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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Security dilemma

Zahir Kazmi

Among other things, the visit of President Obama to India brings into focus the politics of the region. If Pakistan and India reduce their bilateral insecurities, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation could substantively give shape to a stable regional security complex.
Individual security precedes regionalism. It pertains to lack of threats to the values of a state, or the latter’s ability to avoid wars and achieve victory when provoked.
The insecurities of India and Pakistan undermine SAARC’s stability, and regional security remains a pipe dream. New Delhi’s pursuit of international prestige and its security calculus dictate Islamabad’s hedging. Cooperation is possible if interdependence is built to such an extent that regional ‘security problems cannot be analysed or resolved apart from one another’.
The stakes for the two SAARC heavyweights are high and depend on their simultaneous choices. Without stability, India’s aspiration of Security Council membership will remain unfulfilled.
Likewise, Pakistan’s prospects of becoming a vital node in the Silk Road would be undermined. As a land bridge between the resource-rich Central Asian region and the Indian Ocean, Pakistan’s position remains central despite competing big power interests.

Both nuclear rivals accept that a stable, secure and peaceful neighbourhood is in their interest but cannot achieve this. However, the prize for cooperation is bigger than the incentives of competition. If India and Pakistan make some concessions, the subcontinent’s teeming population and resources could promise a powerful regional hub. New Delhi may balance its goals to revise the international order. Likewise, Islamabad may create an environment for making this happen.
At the moment, India unrealistically expects Pakistan to relent on its demands on bilateral territorial and water disputes; it wants Pakistan to give up allegedly destabilising India; and to give New Delhi non-discriminatory market access status.
Pakistan expects India to resolve certain disputes before opening up its fragile markets. It is also refraining from giving India NDMA status because of fears that there is no level playing field that could help Pakistan acquire inexpensive energy sources, such as nuclear energy, essential for economic development. Like India, Pakistan would expect that no state should foment instability. Coercion cannot resolve these seemingly inexorable bilateral expectations, but bold leadership could end the zero sum game.
The international system holds opportunities for the subcontinent as the economic centre of gravity is shifting from the West to Asia. This transition may also sway military and political power.
China’s rise and the potential shift in the balance of power have prompted Washington to cooperate with Beijing in the economic sphere while strategically partnering with Delhi and others to contain Beijing. The success of America’s ‘rebalancing strategy’ would also depend on what is acceptable to China and Russia.
The new Russian military doctrine indicates Moscow would deter NATO’s eastward encroachment. Moscow may also react if India pushes American interests in the East China Sea with Russian-supplied technology. India’s alignment with America may affect relations with Russia, triggering Moscow’s strategic options that would exacerbate South Asian instability.
Some elements of the gestating US-India partnership affect Pakistan’s security. It has emboldened India in dismissing Pakistan’s peace-building initiatives. And the Indo-US nuclear deal has unlocked India’s domestic resources for building a nuclear triad. Denying civilian nuclear technology to Pakistan affects the latter’s growth and deprives the global industry from investing in a market that equals the combined populations of UK, France and Germany.
Afghanistan has shown promise under the new government and is cooperating with Pakistan. The aftermath of the Peshawar tragedy marks the beginning of decisive fight against Taliban. Stable borders can help maintain the internal balance, and India can play a role in making this happen.
The future might be more challenging than what the SAARC nations have anticipated or are ready to handle. Governance problems, economic challenges, population growth and recurring natural disasters may rule the geopolitics India is trying to affect and Pakistan is coping with. South Asians have to overcome domestic constraints in order to take advantage of or absorb the stresses and shocks of the international system.
India and Pakistan must lead by taking direct and indirect actions to stabilise South Asia. Restraint and conflict resolution are better options that conflict management. Negotiating the simmering disputes can create space for building greater security for SAARC to finally make up for the lost opportunities of the past.
The writer is visiting faculty at the School of Politics & International Relations at Quaid-i-Azam University, and worked at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London., January 27. Zahir Kazmi is visiting faculty at the school of politics and international relations at Quaid-i-Azam University, and worked at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London.

Source:  The New Age, 28 January 2015

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