to a shift from a unipolar to a multipolar world, creating friction in the international system and regional orders. While this destabilizes established powers, it also presents opportunities and challenges for middle powers like Pakistan.

The primary challenge to Pakistan’s national security stems from the Indo-U.S. partnership aimed at containing China in the Indian Ocean Region. In the context of contemporary great power competition, South Asia is emerging as the second most significant arena in their global competition. In this region, Pakistan is a significant state and also a stakeholder in this geostrategic competition.

South Asian region is of interest to both the U.S. and China. Indians and the West have been altering the geographical identity of the region from South to Southern Asia as per their strategic interests in order to characterize the region as a proxy ground for the competition between the U.S. and China. Therefore, the power balance in this region is managed by competitive and cooperative alignments with China and the U.S. for safeguarding their regional and global interests. These alignments include bilateral competition between China-U.S., China-India, and Pakistan-India, emerging as three significant competitive dyads, and India-U.S. and Pakistan-China as two cooperative dyads operating simultaneously. These cooperative partnerships, amidst a competitive geostrategic environment, have serious consequences for the region and Pakistan. The four foundational agreements between the U.S. and India directly impact Pakistan’s security.

The U.S.-India partnership has three key features: the transfer of advanced technology, increased nuclear cooperation, and geopolitical benefits for India with the U.S. designation of India as the net security provider in the Indian Ocean Region. This partnership has resulted in unlocking India’s greater economic potential. This partnership has also provided opportunities for the U.S., including access to India’s market for investments and the sale of conventional weapons and power reactors. It has also contributed to India’s economic growth, making it a meaningful competitor to China in the region. The size of India’s GDP is growing at an average rate of 6-7% every year.

Due to India’s strengthening economic and military capabilities, the U.S. finds India as the only potential competitor to China in the region. Additionally, India’s well-placed diaspora has created India’s soft power influence in the U.S. and Western think tanks and universities, thereby projecting India as the most effective and reliable economic and strategic counterweight to China in the region. Contrary to this, Pakistan’s visibility is limited to civil-military relations and insurgencies rather than policy, security, and nuclear research.

China’s assertiveness in the maritime domain are challenging the status quo in the world order in the Asia-Pacific. Therefore, the U.S. correlated with India to share the burden of policing in the Indian Ocean. The designation of India as the net security provider by the U.S. is because the Indian navy offers a counter-foil to the PLA navy. Therefore, India is a key member of the QUAD partnership against China. However, due to India’s unreliability to intervene militarily against China, the U.S. has been looking for alternate avenues of cooperation. The recently announced QUAD between U.S., Australia, Japan, and the Philippines consists of the partnership between the U.S. allies, without including India, may be analyzed as a competitive management reducing the threat intensity to Pakistan.

 It has produced unintended consequences also – both challenges and opportunities. The India-U.S strategic partnership is primarily driven by India’s rising economic potential making it a lucrative market for the sale of weapons and power reactors. In 2016, the U.S. designated India as a major defense partner, putting India at par with the closest U.S. defense allies. Since 2008, India has purchased 21 billion dollars of military technology.

West is now hopeful for what India can deliver, especially in the context of a two-front war scenario. The two-front war scenario is a challenge for Pakistan, as in the India-China competition, any capability India builds against China can be used against Pakistan. This creates conventional asymmetry in South Asia and can cause an arms race. Therefore, Pakistan will feel the pressure to respond to the dynamics of military build-up in the region. An arms race is not an option; however, maintaining a reasonable level of deterrence is required. In this context, Pakistan’s strategic partnership with China becomes an opportunity despite its economic instability. Pakistan’s naval modernization, with the support of China and Turkey, is unprecedented in history, and it will double the size of the surface fleet and submarine technology that Pakistan has.

India-U.S. nuclear deal provided India with an NSG waiver and a de-facto recognition of India’s nuclear programme as a nuclear weapon state outside the NPT with none of the obligations of the NPT signatories. Consequently, now-onwards, India would concentrate more on its nuclear capability, as witnessed in the change in India’s language regarding its nuclear doctrine. India is becoming more belligerent in its nuclear talk because it has the U.S. backing to counterbalance China’s nuclear programme. Ashley Tellis and Vipin Narang are prominent proponents of India’s policy and intentions. A consequence of this is India’s campaign to resume its nuclear testing, specifically thermonuclear testing. Here, the speaker emphasized on the need to preparing ground for American support for the resumption of nuclear testing by India.

