South Asia in ‘Thucydides Trap’

It is Pakistan which can play an extremely vital role in the fulfilment of Chinese economic interests and diminishing the US influence in the entire South Asian region

In international politics, every country formulates its policy in accordance with its national interests. Sometimes, these interests remain confidential keeping in consideration the moral certitudes; hence, neither any country is a permanent enemy of another state nor a lifelong friend of another. It is the national interest of a state which prevails ultimately and plays a pivotal role in the foreign as well as economic policy formulation. To secure these interests, tactics of diplomatic means at ambassadorial levels, deterrence policies, bilateral relationships, multilateral relationships and even coercive measures are adopted. To understand the dynamics of international relations, the complicated US-Pakistan relationship is a perfect case study.

Since 1947, the relationship between the US and Pakistan has been topsy-turvy. Both the countries have blamed the other for sabotaging each other’s interest. In the aftermath of September 11 attacks, Pakistan has paid a hefty price for being an ally to the US in the war on terror. Both the countries at present are at daggers drawn towards each other after Trump’s threats towards Pakistan for not doing enough in the war on terror. The vilification of Pakistan concerning war against terror as well as the USA’s strategy in the Afghan war has further increased hostilities between the two states. The US’ strategic inclination towards India to counter China and the CPEC project has further resulted in the deterioration of ties. The strained relationship at present is also the outcome for not recognising the efforts of Pakistan in the war on terror as it is a lamentable fact that thousands of Pakistani civilians, police personnel and army soldiers have sacrificed their lives. Today, Pakistan has been forced into a position to review its foreign policy and examine the current status of its relationship with the US.

In 2017, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Pakistan and was meted out with a cold-hearted attitude by the government of Pakistan in retaliation to Donald Trump’s rants and allegations. The present century is an era of securing economic interests, meaning thereby economics is politics. It is only due to the economic prosperity that a particular state in this modern age can sustain its sovereignty. One belt one road initiative and CPEC are strategic initiatives that will consolidate the relations between China and Pakistan, and as a result of which Pakistan would rely less on US aid.

In the present scenario, it is for the benefit of the US to strengthen its ties with Pakistan to gain maximum economic and political leverage

In the present scenario, it is for the benefit of the US to strengthen its ties with Pakistan to gain maximum economic and political leverage. On the other hand, Pakistan, in order to achieve economic targets and political leverage, is looking towards regional powers like Russia and China. Secondly, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s severing of ties with the US and moving towards Russia is an indication that the US’ interference in Asia would be constrained and kept under constant surveillance.

China’s pursuit in Asia in the form of OBOR and CPEC projects would provide it further opportunity to expand its influence to get access to Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East markets. On the other hand, India feels threatened by the presence of China and its expansionary interests in Arabian Peninsula and Indian ocean, as it is likely to endanger the strategic interests of India in South Asia.

A few days ago, both India and the UAE signed an agreement and four memoranda of understanding in the fields of energy, defence and education. An agreement has been signed by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company to give a consortium of Indian companies a stake in one of the emirate’s oil concessions, which would eventually pave the way for the maturity of the long-standing strategic relationship between the UAE and India.

The Chinese government is also anxious about the security situation prevailing in Afghanistan as it may hamper the completion of CPEC. It is Pakistan which can play an extremely vital role in the fulfilment of Chinese economic interests and diminishing the US influence in the entire South Asian region.

Similarly, the presence of NATO and the US is a threat to Russia’s interests. To counter such threat, Russia needs the assistance of both China and Pakistan. Hence, a strategic alliance among Russia, China and Pakistan is expected in the future.

In today’s international affairs, the ‘Thucydides Trap’ is relevant. ‘Thucydides Trap’ is a term coined after the name of Greek historian who analysed the causes of the thirty years Peloponnesian war between Sparta and Athens that devastated Greece 2500 years ago. The theory explains why the conflict had commenced. According to Thucydides, Athens had witnessed an upsurge in economic activity and was flourishing in arts, and as a result was becoming powerful militarily as well. Sparta, the already existing and established power, felt threatened by the resurgence of Athens. Consequently, both the states formed alliances to prop up their defences. When two of these allies went to war, it upped the ante and both Sparta and Athens were up against each other. The First World War had similar a beginning. Germany was emerging as a superpower due to its expanding military. When the British feared that its large empire was under the threat of Germany’s influence, it led into a network of alliances in Europe. When one of these allies went to war, both Germany and Britain stood against each other, resulting in massive bloodshed. Hence, Thucydides trap is relevant today keeping in consideration the rise of China and the growing insecurity of the US and its engagement in the alliance-building from India to Australia.

The writer is a human rights activist and a constitutional lawyer

Published in Daily Times, February 16th 2018.