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Pakistan-India Dilemma in USA’s China Strategy

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On September 25, 2021, USA President, Joe Biden met with the leaders of India, Japan and Australia in Washington for the United Nations (UN) General Assembly meetings and held the Quad Leaders’ Summit (QUAD). Just before this summit, Biden met with the Prime Minister of India, which has an important place in the strategy of “balancing China” in the Indo-Pacific, Narendre Modi. While the USA is trying to make its hegemony sustainable by strengthening the QUAD formation with a defense alliance like AUKUS; It also asks QUAD countries to support the strategy of containment-suppression of China. However, the developments in Afghanistan have worried the USA’s allies in both Europe and Asia-Pacific. One of these countries is India, which perceives the threat from the Taliban administration in Afghanistan and wants the USA to reconsider its relations with Pakistan and the Taliban.

The contradictory steps of the Washington administration in Afghanistan cause New Delhi to hesitate in its strategy against Beijing. It also causes other QUAD members to worry; not just India. In particular, China’s close neighbors, India and Japan, have lost confidence in the USA in this regard.

Such that, Japan calls on its European allies such as France, Germany and England to support the Indo-Pacific region in order to reduce the risk of conflict in the region and to ensure its own security after the AUKUS step of the USA.

The question that makes India, as well as Japan, think is this: Can the USA, which has turned a blind eye to the Taliban’s influence by withdrawing from Afghanistan today, and even opened a space for China to establish its influence, leave its Asia-Pacific allies undefended against China tomorrow?

Another question that makes India think about USA’s policies concerns Pakistan: While the USA does not support India’s strategy of Pakistan, Taliban and Afghanistan; Why would India risk itself by joining the USA’s dangerous game in the South China Sea? Why would the New Delhi administration, which could not find the necessary support from the United States regarding Pakistan issue, take the risk of a conflict with China in the Taiwan Strait, which is China’s “backyard”?

The Washington administration states that Pakistan is India’s problem and that its interests in Pakistan diverge from India’s. According to some experts, if New Delhi does not receive sufficient support from Washington regarding Pakistan issue, it may assert, in the future, that Taiwan, which is on the agenda of QUAD, is actually “the problem of the USA”.[1] Because although it sees India as its “ally”, the USA refrains from having an attitude against Pakistan. It would be a simple comment to explain this as “an effort to keep close relations with Pakistan in order to break the influence of China”. Because Pakistan is at a critical point in the USA’s Iran, Central Asia and China policy. If Washington gives up to cooperate with Islamabad and takes a hostile stance towards it, it will completely lose its dominance (rimland) in Asia.

Moreover, if the USA makes the policy change that India wants in Pakistan-Afghanistan politics, it will try to get much more from New Delhi in return. Currently, India supports the USA’s Indo-Pacific strategy. However, Washington wants New Delhi to extend this support to make it includes the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.

On the other hand, the “Pakistan-Taiwan bargain” between the USA and India is not an equivalent bargain. First of all, Pakistan is an actor that cannot be discarded by the United States because it is a nuclear power. In other words, the Washington administration, just like in Afghanistan, cannot make an easy policy change regarding Pakistan. Because the destabilization of Pakistan and the seizure of nuclear weapons by an uncontrollable power will be no different from disaster scenarios for the USA.

Also, India has little reason to engage in further tensions and conflicts with China over the Taiwan Strait. India thinks that if it moves its land war with China to the South China Sea, it will lose many of its border regions (Arunachal Pradesh, Gallowan River and Ladakh) to China. However, the Beijing administration has also begun to intervene in the Indian Ocean, which is India’s “backyard”. So India feels the need to retaliate China by entering China’s “backyard”, the South China Sea. With or without the USA factor, India is in conflict with both Pakistan and China. Since the Washington administration does not take any responsibility in this regard, it is not disturbed by the geo-political jamming situation that New Delhi is in. Indeed, India’s conflict with China and Pakistan would be a low-cost war for the United States. 

The USA needs Pakistan, as much as it does India, in its strategy to contain China by land. For this reason, the White House administration displays a neutral attitude as much as possible in the Kashmir Conflict between Pakistan and India. Here, China’s goals on the Pakistan and Afghanistan line make Pakistan an indispensable actor in the eyes of the United States. In this context, the USA needs Pakistan in order to stop and curb China’s rise in Asia. Also, China is currently trying to establish an axis of cooperation on the axis of Iran, Pakistan, the Taliban (Afghanistan) and Tajikistan. This signalizes a new generation of “Rimland Belt/Edge Belt”.

In this context, Beijing wants to establish its global hegemony by seizing the aforementioned generation. If the USA does not take the necessary steps to break the axis China has established through Pakistan-Taliban(Afghanistan)-Iran, India may reconsider its moves against China in the Indo-Pacific. In this regard, India and Japan, together with their European allies, can form a new front against China.

As a matter of fact, the USA established the AUKUS alliance to strengthen Anglo-Saxon cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and excluded India and Japan, the other members of QUAD. This step is similar to the USA’s leaving its NATO allies alone in Afghanistan. Still, New Delhi needs the support of the Washington administration. However, Kashmir also has a problem of trust to the United States due to policies regarding Pakistan and the Taliban. Therefore, in the future, India may not be a reliable partner of the USA in the Indo-Pacific. Because Russia has recently become a reliable partner for India as a balancing actor between the USA and China.


[1] “If Pakistan Remains India’s Problem, Taiwan Will Remain America’s”, Orfonline, https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/if-pakistan-remains-indias-problem-taiwan-will-remain-americas/, (Access date: 25.09.2021).

Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk Tamer, 2014 yılında Sakarya Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Aynı yıl Gazi Üniversitesi Ortadoğu ve Afrika Çalışmaları Bilim Dalı’nda yüksek lisans eğitimine başlamıştır. 2016 yılında “1990 Sonrası İran’ın Irak Politikası” başlıklı teziyle master eğitimini tamamlayan Tamer, 2017 yılında ANKASAM’da Araştırma Asistanı olarak göreve başlamış ve aynı yıl Gazi Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Doktora Programı’na kabul edilmiştir. Uzmanlık alanları İran, Mezhepler, Tasavvuf, Mehdilik, Kimlik Siyaseti ve Asya-Pasifik olan ve iyi derecede İngilizce bilen Tamer, Gazi Üniversitesindeki doktora eğitimini “Sosyal İnşacılık Teorisi ve Güvenlikleştirme Yaklaşımı Çerçevesinde İran İslam Cumhuriyeti’nde Kimlik İnşası Süreci ve Mehdilik” adlı tez çalışmasıyla 2022 yılında tamamlamıştır. Şu anda ise ANKASAM’da Asya-Pasifik Uzmanı olarak görev almaktadır.