In recent months, Indian premier Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Mian Nawaz Sharif have opened first tentative steps to resolving border tensions between the both countries. If the two nations come into a political and, eventually, economic harmony, it could change the geopolitical map of wars and chaos in the world dramatically for the better. It would be the key to the emerging Eurasian heartland of the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, where both countries are the newest members.
It’s useful to study the actual methodology of the British “Balance of Power” strategy as that empire developed it following the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. In essence, it involved British domination of the world seas; controlling terms of global trade, while keeping Continental Europe subdued as a potential challenger by always maintaining alliances with the weaker of the two opponent powers, which meant at any one time siding with Prussia against France, at another with France against Germany and the like.
It was clear at the end of World War II that the United States of America, the new hegemon of the world, had no intention of helping her ally Britain to maintain the imperial Sterling Preference British trading zone in order to ultimately restore her empire and challenge America. The US decided first to dismember that empire, and to cherry-pick for American corporations what remained. After the war, they created European Coal and Steel Community to make war-ravaged Continental Europe into their economic vassal, all the time using the bogeyman of the Soviet Union to keep Europe docile. It was an American balance of power.
Truman, in August 1945, acting on advice of the Wall Street banks, shocked London when he abruptly ended the wartime Lend-Lease programme through which a de facto bankrupt Britain was able to import vital goods such as food.
The Sun Sets on the Empire
The combination of Washington’s financial demands on the postwar government of Clement Attlee and the ruins of a devastated wartime economy made retention of the British Empire, particularly of India, fiscally impossible. When the British government named the Earl Mountbatten of Burma, uncle of Prince Philip, to oversee the transition of Britain’s Indian Raj to independence, he did so in a way that laid the seeds of the conflict that is still alive even after nearly seven decades have passed. He based his plan on the notion that all areas with a Muslim majority population would become part of Pakistan, and those with a Hindu majority would join India. Religious strife was preprogrammed — divide and rule was the British game.
Tectonic plates that Mountbatten set were between India, an overwhelmingly Hindu land, and Pakistan, an overwhelmingly Muslim land. Mountbatten left Kashmir for future determination as to whether it would become part of India or Pakistan. It was as if he decided to drop a loaded hand grenade along the border of the new nations.
Wedged in the valley of the Himalayas between the three great Asian nations — Pakistan, India and China — Kashmir was, and is today, the crisis flashpoint that can, detonate an out-of-control clash between two nuclear neighbours, India and Pakistan. Kashmir is geopolitically strategic not only for India and Pakistan, but also for China.
At present, India stations 700,000 military personnel to keep a population of seven million Muslims in the Valley under tight control. As many as 80,000 people have been killed in the Kashmir conflict over the past two decades and up to 8,000 innocent civilians are still missing.
China’s little-noticed claim on Kashmir impacts the security of China’s western Xinjiang province that borders the disputed valley and is home to China’s Uygur Muslim minority. In 1962, following a short border war with India, China took full control of Aksai Chin in Kashmir. After this war, China developed an “all-weather friendship” with Pakistan, backing the country in its wars against India in 1965 and 1971, and supporting its claims over Kashmir.
Nevertheless, Kashmir is the geopolitical key to resolving the endless wars in Afghanistan, the conflict between Pakistan and India, and to open the entire region to the significant economic development future in cooperating in China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ project.
In recent months, some steps to create a détente and ultimately end the India-Pakistan endless conflict over Kashmir have been witnessed. Since assuming power in 2013, Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif has moved his country away from the one-sided US dependence. Sharif, while maintaining friendly relations with Washington — not an easy feat — has also sought improved ties with China as well as Russia; a strong Cold War ally of India.
