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Karsten Riise

Master of Science (Econ) from Copenhagen Business School, University degree in Spanish Culture and Languages from University of Copenhagen

Major land connections from the EU, Turkey, the Middle East, Iran, Russia, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and China go to Pakistan and connect to the Indian Ocean. Pakistan is the Gateway to India, as every one of these land connections can only extend to India through Pakistan. All this is now being modernized for 21st Century trade by China’s Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI). Pakistan is becoming a regional pivot in more than the normal sense—Pakistan will be a pivot for Afro-Eurasia’s Mega Regions. This is truly the Fractal realization on all scales of Pakistan’s regionality. From regions inside Pakistan and regions on Pakistan’s borders to Regions with all Pakistan’s neighboring countries, via land and sea up to even Pakistan’s neighbors’ neighbors on the Whole Afro-Eurasian land mass.

An enormous developing Afro-Eurasian connectivity builds towards a back-bone, a core-region inside Pakistan, along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) from China via Pakistan to the Indian Ocean. The enormity of Pakistan’s future Afro-Eurasian connectivity will be extensions and cross-connections to the CPEC backbone.

Western analysts have tended to grossly underestimate the potential of CPEC, because it has been seen by the West as just a project within Pakistan, or at most, a Chinese-Pakistani venture ending at the (yet) small port in Gwadar. Often with Western belittling and Western anti-China propaganda in the form of the “Chinese debt trap” narrative. But instead of zooming in, we must zoom out. We must see CPEC as a strategic pivot in the whole developing Afro-Eurasian land mass connectivity. As an important example, the shortest transport route China-Africa will go through CPEC. Strategic energy lines with the Persian Gulf and Central Asia will connect CPEC as well—even to India.

Pakistan has surpassed Western strategic thinking with a transition from Geostrategy to Geoeconomics. Pakistan, not the EU, understands the game of Geoeconomics on a continental scale.

With a friendly government now ruling Afghanistan with a focus on making Afghanistan a continental connector to CPEC and China’s land bridge railroad via Central Asia and Russia to the EU, and with the cultivation of good relations with Iran and Russia, all Eurasia is open for Pakistan. When India sooner or later makes Peace with Pakistan and builds land connections from the Subcontinent via CPEC to the rest of Africa-Eurasia, Pakistan will sit right in the middle of a huge picture.

CPEC multiplies Pakistan’s ancient geographic pivot potential. CPEC is not just an economic partnership between Pakistan and China—it is a grand strategy. By speeding up Pakistan’s economic growth, it also increases Pakistan’s military-industrial potential, and internally it stabilizes Pakistan socially. This is excellent thinking.

Russia needs to build good relations with Pakistan. Russia must not only deal with Pakistan. Russia must make Pakistan a key strategic partner. This from a realistic strategic perspective must happen under all circumstances. Russia needs to manage good relations to India with good relations to Pakistan at the same time from now on. Russia should strive to create a contiguous Mega-region of cooperation from St. Petersburg, Moscow and all the way down to Karachi. And when India is ready for peace, with Pakistan as bridge, on to India.

If India continues to drift from Russia, Pakistan is even more so needed for Russia. If India continues the path towards the US and freezes ties with Russia, a powerful triangle Russia-Pakistan-China - even including Iran, Iraq, and Syria and with friendship to Turkey, should emerge.

In all possible scenarios, Russia should act vigorously to build strong strategic relations with Pakistan. And as we shall see below, while India has tended to drift away from Russia, Pakistan is about to move further in a direction, which fits excellently to Russia’s position and geography.

Devastated Pakistan

In 1971, Pakistan suffered a devastating defeat. East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) had rebelled against the government in what was then called West Pakistan. This developed into a genocide where at least 200,000 Bengalis were murdered and probably 2-3 million Bengalis displaced in Pakistan’s Operation Searchlight.

Many of the 1971 refugees from Bangladesh with their descendants still live as unrecognized Indian citizens in Assam, eastern India. Back then, India seized the moment, both to stop the war, stop the flood of refugees, and to severely diminish Pakistan by splitting East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) from the rest of Pakistan in the West. For India, intervening was at the time the only logical thing to do. The Indian army entered East Pakistan from three sides and India was quickly victorious. In the West, Pakistan was shocked and morally devastated.

