Wednesday May 22, 2024

No longer geostrategic

By Nauman Ahmad Bhatti
May 17, 2023

Despite once being a coveted gateway between the East and the West, Pakistan’s so-called ‘geostrategic location’ now stands as a relic of a bygone era. Struggling to keep pace with the shifting tides of global power and influence, Islamabad finds itself somewhat isolated from the global arena.

Every pupil in our education system learns about the concept of Pakistan’s geostrategic position. The assertion was valid to some extent. After all, Pakistan did get an extraordinary amount of benefit by just being located in this specific zone. But the question is: what made Pakistan’s location strategically important? It would be unwise to render only geographical features, such as access to the sea, the basis of this location. It is just a geographical coincidence, and not that relevant in explaining the role Pakistan played in global conflicts.

It is actually history that kept the dollars flowing into the Pakistani economy. Specifically, the history of American proxy wars, imperialism and invasions. The most important events that occurred in the past 75 years of Pakistan’s history just happened to be passing by its locality. The US forced Pakistan to participate in the American-led Afghan jihad, war on terror, withdrawal from Afghanistan, etc. Had Pakistan not entered the West wing and remained non-aligned, the rhetoric of the ‘geostrategic location’ would be non-existent, and thus would not have entered the discourse at all.

For what it is worth, the American alliance was a big source of dollars in the presently bankrupt state for most part of its inception. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan was the last of Washington’s asks for Islamabad. Since then, a sad state of affairs has prevailed for policymakers in the capital. State machinery is at its wits’ end. The country is near default and utterly clueless of what lies ahead. Even though located in the same position, it no longer enjoys the exploits that it did. It is because history is not siding with it.

But the history of American imperialism is nowhere near an end. It is all set to be shifted to southeast Asia, where the Taiwan issue and activities in the South China Sea are of particular importance to the US. The US needs support in this region to counter the rise of an ambitious China. Had Pakistan not had a special bond with China, Washington could have continued to support it, only to oppose China this time. The US, however, has chosen another partner to execute its strategy. It is India, which holds similar, but far less severe, notions of enmity with China as the US.

India has the same geographical features as Pakistan. Being in the vicinity of an upcoming geopolitical zone of conflict, it is an ideal choice to partner with the US in challenging Chinese expansion. India is already thriving. It is projected to become the third largest economy in a few years. It has an outstanding foreign policy, which has been reaffirmed multiple times by other giants of the international community.

India-US relations are at their peak right now. The bilateral trade has risen to $128 billion. The US Indo-Pacific policy names India as its biggest strategic partner in the Indian Ocean. Recently, the US Senate approved a resolution that recognizes the disputed McMahon Line as an international border between India and China. Through this resolution, the Senate has rendered Arunachal Pradesh as an integral part of India, which has angered Beijing. Though New Delhi never asked for this, it is still its diplomatic victory.

Pakistan was once among the biggest beneficiaries of American imperialism. A lot could have been gained from the US-Pak partnership, but policymakers here did not act beyond receiving military aid. No backup plan for generating dollars was devised. The result of this neglect is right before us in the form of a crippled economy, record-high brain drain and inflation.

This positional shift in US imperialism will no longer benefit Pakistan as the upcoming conflicts are doomed to take place in Southeast Asia. History has handed over to India the geostrategic position Pakistan once had. With the boosting of US-India cooperation, India will make sure to exploit this position as much as it can. Pakistan, on the other hand, is struggling to get a loan to pay off the debt, and getting nowhere. It is time to realize that the current situation of Pakistan is the new normal.

To avoid isolation on the regional and global levels, it is imperative to understand and redefine national interest. Relations with New Delhi need mending. Trade needs to be restored and diplomatic channels need opening. India is a burgeoning regional and global economic power. It is of paramount importance for Pakistan to normalize bilateral ties with its neighbour.

The writer is a freelance contributor. He tweets @naumanbhatti_1 and can be reached at: