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Pakistan-India Dilemma of the USA

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The announcement of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan that he will not participate in the online Democracy Summit by the United States of America (USA) on 9-10 December 2021 has created some question marks about the future of the relations between the two countries. In that sense, it is discussed whether the US and Pakistan are friends, allies, enemies, or rivals.

Pakistan takes part in China’s Road-Belt Initiative on economic sense and cooperates with Pekin, especially in Afghanistan causes problematic relations with the USA. Moreover, the decision of Imran Khan not to take part in the Democracy Summit is explained with Chinese effect.

Essential factors affected the USA-Pakistan relations, mainly about Afghanistan question, relations with the Taliban, and counterterrorism. Regarding that, the ally relations of the USA with New Delhi and Kashmir problem of Pakistan and India are affecting the natüre of Pakistan-USA relations. That is why the steps taken by Russia and China regarding India and Afghanistan and cyclical developments cause the USA to feel a dilemma between Pakistan and India.

Primarily, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited New Delhi on 6 December 2021 and met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two countries have signed a cooperation agreement including ten articles; half were private.[1] This meant Russian-Indian rapprochement. This development may open a new page within the US-Pakistan relations because the Islamabad government could think that India and Russia may cooperate on Afghanistan, Kashmir, and China. In that regard, for protecting her power in regional politics, especially in Afghanistan, she may need the support of the USA because New Delhi signed agreements with Russia half-closed.[2] That is why the Islamabad government could think India and Russia may cooperate on intelligence and other areas, then frame up against themselves, and create new cooperation (axis) against established relations in Afghanistan with China.

Indeed, Russia and India have many common points, especially on Afghanistan and counterterrorism. This situation is about controlling terrorist organizations such as Ceyş-i Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and other radical organizations, besides the terrorist organizations focusing on the Afghanistan-Pakistan line; namely, Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISKP), and East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

Above all, Pakistan does not want to affect her ally Taliban in Afghanistan, neither Russia and India nor China. That is why cooperation between India and Russia, and possibly with China on counterterrorism, and China may Pakistan need the USA’s help and approach again. Because India, Russia, and China could use her connection with radical groups against Pakistan or pressure Islamabad through that organization. That pressure may cause Pakistan to incline towards the USA again. However, the capture of Kabul by the Taliban caused Islamabad to be seen as an unreliable actor by Washington, as in 2001.

Now Pakistan is having a similar crisis with the USA that happened on 11 September 2001 attacks. Chronic connections of Islamabad with the Taliban and the relations of that organization with other radical groups make it harder for the USA to trust Pakistan.

On the other hand, the Washington administration sees the relations of Pakistan with non-state organizations both as a threat and an offer. In other words, she thinks that Pakistan can be used as a “war on terror” and “ruling non-state actors.” In that sense, Pakistan has a pragmatic role in the USA’s strategy on Afghanistan and Kashmir. For instance, the USA may need the Taliban again to stop the spread of terror in Afghanistan. That is why, as after-2001 period, Washington avoids alienating the Taliban and declaring them as an enemy. A similar perspective is valid for Pakistan as well. If the USA wants to control the situation in Afghanistan, she may need Pakistan. Similarly, if the USA wants to hinder China’s and Russia’s interests in Afghanistan, she may seek the aid of Pakistan again.

The USA could also use Pakistan as a tool on the Kashmir issue. In other words, Washington could use Pakistan and other connected groups in order to suppress India or trump against her. At that point, India’s latest point should be analyzed.

New Delhi wanted to find a new partner due to not having enough support from the USA on the Kashmir issue, and the USA took part on the side of Pakistan. In that sense, India approached Russia in order to retaliate against the US-Pakistan cooperation. Therefore New Delhi, because of new issues on Kashmir, is using Russia against the USA. Here India says that if the USA does not distance Pakistan, I will cooperate with Russia.

In brief, the USA has a dilemma on Pakistan politics due to the approaching of India and Russia. If she supports Pakistan strongly, India will be lost to Russia. If Pakistan becomes an enemy, it will be an open call for China and Russia to participate in Afghanistan actively. Consequently, the US is in search of balancing Pakistan and India. Russia and China are, on the other hand, forcing the USA to make a choice.

If we look at the latest developments, the Washington administration will use her option on India. Because the USA, as in 2001, is following the way of demonization of Pakistan to punish the Taliban and establish new rule in Afghanistan again. The USA does not have a specific strategy to establish a hegemony again in Afghanistan. Maybe the fundamental strategy of the USA is to punish Pakistan by taking her into the Afghan war. Thus, even Russia may lose a possible civil war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China. The USA’s “New Grand Game” will be this one.


[1] “Russia, India to Sign 10 Bilateral Agreements Including Semi”, Time of India, https://bit.ly/3mg428e, (Date of Accession: 18.12.2021).

[2] Ibid.

Cenk TAMER
ANKASAM Asya-Pasifik Uzmanı 2014 yılında Sakarya Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olan Cenk TAMER, 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 eğitimine devam etmekte ve ANKASAM’da Asya-Pasifik Uzmanı olarak görev almaktadır.