Pakistan Brigadier (ret) Feroz Hassan Khan, MA was then a young man in Pakistan (see Annex I). He recalls the defeat and feeling of shock in West Pakistan in 1971. And today, 50 years later, Feroz Hassan Khan still expresses a sense of “deception” by the USA. Pakistan had felt “protected” by the US in the SEATO alliance, but at the loss of Bangladesh and defeat to India, Pakistan felt that “Nobody is going to come to your rescue”.

After 1971, Pakistan said "never again". Pakistan invested ever more in military self-dependence in an indigenous nuclear capability. Pakistan’s then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto famously said, that even if Pakistanis had to “eat grass”, Pakistan would acquire her own nuclear bomb. India tested a nuclear device in 1974, and this only spurred Pakistan further. In 1998, Pakistan tested her own nuclear device. Already in 1999, the year after, Pakistan attacked nuclear armed India in a very brave and clever mountain offensive in the Kargil war, lost, and had to go back to the status quo ante bellum of the Line-Of-Control (LOC). Thus, in spite of 74 years of various Pakistan-India wars, skirmishes, and irregular armed incursions from both sides, the LOC between India and Pakistan has to this day persisted unchanged since 1947. No chance of change. The LOC will continue where it is.

These events are still crucial. Pakistan’s sense of loss and betrayal in 1971 was a collective psychological state of mind driving Pakistan for the next 50 years until today. Focused on overcoming India and “never let it happen again”. It is time for Pakistanis to liberate themselves from this “victimhood”, from this mental prison.

A similar sense of “victimhood” is driving India too, both relative to Pakistan and to China. Obsessed as India is by the “loss” of territories which India has never-ever effectively possessed, and which India never had any valid legal right to. Territories where not one single soul lives who would vote in a referendum to change status from Pakistan or China and become a part of India. Territories which in the Indian narrative are called “Pakistan administered Kashmir” (nonsense) and “Chinese Administered Aksai Chin” (nonsense). Sense of loss and vanity, not glory, are really driving these conflicts from multiple sides.

From the West Pakistani narrative of 1971, as recounted by Brigadier (ret) Feroz Hassan Khan, who is a scholar with access to all historic sources, and who was central to Pakistan’s nuclear program [1], we see how the shameful reality became erased from collective perception, that the 1971-war spiraled to a mass-murder on Bengalis in East Pakistan by West Pakistan’s military.

Furthermore, we also see from the narrative by Brigadier (ret) Feroz Hassan Khan, that reality is equally erased from Pakistan’s collective memory, that the USA did not “betray” or let Pakistan “down”. Actually, Pakistani mass-murders on Bengali civilians should have stopped the USA. But the USA continued to give full and forceful support to Pakistan by sending their biggest aircraft carrier with an escort fleet to the coast of Bangladesh. Only the resolute military support for India from the Soviet Union, which immediately also sent a robust naval force to counter the US Navy in the Bay of Bengal, restrained the Americans, due to sudden risk of a direct (potentially nuclear) confrontation with the Soviet Union. This debt to Russia is, however, not well remembered in India today.

The US even went further with dirty tricks in support of West Pakistan in 1971. US President Nixon’s Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told the Chinese UN Ambassador in New York to the effect that “if China should seize this opportunity to invade India”, then the USA “wouldn’t object”. Typical Kissinger. China kept calm. Contrary to Indian narratives, the Chinese did not harbor a permanent desire to attack India. But the US tried to lure them.

The US, always shouting up about “human rights”, did not sanction or even strongly criticize Pakistan’s mass-killings and atrocities against civilians in Bangladesh. The USA should have retracted support for Pakistan due to Pakistan’s war-crimes in Bangladesh, but contrary to Brigadier (ret) Feroz Hassan Khan’s narrative, the USA actually did support Pakistan, indeed more forcefully than the US should have done.

All this demonstrates how the Pakistani narrative of the 1971 war, not the actual events themselves, has deeply impacted Pakistan and continues to be alive in driving Pakistan since then. In this drive, later US sanctions against Pakistan for seeking the "nuclear" path became irrelevant, just like US sanction-mania in spite of its pathogen proliferation has been without effect ever since. And from a strategic standpoint, Pakistan’s acquisition of nuclear capability was a strategic necessity which to this day ensures the survivability of Pakistan. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons too have become an ingrained part of Pakistan’s whole national identity.

India

Heard of before? BECA, COMCASA, LEMOA.

These are all India-US security treaties. They are decidedly one-way roads: The US gives data and communication equipment to India, expecting India to do something in return. And “sharing” of bases will in all likelihood be US use of Indian military bases. Not India using US bases, except when the US calls upon India for sending a handful of auxiliary forces. The US will be in the driver’s seat and India will be on the backseat in all these arrangements.

