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Assessing Pakistan’s Strategic Position in a Challenging International Landscape and Addressing the India-Pakistan Dynamic

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Waqar Ahmed

As we embark further into the twenty-first century, Pakistan finds itself facing a multitude of challenges that have underscored the need for a steadfast approach to strengthen its position in the global arena. Despite the daunting scope of these challenges, there exists a fundamental imperative for Pakistan to confront its current predicament with faith, confidence, and a proactive strategy. This proactive strategy entails addressing its internal issues, revitalizing international relationships, adopting innovative approaches, and engaging with an evolving India.

Amid the complex web of international dynamics, the recent Indian elections have brought to light the vulnerabilities underlying Hindutva’s facade. While India has projected an image of robust economic growth and positioned itself as a counterbalance to China, its internal fissures have come to the forefront. Economic inequality, challenges in dealing with China, mounting unemployment, widespread poverty, and the marginalization of minority groups, particularly Muslims, have tarnished India’s stature as a beacon of development. India’s struggles with poverty and internal divisions continue to pose significant hurdles to its progress, with deep-rooted fault lines across religious, ethnic, and caste lines.

Furthermore, India’s aspirations as a manufacturing hub for Western corporations have encountered obstacles, hindering the realization of its potential as a global manufacturing powerhouse. Its participation in the United States’ ‘Indo-Pacific’ strategy remains more theoretical than practical, while its alignment with a superpower facing diminishing influence adds another layer of complexity to its global positioning. Additionally, India’s regional influence has weakened, as evidenced by the overtures of neighbouring countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Maldives towards China, frustrating India’s ambitions of attaining a seat on the UN Security Council.

In contrast, Pakistan grapples with its own set of intricate challenges as it navigates a delicate equilibrium between China and the US while simultaneously confronting the spectre of an ascendant India. The international environment presents an indifferent or, at times, hostile landscape for Pakistan. The disparity between Pakistan and India in conventional forces and weapon capabilities has widened significantly, compounding the strategic complexities faced by Pakistan. India’s implementation of the ‘Cold Start’ doctrine and its concentration of military forces along the border further underscores the multifaceted nature of Pakistan’s strategic challenge.

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Notably, Pakistan’s conduct in the aftermath of the Second Afghan War and strained relations with Afghanistan, compounded by economic challenges, resistance to modernization and reform, persistent extremist threats, and political complexities, have contributed to a nuanced assessment of Pakistan’s strategic posture. The asymmetry in economic and diplomatic influence between Pakistan and India has emboldened Narendra Modi’s adoption of a ‘not war, not peace’ strategy aimed at exerting pressure on Pakistan under the nuclear threshold. India’s aggressive actions, including cross-border bombings and airspace violations, have tested Pakistan’s resilience, further complicating the regional dynamics.

The annexation of Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) in 2019 marked a pivotal juncture in Pakistan’s foreign policy trajectory, triggering a significant shift in the regional power dynamics. However, Pakistan’s efforts to mobilize the international community in response to the developments in IIOJK encountered limited success. Despite international reports highlighting human rights abuses in Kashmir and discriminatory measures in India, Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts faced hurdles in rallying global support.

Against the backdrop of regional developments, such as India’s conflict with China in Ladakh and subsequent shifts in troop deployments, Pakistan has endeavoured to navigate a delicate balance while addressing its strategic imperatives. The evolving nature of India’s engagement with Afghanistan, as well as the complexities surrounding its domestic challenges, adds layers of complexity to Pakistan’s strategic calculus.

Looking ahead, Pakistan faces the compelling task of recalibrating its approach to both India and its international standing. Embracing a proactive stance entails reevaluating the pursuit of dialogue with India, consolidating regional economic linkages, combating extremism decisively, fostering strategic ties with China, engaging European partners, and lobbying for enhanced participation in international forums. The consolidation of regional economic linkages is a key aspect that will pave the way for Pakistan’s future prosperity. Developing a strategic communication strategy to spotlight human rights violations and pursuing comprehensive governance reforms are integral to Pakistan’s trajectory. Additionally, leveraging its membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and aligning its strategic priorities with long-term perspectives are critical to steering the evolving regional dynamics.

Amidst the intricacies of this geopolitical landscape, Pakistan faces a momentous journey fraught with formidable challenges. The imperative lies in consolidating the bonds of its 240 million citizens, bolstering its sovereignty, and charting a course that underpins its national interests while promoting resilience and perseverance. As Pakistan endeavours to fortify its position on the international stage, the onus rests on leveraging its potential, safeguarding its sovereignty, and forging a path of sustained progress through steadfast resolve and diligence.

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