Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pakistan Surrounded by the New Strategic Triangle in South Asia

The recent developments in regional as well as international politics indicate an emergence of a new strategic triangle in South Asia. It seems that not only Pakistan is not part of this strategic triangle, but there may be far reaching security implications that can dramatically affect Pakistan's behaviour in months and years ahead. Pakistan is currently being surrounded by this strategic triangle that is already in completion phase.

United States of America, India and Afghanistan, which are the three pillars of this strategic triangle have never had a common interest, objective or goal in regional as well as international politics in the past. However, signing of Bi-lateral strategic Agreements between U.S. and India in March 2006, India and Afghanistan in October 2011 and now a likely Agreement between U.S. and Afghanistan, indicates that there is a potential understanding between the three countries regarding regional as well as international issues. It is also important to note that the three countries have been involved and had played a major role in shaping domestic, regional as well as international policies of Pakistan since its independence. Hence, it is a matter of national security concern for Pakistan to see the three major players in one pact.

Moreover, signing of strategic agreement between Kabul and Washington is seen not only by Pakistan but even Iran as a threat to their national security. Hence, it is possible that with signing of the agreement, we may witness a set of dramatic events leading to insecurity in Afghanistan that could have far reaching impact on regional security as well.

With the U.S. anouncement of withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, regional players especially Pakistan believed that western game in Afghanistan is over. So, they began formulating policies to shape the events in Afghanistan, that with the withdrawal of U.S. troops, they should have a friendly regime in Kabul. It is an open secret that a friendly regime in Afghanistan is long being considered by Islamabad as a lifeline to their very existence as a country. Hence, Pakistan will go to any extend to insure that this goal is achieved.

However, Pakistan's calculations recieved a setback when the U.S. indicated its desire to have permanent military bases in Afghanistan. Political analysts were divided on the impact of such a permanent presence of U.S. military in Afghanistan. While some considered this move by U.S. as a sign of further instability and chaos in the region, others argued that such a presence is required to help stabilize Afghanistan, which will have positive impact on security of the region. But the question remaining to be answered is what are the implications of U.S. military presence for Afghanistan and its neighboring countries especially Pakistan? What will be the reactions of countries in the region? and How will that affect and shape the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan?

Analysts were predicting at the beginning of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan that it would not be a short one, and that the U.S. is looking for permanent military bases in Afghanistan. But, media was dominated with analyses of the war based on fighting terrorism, defeating Taliban, rebuilding Afghanistan and democratizing the region. Now that the issue of U.S. military bases are discussed in public, it is widely supported by the Afghan government under president Karzai, supported by Afghan Loye Jirga (Grand Council) and maybe ratified by the Afghan parliament. However, understanding the sensitivities of the neighboring countries, president Karzai has declared in a number of occasions that U.S. military bases in Afghanistan does not mean that Afghanistan would allow U.S. forces to use its territory to launch an offensive against any other country.

It is understandable that Pakistan is not happy with this move by Afghan and U.S. governments. They have widely considered such moves against Pakistan's sovereignty and national interests. They have been closely watching the shift in U.S. pririties in Afghanistan and the region as a whole which has in turn strenghtened the idea of Indian involvement in the region among some circles in Washington. Pakistan is really worried about such an idea turning into U.S. policy in the region. The latest Indo-Afghan strategic agreement was considered by some in Islamabad as a move by U.S. policy makers into Indian involvement direction.

Eventhough Pakistan is a strategic U.S. ally, but this may change with signing of strategic agreement between Kabul and Washington. With Indo-U.S. strategic agreement and Indo-Afghan agreement already in place, the forthcoming agreement between U.S. and Afghanistan will put Pakistan in a triangle of forces which have not been bery happy with Islamabad's domestic and regional policies.

For a long time, Islamabad was worried about possible Indian influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been enjoying huge U.S. economic and military assistances for years. With its strategic depth in Afghanistan, Pakistan had been considered a major player in the region. All of this will come to a dramatic end in months and years a head. The new south Asian strategic triangle is very likely to undermine not only Pakistan's regional influence but it may also endanger some of its economic and security interests in the region. While Pakistan is engulfed with problems emerging from every corner, it is very likely that the new triangle will have a much more say into domestic affairs of Pakistan.

While some regional analysts hope that this triangle will be able to bring long term peace and stability in the region, Pakistani analysts termed such a triangle to insecurity and chaos not only in Pakistan but the whole region. However, it is early for us to predict the outcome of such a triangle, but we can claim that if formed successfuly, it would be a very unique and significant player in regional as well as international politics.

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