BECA—share of geospatial data (spy-satellites, targeting sensors)

COMCASA—exchange of encrypted communication units for sharing of geospatial data etc.

LEMOA—share of bases, stocks, and facilities. The US can use India’s territory to stage attacks.

These treaties will enhance interoperability of US and Indian militaries in the Indian Ocean. The USA has already lost the arms race with China in the Western Pacific. So, this is for the US directing joint US-India naval and air operations against China’s distant Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) of oil and trade across the Indian Ocean. The USA cheers when India commits blood and treasure for futureless confrontations with China in the Himalaya. But the US will of course not send American ground forces or aircraft to India’s two hot issues, India’s two-front predicament at the Line-Of-Control (LOC) with Pakistan and India’s Line-of-Actual-Control (LAC) with China. This already drains Indian manpower from civilian life and from the LOC with Pakistan towards the LAC with China. On the other side of this equation, Pakistan and China as nuclear partners are working closer and closer together, also in coordinating their military realms, capabilities, equipment, data, tech-research, doctrines, interoperability, and operations relative to India. India no longer faces a separate LOC and a separate LAC. India, in reality, faces one increasingly coordinated LOC-LAC against two strong allied powers Pakistan-China. When it comes to the bottom-line, India may have little value of the Quad for the price of being used by the US as instrument to antagonize India’s biggest neighbor, China.

Some in India—even among Indian scholars [2] working on this history—have forgotten Russia’s half a century of steady and valiant support for India, even when push could easily have come to shove between the US Navy and the Soviet Navy supporting India in the Bay of Bengal in 1971.

India will become a junior partner of the US. In return, India receives no US guarantees. The US even tramples on India’s own Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with US “FONOPS” (freedom of navigation operations).

The “Quad” is about US wanting India to fight US games. To send Indian soldiers against the Chinese, sparring the efforts of US soldiers who were kicked out of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam. Letting India bear the full risk and costs of this.

To the praise of India, not everybody in India has forgotten past autonomy and friendship with Russia. Seeing what the US agenda is really about, many in India are logically not happy with India’s new arrangements with the USA.

If India lets the US use bases on Indian soil for actions against China, then India will be met with very serious Chinese actions along the Line-of-Actual-Control (LAC) with China. And China will have the upper hand due to superior Chinese levels of military-industrial power translating into better Chinese technology, systems, infrastructure, and support for the PLA infantry. If India lets the targeting of India’s own missiles and forces depend on India receiving US systems & data, then India’s military independence is totally gone. US communication equipment could also be used for malware to spy or manipulate Indian actions.

What was the value of the US "quad-partnership" for India, as China and India clashed along a 200 km line in Ladakh in 2020? Nothing. When it comes to the needs of US “partners”, the "Quad" is nothing but a thing from Disneyland. If push should come to shove, India has little help from the USA. India has no choice but to rely on herself. Economic development. Military strength. And peace. Pakistan has seen that peace is an essential strategy—but needs India to come along.

India will be better off to accelerate the peaceful growth of her economic potential. Expand own industrial capability for own satellites, sensors, own geospatial data, produce own drones and matériel. This—and only this—is the path for India’s freedom and autonomy.

Compared to Pakistan, India is far bigger. It can be tempting for India to push this. But that would be forgetting, that compared to Pakistan with China, it is India, which is significantly weaker. India still has the upper hand in the Indian Ocean, but in the Himalayas, China is building up new capabilities which have not been seen before. And China and Pakistan are moving much closer together in economy and military interoperability for joint operations which can affect India very negatively.

Pakistan—Eating Grass No More

Since 1971, Pakistan has for sure been “eating grass”—sacrificed economic development—in order to maintain military balance with India and create a robust nuclear deterrence. Conflict and nuclear arms race with India have been expensive for Pakistan—see fig. 1.

Fig. 1—Military expenditures in pct. of GDP for Pakistan, India, and China—and in absolute USD in 2020.

Pakistan has consistently had a very high defense burden compared to India, and notably also to China. Pakistan’s defense burden was particularly high from the 1960’ies to Pakistan’s test of a nuclear device in 1998 and Pakistan’s subsequent Kargil offensive of 1999.

We may now see the beginning of a similar high defense burden for India. The Ladakh face-offs with China in 2020 created a markedly uptick in the defense burden of India. Not good for development.

