Though tilt towards India is still there but in recent months Washington has straightened it a bit in a bid to accommodate Pakistan. Why?
THE lingering war in Ukraine has ushered in deeply disruptive geopolitical shifts. Europe led by the US, has put everything on the line to ensure Ukraine prevails. With NATO’s weight behind Ukraine’s forces, the invading Russian troops are facing stiff resistance. So much so that the powerful Russian Army had to bear the humiliation of retreating from some of its conquests to the approaching Ukrainian forces, including the earlier captured city of Kharkiv.
As things stand, the war in Ukraine shows every indication that it is not going well for Russia. But so isn’t it for the west whose help for Ukraine has at best ensured a stalemate. For now, the west is working to bog Russia down in Ukraine and Russia has dug its heels in, even threatening to use nuclear weapons if brought to bay. It is because the stakes are high for both.
Russia’s invasion has brought back the geopolitics of the cold war. Moscow’s increasing defiance of the west and China’s inexorable rise has confronted the US and the EU with a new existential crisis.
Russia, on the other hand, has legitimate fears of being encircled by the west and the NATO military bases reaching its doorstep. Many of the Eastern European countries which were once a part of the USSR-led Warsaw Pact have become a part of the NATO, heightening Russia’s insecurity. The growing likelihood of Ukraine also joining NATO became the last straw for Putin.
But who is right and who is wrong hardly matters in geopolitics. It is the power that matters and which, in turn, also shapes what is right and what is wrong. This is already playing out in the case of Ukraine. The west, led by the US, has complete control of the narrative. West has again put on a moralistic lens on the war: a conflict between flawless virtue and pure evil.
But this could change should the outcome of the war favour Russia. A Russian victory or at least an upper hand in the war can confront America with one of its severest tests as the world’s sole superpower. Some western experts have already written the epitaph of America’s unipolar moment. It would be interesting to see who blinks first in this great power war of nerves. But America, despite its recent setback in Afghanistan, its failure to have its way in Syria in the teeth of the opposition from Russia and Iran, remains the world’s No 1 power. Its GDP and defense expenditure remains several times higher than its nearest competitor China. But in Ukraine, we are at an interesting moment in history. The outcome of the war will determine the new global geopolitics if not the new superpower of the world.
And in fact, new geopolitics is already shaping up and one of its visible fallouts is also being registered across Asia. The US seems to have doubled down on its efforts to contain China. US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taiwan was a step in that direction. It angered China, ratcheting up tensions between the two superpowers. China subsequently carried out live-fire military drills encircling Taiwan.
Another visible demonstration of the US recalibrating its policy is in South Asia. While the tilt towards India remains very much in place, the US has restored a degree of its old warmth in its relations with Pakistan. It was evident when recently the US state department spokesman Ned Price said that both India and Pakistan were US partners, in response to the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar raising questions over the “merits” of the US-Pakistan relationship. What is more, the warmth has been visible in the interactions between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pakistani foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto. Earlier this month, the US State Department approved a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to Pakistan for the sustainability of the Pakistan Air Force F-16 fleet and equipment at the cost of $450 million.
Though tilt towards India is still there but in recent months, the US has straightened it a bit in a bid to accommodate Pakistan which under Imran Khan was threatening to draw closer to China-Russia axis. But with Khan’s loss of power in a no-confidence vote which he blames on the US, Washington has sought to repair its otherwise frayed relations with Islamabad and also begun to respond to its concerns. And going by Price’s statement, the US may also be playing a furtive role to get India and Pakistan to restore engagement.
“We also want to do everything we can to see to it that these neighbours have relations with one another that are as constructive as can be possible. And so that’s another point of emphasis,” Price said as part of his response to Jaishankar’s criticism.
One of the big picture takeaways of these developments is the US effort to nibble away at China’s geopolitical sphere of influence. And Pakistan has been an abiding China ally. Basically, with the Ukraine war on, geopolitics is in a state of flux. One thing is fo sure, the war’s end and its outcome is certain to alter the world fundamentally. And possibly South Asia too.
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