Context: India must resist the temptation to see the changes across our western frontiers through the narrow prism of bilateral relations as Pakistan goes through a major political convulsion.
The relevance of Pakistan
- Pakistan is an important regional piece in the power play between the US, China and Russia.
- Given its location at the crossroads of the Subcontinent, Middle East, Eurasia, and China, Pakistan has always been a vital piece of real estate that was actively sought by contending geopolitical blocs.
- The internal and external have always been tightly linked in Pakistan.
- Today, Pakistan’s internal battles are tied to external geopolitical rivalry.
Major challenges for Pakistan now
- Engaging India is unlikely to be a high priority for the new government in Islamabad.
- Today, Pakistan has many other things to worry about — reviving its flagging economic fortunes, stabilising the Durand Line with Afghanistan, and rebalancing its ties with the major actors in the Middle East, including Iran, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
- Even more daunting is the need to reset Pakistan’s relations with the US and China at a time when Washington and Beijing are at each other’s throats.
- Pakistan, which traditionally enjoyed good relations with the West as well as China, is finding it hard to maintain a balance in its great power relations.
- While the army and the new government are eager to restore ties with the US, the former PM, Imran Khan has made it hard for them.
Dealing with the new government
- Any Indian strategy in dealing with the new government in Islamabad would depend on an assessment of Pakistan’s post-Imran political trajectory.
Major factors to consider:
The changing nature of civil-military relations in Pakistan:
- The fall of Imran Khan is a part of a serious intra-elite struggle that transcends the well-known military dominance over Pakistan’s polity.
- The current episode poses the question that whether the army’s famed internal coherence and unity of command might endure the crisis.
The growing fragility of Pakistan’s polity:
- The growing fragility of Pakistan’s polity is triggered by the deepening economic crisis and sharpening social contradictions.
- There is no guarantee that the army’s ties with new civilian rulers will be smooth nor can we assume that the civilian coalition against Imran Khan will survive the many challenges ahead as it confronts difficult policy challenges on multiple fronts.
Need of the hour
- Delhi must focus instead on the potential shifts in Pakistan’s strategic orientation triggered by the current crisis.
- An India that gets an accurate sense of Pakistan’s changing geopolitics will be able to better deal with Islamabad.
Practice Question for Mains
- India can’t simply stand by as the major powers seek to define the future of Pakistan. Examine. (250 Words, 15 Marks)