High defense spending in percent of GDP is a burden on society. Long-term, this is self-defeating if higher military costs come at the expense of lowering private and infrastructure investments and diminished growth rates. China spends only 1.7% of GDP on defense compared to a much higher defense burden in India of 2.9% of GDP. China has for 40 years diverted public funds from defense to investments, and this is one of the reasons why China has achieved nearly double the growth rate of India. This is an immense overlooked long-term effect. Today, in spite of India’s defense burden (2.9%) being nearly three-quarters higher than China’s (1.7%), China’s defense spending of USD 253 bill. is 3.3 times higher than India with USD 77 bill. Because over time, with faster growth, compared to India’s GDP of $ 2.7 trillion, China with the same size of population as India has achieved a much higher GDP of $ 14.9 trillion [3] to pay for defense. We see the same Pakistan versus India. Pakistan has nearly a one-third higher defense burden (4.0%) than India (2.9%), but India’s defense spending in dollars is still nearly 8 times higher than Pakistan’s.

Long-term, the effect of growth is far more important than the percentage of defense spending in an individual period. And long term, Pakistan has since 1993, for over 25 years, quickly been losing growth compared to India. And similarly, India loses growth compared to China. See Fig.2.

Fig. 2—GDP in USD for Pakistan, India, and China—with relative size of Pakistan’s GDP to India’s

In 1993, Pakistan’s GDP was 24% of India’s. In 2020, 27 years later, Pakistan’s GDP was only 10% if India’s. See Fig. 2. If Pakistan during these 27 years had been “eating less grass” and focused on civil economic growth, Pakistan’s GDP could have been 2.4 times bigger than today. Not only vastly increasing the well-being of Pakistan’s poor but very skilled and dynamic population, but from a military standpoint also increasing Pakistan’s military-industrial defense capability. Even if the defense-expenditure in percent of GDP were halved, with an increase in GDP of 2.4 times, defense expenditures in real money would still be 20% higher. And if peace is achieved, security will be improved more than any military investment alone can achieve. Signals from Islamabad as well as what I perceive through my personal contacts with scholars in Pakistan are here encouraging, as they indicate that Pakistan is well aware of this, and they are genuinely open for peace with India.

It is China, which helped tip the scales for Pakistan. China helped Pakistan acquire nuclear weapons and their missiles in the first place. The superior way China’s economy has speeded faster than India and Pakistan’s increasingly close relationship with China puts Pakistan together with China in a strengthened position in industrial-military capacity relative to India. For completeness, we should also mention, that China is about to overtake the US as the World’s largest economy measured in US dollars. In fact, China already in 2016 overtook the US as the World’s largest economy measured in purchase power parity (PPP), which is the relevant measure when comparing the respective indigenous military-industrial capabilities of China and the US economy. The USA mercilessly losing the economic race to China is the very reason why the USA so desperately tries to shore up the last possible military partners in a “Quad” semi-alliance, including India and even Australia, a small country of only 26 million people. Contrary to India, other countries in China’s neighborhood like South Korea and ASEAN with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Lao, Cambodia, Brunei, and Myanmar all reject to join the US “Quad”. When it comes to joining the US in a hard confrontation against China, the US has few friends. With the Quad, India has joined a US “fight club” which most other invitees did not want to be part of [4].

Modern and future military conflict is trending towards capital intensive means of war, and away from large manpower consuming armies. In classic military confrontation (not insurgency warfare like Afghanistan), this favors strong economies over poor ones, and it evens out a lot of the advantage of having a large population for building an army. Apart from Pakistan’s south, Pakistan-China confrontations with India are mountain warfare in the Himalaya which can to a large degree continue to be rather manpower consuming. But even mountain warfare is no exception to the general development of substituting manpower for military investments in infrastructure and equipment etc. Also in mountains, fewer, better trained, better equipped, better supplied, more movable, and better supported soldiers combined with high-tech non-kinetic capabilities pack a much more effective punch at the right time and place to put the opponent off-balance. Along the Himalaya control-line of thousands of kilometers with punishing terrain, even with large standing armies, none of the military actors can post soldiers at every kilometer. The party with superior capabilities and better technology like surveillance sensors will find and exploit the opponent’s temporary or permanent weaknesses and can with a minimum force overtake strategic points, one point after the other, or penetrate deeply, until the weaker opponent loses a whole area. Importantly, as we saw in Kargil 1999 and the Galwan Valley 2020, this can happen below the nuclear threshold of the stability-instability-paradigm. Against Pakistan in the Kargil war, India won with air power. Against China, India is very afraid of escalating clashes by using ground firepower and air forces [5]. If push should come to shove, the technologically stronger party will also dominate the escalation ladder. We see how sensors, data fusion, artificial intelligence (AI), personal equipment, logistics infrastructure, autonomous systems, and Intelligentized war-concepts inexorably favor the wealthier and technologically advanced party against a less-wealthy opponent.