The Hindu nationalist leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Narendra Modi, since becoming Indian Prime Minister, has launched a campaign to improve India’s state planning bureaucracy and to make his country an important destination for foreign investments. Resultantly, in 2015, India became the world’s leading FDI-recipient country, even surpassing China. Modi has a keen interest in ameliorating India’s transportation infrastructure, especially highways and rail networks. India has launched joint venture construction of 1,000 new French and US diesel locomotives under Modi’s “Make in India” plan. In December 2015, India and Japan signed agreement to jointly build a high-speed bullet train system linking Mumbai and Ahmedabad, and a massive expansion of India’s highway network, creating modern transport links to remote areas for the first time. In addition, 101 rivers are being converted into national waterways for the transport of goods and passengers.
However, Modi fully realizes that the only way to make India an economic giant is to link his country — the world’s second most populous nation — to the emerging Eurasian economic space dominated by China and Russia. In July 2015, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) voted to extend full membership status to both Pakistan and India in 2016. It was the first expansion in the SCO’s 15-year history — and potentially its most significant — as it opens the entire Eurasian land area from China to India via Pakistan, and westward to Kazakhstan, Russia and other member states of the Eurasian Economic Union including Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.
In 2015, the SCO states officially endorsed participation in China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ project. Modi would definitely want to link upgraded Indian railway network to China’s Silk Road project. But, he must acknowledge the fact that détente with Pakistan is the most important geographical key to success.
That Eurasian economic agenda was clearly a driving motive for Modi’s surprise visit to Lahore. It was the first trip to Pakistan by an Indian prime minister since 1999.
Sharif, in recent months, has engaged Pakistan in a subtle but significant geopolitical shift. For decades, Saudi Arabia had considered Pakistan as a vassal state; economically backward and dependent on Saudi financial largesse. But, the position is clearly changing under Nawaz Sharif. When Saudi Defence Minister Prince Salman announced the formation of a Saudi-led coalition of 34 Muslims states to fight ISIS in Syria, Pakistan showed a surprise and its reluctance to join the bloc, though it later joined it.
Potentially far more important is the development, however, of relations between Pakistan and India. Modi and Sharif met privately in July 2015 in Ufa, Russia at an SCO summit, where both agreed on direct cooperation on anti-terrorism measures and Sharif invited Modi to the 2016 South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Islamabad which Modi had accepted.
Now, with a clear desire on the part of both Sharif and Modi to defuse tensions on Kashmir and other disputes that have kept Pakistan and India in a state of constant tension since 1947, the prospects are more real than ever in recent decades to create détente and even economic cooperation.
With China and Russia both engaged in positive dialogue with both countries, and the immense economic prospects of China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, along with Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union, Zbigniew Brzezinski’s worst nightmare — the economic coalescence of the nations of Eurasia including India, China and Russia — is at hand. Iran would also be willing to join the Eurasian economic space. It has observer status in SCO and with lifting of sanctions its full membership is in the offing. A view to the Eurasian map shows the vast and exciting new geopolitical space emerging.
In his 1997 book ‘The Grand Chessboard’ Brzezinski, the architect of the 1979 CIA Mujahideen war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, noted, “It is imperative that no Eurasian challenger emerges, capable of dominating Eurasia and thus of also challenging America.”
Brzezinski went on to elaborate the threat of that Eurasian emergence:
“In that context, how America ‘manages’ Eurasia is critical. A power that dominates Eurasia would control two of the world’s three most advanced and economically productive regions. A mere glance at the map also suggests that control over Eurasia would almost automatically entail Africa’s subordination, rendering the Western Hemisphere and Oceania (Australia) geopolitically peripheral to the world’s central continent. About 75 per cent of the world’s people live in Eurasia, and most of the world’s physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil. Eurasia accounts for about three-fourths of the world’s known energy resources.”
The challenge for the Eurasian SCO nations, including Pakistan and India now, will be to prevent “terror” and other disruptions from sabotaging the emerging détente between Pakistan and India.
The coming months will be crucial for the future of Eurasia and, by extension, for peaceful global economic and political development. Again, Russia and China are playing a constructive, mediating role and the West, especially Washington, and her allies are trying everything to hinder that.
Courtesy: New Eastern Outlook