The U.S.-China strategic competition has complicated Pakistan’s options to maintain ties with both of these countries in various ways by compelling Pakistan to choose between maintaining increased economic and security cooperation with China and collaborating on these issues with the U.S. and the international community at large. It is in Pakistan’s national interest to resist expected pressure from both sides amid the U.S.-China strategic rivalry.

Managing Pakistan’s bilateral relations with the U.S. and China, which are both strategically important countries, is the primary challenge for Pakistan in-between the U.S.-China geostrategic Competition. At the same time, it is an opportunity based on the rationale that this management would enable Pakistan to avail simultaneously security and economic benefits associated with mutually beneficial bilateral partnerships with the U.S. and China.

A successful hedging between the U.S. and China is both a challenge and an opportunity for Pakistan, and it would allow Pakistan to balance its foreign policy without needing to become overly dependent on either one of them. Hence, the contemporary great power competition offers opportunities and challenges. If Pakistan can achieve political stability and put its economy back on track, only then would Pakistan have practical relevance for the great powers where Pakistan would be able to benefit from great powers without actually compromising on its national interests. If it does not happen, Pakistan’s geostrategic location may become a liability.

Question and Answer Session

In his response to the inquiry regarding the Kashmir dispute and Pakistan’s reaction to the Indian revocation of articles 35A and 370, Dr. Salik asserted that these articles are integral components of the Indian Constitution, representing India’s position on Kashmir. However, Pakistan adheres to and upholds the resolutions on the Kashmir Dispute passed by the United Nations, maintaining the disputed status of the Kashmir territory. Pakistan disregards the Indian Constitution and instead focuses on the international agreements reached with the United Nations Security Council, which advocate for a plebiscite within Kashmir to determine its status. Dr. Salik emphasized that addressing and comprehending these matters should not be driven by emotions and sentiments but rather approached through a legal framework provided by the U.N. documents on the Kashmir dispute. This framework should be diligently studied to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the entire issue.

Regarding the United States interest-based relationship with Pakistan, Dr. Salik commented that the complex interdependence between the two countries is a result of inevitable geographical realities. During the Afghan War, Pakistan became the only viable option for the United States to access Afghanistan due to the unavailability of alternative routes. Iran was unwilling to grant passage through its territory, and reaching Afghanistan via Central Asia necessitated transit through Russian territory. Interestingly, following the 9/11 attacks, the Vajpayee administration in India offered allowing the United States to utilize Indian bases for operations in Afghanistan. However, this plan required transit through Pakistan’s territory and airspace. It is worth noting that even before the United States initiated operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan was already involved in the Afghan War due to its shared border and shared security concerns. Despite being a significant ally of the United States, having been designated as one of its closest partners, and having multiple agreements in place, Pakistan also faced the highest number of sanctions among all U.S. allies.

In response to inquiries from participants regarding Pakistan’s policy toward the United States in light of the U.S.-India strategic partnership and Pakistan’s alliance with China amid the U.S.-China geostrategic competition, Dr. Salik emphasized that the prevailing perception among the general public in Pakistan is subjective. It tends to view inter-state relations through the lens of interpersonal relationships, characterized by extremes of friendship and enmity. However, international relations are fundamentally driven by interests rather than personal sentiments. States engage in cooperation based on shared interests. The U.S.-India relationship is founded on the convergence of their respective interests. For instance, India’s substantial economic potential and human resources make it an attractive partner for the United States. Additionally, both countries share a common interest in containing China’s influence in the Asia-Pacific region. Similarly, the China-Pakistan partnership is built upon the mutual pursuit of common interests. China’s economic and soft power interests align with Pakistan’s geostrategic location and its role as a transit route. These factors contribute to the alignment of interests between China and Pakistan. Significantly, the Chinese have never pressured Pakistan to sever ties with the U.S. Pakistan has to maintain a balance of relationship with China and the U.S. Sometimes, it is of benefit to learn from adversaries. India successfully maintained a balance of ties with the U.S. and Russia during the Cold War. Similarly, at present, despite India’s strategic agreements with the U.S., India has been reluctant to condemn Russia over the Ukraine conflict based on India’s economic and defence interests aligned with the Russians. India is in partnership with Russia and China in BRICS and the SCO in order to secure its economic interests. India’s bilateral trade with China stood at 135.98 billion dollars in 2022. This is world policy to govern inter-state relationships, and Pakistan has to adopt this precedent to secure its interest in this complex interdependent multipolar world.

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