With a 5.6 times larger GDP, this heavily favors China over India (ref. Fig. 1). And as China increasingly shares these resources with Pakistan, it strengthens Pakistan too, and this widely neutralizes Pakistan otherwise being pressed by India in the long-term development along the Line-Of-Control (LOC). All this, however, is increasingly costly for Pakistan in terms of pressing Pakistan to decrease the speed of Pakistan’s socio-economic development, the truth of which is harshly visible in the “Pak-to-India” line showing Pakistan economically falling behind relative to India in Figure 2.

We must here remember, that the conflict between Pakistan and India has been going on for 74 years, without either party ever having had or ever going to have even the smallest chance of changing the basic fact of the Line-Of-Control (LOC). In this macro-economic development of military-industrial power trends and the 74 years of hard facts of the LOC, both India and Pakistan are pressed to discontinue this collaborative and mutual self-harm, not tomorrow, but today.

The facts of this are clear, both in Pakistani civilian and military circles, ref. comments from Brigadier (ret) Feroz Hassan Khan, Brigadier, MA that a peace will have to be found along the existing Line-Of-Actual Control (see Annex I). Condition is, of course, that a humanly dignified solution can be found for the population in Indian administered Kashmir, which is possible. The remaining question is not if but when leading Indian circles come to the same conclusion. Here Feroz Hassan Khan’s discussion about role dragging applies not only to Pakistan. The social phenomenon of holding on to long defunct roles and positions applies equally to India.

So far, India and Pakistan have at least prolonged their 2003 ceasefire. With the peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan is about to contain the issue of terrorism and increase stability. However, India’s breach in 2019 of Kashmir’s constitutionally guaranteed autonomy, continuous Indian crack-down on journalists, politicians, nomads, and civil society in Kashmir, a host of bogus Indian anti-Muslim laws like “jihad-marriage” and actions against Muslims in eastern India - all this happens at the risk of putting gasoline and ignition to a new era of terrorism stoked by India.

India’s current trajectory of hostility to Pakistan, China, and the Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI) is, that global developments happen not with or against India, but simply around her.

A total of 7,323 trains went from China to Europe in 1st Half 2021. Volume is 43% up. Precision is also up. Trains are loaded 100% from China - and 95% from Europe. Costs of trans-Eurasian rail are now comparable to sea-transport. And it only takes 18 days by rail instead of 35 days by ship - even from an eastern Chinese near-port city (Yiwu) to Hamburg, a port city. This Eurasian rail-network now connects 168 cities between Asia and Europe.

Pakistan will now be a central pivot in this Eurasian transport network. Via Afghanistan, Central Asia, Russia, China, and Iran, Pakistan will connect to the continental Eurasian land bridge. India can do the same. India, just like China, can soon also have 7,300 freight trains per half-year going express loaded 100% with Indian export goods to Europe. To do this, India just has to fulfill one little precondition: Peace with Pakistan.

If India stretches out the hand, Pakistan’s government has officially signaled openness to shake it and become friends. Pakistan has stated officially at top-level, including by General Bajwa that Pakistan is open for peace with India, and Pakistan has repeated it. It is confirmed openly by individual sources like Brig. (ret) Feroz Hassan Khan (Annex I) and privately by Pakistani scholars which I am in contact with. As India is clamping down on Kashmir with the eradication of Kashmir’s autonomy in 2019, Pakistan does not and should not wait for India. With the war in Afghanistan over, Pakistan has a higher level of security than for the past 40 years. Pakistan has excellent opportunities with China, Central Asia, the Persian Gulf, ASEAN and Africa to move on.

Pakistan, as we shall see below, at this moment in History has a bounty of opportunities to move on and greatly improve Pakistan’s fortunes, while India under increasing pressure in Ladakh takes her time to decide.

Pakistan and the Complex World Order

Pakistan is a great regional power and a middle power on the global scale. Militarily, a powerful nuclear armed state with 220 million inhabitants. Economically, a poor developing country. What are the options?

