Encircle The Dragon


Senior Member
May 6, 2009
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Joshua Meah 5 August 2009

US engagement in South Asia since 9/11 is often understood through US security interests: defeating al-Qaeda,

eliminating support for Islamic
militancy in Pakistan and securing Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. But 9/11 was in 2001,
almost eight years ago, and US security interests have changed drastically. The Iraq war cost the US upwards of $3 trillion in blood and treasure and enhanced Washington's perceived adversary Iran as the regional power. The financial crisis crippled the 'Washington consensus' endorsement for democracy and free markets while sending the US into a recession and assaulting the dollar's status as the global reserve currency.

The victor of US strategic failures is China, the 1.3 billion-strong nation with a near 40 per cent savings rate, $2 trillion in currency reserves, an unimpeded model of government-led development and a history of visible non-intervention in the internal affairs of nations that is welcomed by repressive, resource-rich regimes in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Central Asia and elsewhere.

At the dawn of the 'Asian century', the surge in US military activity in Afghanistan and the forthcoming $15 billion aid package to Pakistan may be an attempt to checkmate China as much as an effort to meet post-9/11 security objectives. By attaining military superiority in Central, South and East Asia, and ostensibly buying out Islamabad, the US would control China's most critical regional ally and energy-resource transport lanes and could potentially open China up to a bolstered secessionist movement in its Islamic and massive Xinjiang province.

With little in common culturally, Pakistan and China share an inimical view of India, Islamabad's eternal obsession and sole threat to Beijing's influence in South Asia. This is at the heart of their alliance. Pakistan's proximity to the Strait of Hormuz in Iran, through which 20 per cent of the world's oil passes, and ability to control radical Islamism make an alliance for China ideal as it seeks to secure energy resources and silence the Islamic Uighur outcry for secession in Xinjiang. To Pakistan, China means access to perhaps the world's foremost economic power with growing diplomatic strength in the UN Security Council and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Nuclear deals, joint military exercises and a free trade agreement signed in 2006 support the valued relationship.

Yet, with 98,000 troops split between South Korea and Afghanistan and joint US-India-Japanese naval operations being taken up, US military influence in China's immediate territory may offset China's aggressive military posturing along Arunachal Pradesh and decrease the value of Beijing's security blanket to Islamabad. Also, with Pakistani army activity, President Asif Ali Zardari's views and poll data on civilian opinion coinciding with US national security objectives, the US's $15 billion aid package to Pakistan may signal a rapprochement between Islamabad and Washington. As Beijing's influence on Islamabad dissipates, so may the ISI's watchful eye on Pakistani-based factions of China's Uighur secessionist movement, which is increasing in international profile with the violent Chinese crackdown on peaceful protests and each innocent Uighur released publicly from Guantanamo Bay.

US emphasis on the growth of Pakistan's civilian institutions threatens to wrestle away the military's control of relations with India, creating potential for healthier economic and political relations between the two countries and freeing up India's attention and resources to balance against Chinese regional influence. In the very long term, a prosperous Pakistan would reaffirm the Washington consensus that democracy and free markets are the way of the wealthy world, even in Islamic countries, placing pressure on the Chinese Communist Party to democratise.

In full congruence with the Af-Pak strategy, Barack Obama is attempting strategic rapprochement with Iran, the consequence of which would leave three of the most important energy powers (Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq) mostly within the US's purview and secure the US's closest allies in Asia (India and Japan) unfettered access to energy resources. The thawing of the Washington-Moscow relationship through a tentative agreement to reduce the size of nuclear arsenals and the actual consideration that Russia might join NATO only add to China's concerns about the threat of American-led encirclement.

Of course, the above may fail to actualise. US operations in Afghanistan could fail as have all previous efforts to control the Afghan people. Pakistan may continue a policy of selective counter-insurgency, leaving some groups affiliated to al-Qaeda and Kashmiri militancy untouched while focusing on those threatening the army's control of Pakistan, the result of which would be a net zero gain in positive Pakistani-Indian relations or US security. Given China's unique support for the Ayatollah's regime in Iran during the recent elections, Obama's hope for a special relationship with Iran may have already eluded him. The Russia 'reset' may be implausible as US missile defence policy in Poland remains a thorn in US-Russia relations. Nonetheless, these potential tactical failures do not deny an incredibly important strategic advance: through Af-Pak, the first checkmate of the Asian dragon has been attempted by the US.

The writer is with the Centre for International Relations, Observer Research Foundation.

Top Article: Encircle The Dragon - Edit Page - OPINION - The Times of India


Regular Member
Jul 23, 2009
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good post. US do or not. India come up to the mark in strength in all dept. as China.



Senior Member
Feb 24, 2009
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Atleast there are some babu's who are adamant on India-US engagement,maybe there is a larger game at play, which is why MMS is also keen to hear the US Interest also, There is nothing wrong in that as long as we can accommodate them without hindering our national security, long term interest and allies.

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