Pakistan-Iran Bilateral Relations: More Growth, But Not Close – Part One: Afghanistan, India and China
Pakistan and Iran have worked together to bring stability to Afghanistan, although they do not see eye-to-eye on a future role for the Taliban. There is much potential in their relationship, especially with regard to the export of energy and Pakistan will progressively deepen its relationship with Iran. That relationship will also be informed by Pakistan’s relationship with China, its interests in Afghanistan and Central Asia, and its ongoing enmity with India.
India’s Balochistan policy should be based on a clear-headed assessment of its stakes and its capability to intervene meaningfully. The Baloch issue should not be used by New Delhi as a bargaining chip or a quick-fix to any of the problems that it may have with Pakistan because such short-termism will harm both the Baloch cause and India’s overall interests.
The Baloch people live in a resource rich, strategic territory next to Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf and in the middle of Iran, Central Asia and the Indian Sub-continent. Of the countries with large Baloch populations, Pakistan is the most reliant upon the ports and resources of its insurgent Baloch province. Given the structure of the Pakistani state and the division of the Baloch people across three countries, a standalone secession of Balochistan in the manner of Bangladesh seems infeasible.
The current Chinese administration has set developing and improving Sino-Indian relations as one of its top foreign policy priorities. Continuing to build upon a decade-long pragmatism in managing territorial disputes, the Chinese and Indian leaders set their sights on expanding bilateral co-operation ranging from trade and investment, to broader issues such as climate change. Recent developments, however, have again highlighted the deep distrust between the two countries.
Julian Cribb, author of Surviving the 21st Century, The Coming Famine and seven other books, discusses how scarcities of fresh water and topsoil, combined with the impact of climate change on regional food production, highlight the growing strategic significance of these primary resources for human survival, health and wellbeing as potential drivers of conflict and mass migration to 2050 and beyond.
Nepal has a complicated political geometry and an ongoing shortage of energy, the implications of which are reflected in the relationships with its giant neighbours. Its hydro-power resources, and Sino-Indian negotiations for access to those resources, will continue to be Nepal’s primary saleable asset.
FDI Associate Anand Kumar contrasts the approaches taken by China and India in South Asia. Mr Kumar observes that South Asia is not the only region in which China is very active and that its activities there are part of a larger, well-crafted strategy to achieve the status of a global power.
India, on the other hand, Mr Kumar finds, simply seems to be reacting and cannot hope to match or contain Chinese influence in the region unless its own economic development becomes a model to be followed by other countries.
Given the problems confronting SAARC, the best course of action will be for India to allow the organisation to die a natural death while continuing to engage like-minded neighbours on issues of mutual interest through initiatives that will hopefully coalesce into a more effective successor to SAARC.
As an intergovernmental organisation, SAARC has been gridlocked by a combination of historical, geographical, ethno-religious and political factors, including a sense of insecurity towards India, and the absence of tangible and achievable shared regional goals.
Developments in the Middle East mean that next US President should review Washington’s policy towards the region, place it squarely within the vital national interests of the United States and appoint a presidential taskforce to make specific regional policy recommendations.