Traditionally, middle powers have often been seen as serving a great power (see Feroz Hassan Khan’s comments, Annex I). During the First Cold War and during the “Global War on Terror”, that was serving the USA. This is over now. Today, if Pakistan would serve a greater power, that would potentially increasingly be China. And indeed, Pakistan’s ties with China are deepening both economically, regionally, and relative to India. But we must look further and deeper to appreciate Pakistan’s options. Because the World has changed profoundly—again.

The US World-order is no more, but the World is not going back to any previously known kind of World order like Unipolar, Bipolar or Monopolar in any Neo-Realist conceptualization. And especially Neo-Realism’s ideological variant of “Offensive Realism” by Prof. John Mearsheimer, which serves the justification of (US) hegemony, is dead.

The Complex World Order is the new reality.

This new Reality has three characteristics: (1) It is Fractal. That is, the new World Order has a complexity which is crossing over between actors on all levels, from powerful individuals, companies, and organizations, to cities and provinces, to countries and up to groups of countries in both formal and informal organizational structures, up to the Planetary Level. (2) It has strong Regional structures aggregating up to Mega Regions. And (3) the new Complex World Order is a Multiplex Theater of scenes both fleeting and permanent, both small and large, where actors of all types, on all levels mix and do their performances. See Prof. Amitav Acharya’s work “The End of American World Order” [6].

A year ago, studying Pakistan’s geographic setting it became obvious to me that Pakistan is at a strategic crossroads. North-South, connecting China, Afghanistan, and Central Asia with the Indian Ocean. West-East, connecting Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Arabia, and Persia with the Indian subcontinent. In the modern Complex World Order, Pakistan’s ancient history of being a civilization at the crossroads of trade and other civilizations, for half a century frozen in American structures, is again opening and serving Pakistan a plethora of new opportunities. Pakistan can rise as a global pivot.

“Pakistan is the Pivot of the World.”

Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah,

Founding Father of Pakistan [7]

Major land connections from the EU, Turkey, the Middle East, Iran, Russia, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and China go to Pakistan and connect to the Indian Ocean. Pakistan is the Gateway to India [8], as every one of these land connections can only extend to India through Pakistan. All this is now being modernized for 21st Century trade by China’s Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI). Pakistan is becoming a regional pivot in more than the normal sense—Pakistan will be a pivot for Afro-Eurasia’s Mega Regions. This is truly the Fractal realization on all scales of Pakistan’s regionality. From regions inside Pakistan and regions on Pakistan’s borders to Regions with all Pakistan’s neighboring countries, via land and sea up to even Pakistan’s neighbors’ neighbors on the Whole Afro-Eurasian land mass.

The Fractal nature of the Complex World Order and the endless possibilities of creating new scenes of all sizes, forms, flavors, and types of screen-wrights in the roomy Multiplex Theater is a boon for Pakistan. And there are so many levers, lines, and vectors which Pakistan has activate to create and succeed on the Multiplex Scenes. The Region is a vector. Islam is an obvious vector. Combined here is the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in which Pakistan is a prominent member. Asian culture is a vector. Pakistan’s diaspora is a vector. China is a vector. Pakistan’s universities and strong scholarly community, military sector, engineers, and business community are vectors. Cricket is a vector. Pakistani music, designs, art, poetry, philosophy, and cuisine are vectors. New Horizons.

CPEC

An enormous developing Afro-Eurasian connectivity builds towards a back-bone, a core-region inside Pakistan, along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) from China via Pakistan to the Indian Ocean. The enormity of Pakistan’s future Afro-Eurasian connectivity will be extensions and cross-connections to the CPEC backbone.

Western analysts have tended to grossly underestimate the potential of CPEC, because it has been seen by the West as just a project within Pakistan, or at most, a Chinese-Pakistani venture ending at the (yet) small port in Gwadar. Often with Western belittling and Western anti-China propaganda in the form of the “Chinese debt trap” narrative. But instead of zooming in, we must zoom out. We must see CPEC as a strategic pivot in the whole developing Afro-Eurasian land mass connectivity. As an important example, the shortest transport route China-Africa will go through CPEC. Strategic energy lines with the Persian Gulf and Central Asia will connect CPEC as well—even to India [9].

Pakistan has surpassed Western strategic thinking with a transition from Geostrategy to Geoeconomics. Pakistan, not the EU, understands the game of Geoeconomics on a continental scale.

With a friendly government now ruling Afghanistan with a focus on making Afghanistan a continental connector to CPEC and China’s land bridge railroad via Central Asia and Russia to the EU, and with the cultivation of good relations with Iran and Russia, all Eurasia is open for Pakistan. When India sooner or later makes Peace with Pakistan and builds land connections from the Subcontinent via CPEC to the rest of Africa-Eurasia, Pakistan will sit right in the middle of a huge picture.

CPEC multiplies Pakistan’s ancient geographic pivot potential. CPEC is not just an economic partnership between Pakistan and China—it is a grand strategy. By speeding up Pakistan’s economic growth, it also increases Pakistan’s military-industrial potential, and internally it stabilizes Pakistan socially. This is excellent thinking.

Afghanistan

Pakistan is now in the driver’s seat. Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan delivers so many advantages for Pakistan.

Peace in Afghanistan stabilizes Pakistan socially. Peace in Afghanistan gives Pakistan opportunities to root out violent extremists operating across the Afghan-Pakistani border. This also stabilizes Pakistan internally. Taliban assures that Afghanistan can no longer be instrumentalized by India as a staging ground for attacks into Pakistan’s back.

The Taliban [10], China, and Pakistan are already planning to open Afghanistan as an economic corridor, connecting the CPEC corridor with Afghanistan. This way creating an economic land bridge from Pakistan through to Central Asia, Russia, and the EU. China makes it financially possible and gives it political weight.

Peace in Afghanistan makes Pakistan an indispensable partner for India to be part of a land bridge to Central Asia, Russia, the EU, Iran, Turkey, and the Middle East. Politically, with Taliban in Kabul, India is locked out of Afghanistan without Pakistan. One more reason for India to work with Pakistan. Newly, 10-11 November 2021, India tried to stage an “international Afghanistan conference”, but without Pakistan, China or even Taliban participating, it fell flat. At about the same time, Pakistan also hosted an Afghanistan conference, and with China, Taliban, Russia, and even the USA attending, Pakistan’s “Troika-Plus” meeting had traction. Pakistan with China shows where the wind blows.

Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan makes Pakistan the go-to country for anyone in the whole World who aspires to achieve anything with Afghanistan—be it politically, in infrastructure connectivity, in security, or economically.

Reliable Strategic Relations with China

Pakistan-China conduct joint military and aerial exercises and joint military planning, and operations. They work on compatibility and interoperability of their forces in the whole C4ISR spectrum—Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance. This cooperation will continue further, into the enormous non-contact domain. Pakistan will benefit from China’s unique capabilities to command the combined domain of Cyber and Magnetic Spectrum and include Space. It will also include also China’s enormous capabilities in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and China’s global lead in Intelligentized Warfare.

This will deny adversaries’ use of the Magnetic Spectrum (jamming etc.), adversaries’ use of computers, electronic systems, and implement AI not only in autonomous weapons systems and swarms, but also AI assisted integration, control and command of a battle-space integrated across all real and virtual domains with AI operations in this combined and integrated real-virtual battle-space.

China is also stepping up large military supply orders to Pakistan, including highly capable frigates to balance India.

Meanwhile, Pakistan and China continue to build up naval base facilities for China’s PLA Navy, not only in Gwadar but also in Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest port. This, together with the PLA Navy base in Djibouti, enormously enhances the PLA Navy’s operational and logistical capabilities at the Hormuz Strait, in the Arabian Sea and the India Ocean on India’s west-coast.

This is a watershed, because Pakistan here crosses the threshold which can bring down American sanctions upon Pakistan. But Pakistan has rightly concluded that cooperation with China is vital for Pakistan and the economic opportunities Pakistan has with China vastly outweigh the value of the USA. US sanctions—both economic and in military deliveries - will in the future only be irritants for Pakistan, nothing more.

China’s export of the first of three frigates to Pakistan proves that leading-edge military exports are open from China to Pakistan. US sanctions against Pakistan already bar Pakistan not only from buying F-35 5th generation combat aircrat, but even from buying America’s old F-16 4th generation combat aircraft. Pakistan’s only logical choice is to buy Chinese 5th generation combat aircraft like the J-20 and J-31 and other advanced Chinese matériel to supplement own production and securing Pakistan-China military interoperability. Pakistan also has very strong tech competences in IT and other advanced areas, which makes a cooperation with China an obvious option.

Fraying of India-Russia Relations

We should agree with Russia’s overall analysis on India-Russia relations. A lot of Indians too see Russia as an old, important, and beneficial friend.

But far from all. Some Indians evaluate, that if India deepens ties with Russia, then India’s relationship with Russia is potentially hazardous for India.

Russia must take note of this or ignore it at her own risk. India has also taken Russia for granted, diminished the value of relations with Russia. India in her self-perception felt flattered by the USA, and India had illusions that the US could somehow “balance”, that is strengthen, India relative to China. The more India has taken Russia for granted, the more Russia has leaned back, hoping the old lover would one day come back, reviving romance of old days.

Even since the time leading up to Independence in 1947, India harbors superpower ambitions. Some in India seem to see the USA as a tool for Expansion.

We must remember old and defunct Indian claims on "Pakistan administered Kashmir". A 74-year-old Indian delusion of regional expansion. Sensation sometimes creeps in, that India never has accepted the existence and right of existence of Pakistan since the tragic Partition in 1947 where millions perished or were dislocated. We must also bear in mind India’s equally old and defunct claims on Aksai Chin in China. One more territory which India has never controled since is it was uninhabited. China already in 1952 built a highway and India was so absent from the area that India did not even discover China’s road there until years later. Proof, that India never had any valid claim for sovereignty over the area. Aksai Chin, just like “Pakistan administered Kashmir”, is just a 74-old-Indian delusion of regional expansion. India has also not been hesitant to take action against smaller neighbors. Indian operations in Sri Lanka. And notably India’s blockade of Nepal in 2015, which I was informed about from Nepalese representatives, and which had severe humanitarian costs for Nepal, as it came right after Nepal’s cataclysmic earthquake. These are histories which have alienated Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka from India and brought them closer to China [11]. India’s neighbors call on China to balance India. No need to add that India’s neighbor Myanmar is already a close ally of Beijing and gives China military and trade access to the Indian Ocean.

Indian Hindu-nationalist and anti-Muslim movements are as old as back into the British Raj before 1947. These sentiments now feed on anti-China and jingoistic narratives, even when it is India, which as was the case in Doklam 2017, is the aggressor.

India is not a “victim” - neither of Pakistan nor of China. On the contrary, circles in India want to instrumentalize the USA to realize Indian expansionist dreams, including Pakistan and China. It will not work for them, because the USA will end by using India—but they will not see it.

This is where Russia needs to be much more realistic. All that Russia sees about India may be true, but powerful circles in India want something else. Facts are needed for India to change course.

Russia

Russia is a staunch and long-term friend of India since the times of the Soviet Union and the Cold War. The resolute Soviet naval support for India in 1971 proves that this was not just about words. Russia has continued to court India, but India, however, has started to drift away from Russia, falling for courtship from the USA. The Quad and a whole range of military agreements on the exchange of information, data, and interoperability between Indian and US militaries underpin this development. And there is pressure from the USA against India to press India to not deepen relations with Russia. In fact, USA would like India to cut her half-a-century of fruitful, peaceful, and amicable economic and military-industrial relations to Russia—starting with the USA possibly sanctioning India for buying the Russian S-400 system. A similar US system to the S-400 is in all probability much more expensive and less capable, but that will not bother the Americans, only the Indians.

This leaves Russia at very serious risk of being left out in the cold by India. Russia is for lots of good reasons seriously worried about India’s trajectory. As India steps up her participation as a piece in the US anti-China game, it might also one day be, that China does not remain happy with Russia supplying advanced military technology S-400 air-defense, Brahmos hypersonic missiles, and spare-parts to India, for use against China.

No matter how distantly India has treated India the last two decades, Russia has always remained at India’s doorstep. Russia should continue to support India—but it is time for Russia to recalibrate.

Russia needs to play on more than the Indian horse. Russia must build up what Russia has for so many decades one-sidedly rejected, namely fruitful relations with Pakistan. In all domains—not only in diplomacy and economy, also in culture and security. Russia and Pakistan have a lot to work on together to secure progress in Afghanistan, Central Asia, and with Iran.

After Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan, it must be clear to Russia, that Russia has for so long committed a huge strategic blunder of not building close or even good relations with Pakistan. And now that India is kicked out of Afghanistan, and India still chooses not to approach Pakistan, relations via Russia to Pakistan, and this way also to Afghanistan, is India’s only hope of becoming part of the new bonanza, which will come to Afghanistan-Pakistan, after the initial politico-stability-economic problems of power-transition have been overcome in Afghanistan.

Pakistan must prepare for Russia come knocking at the door in Islamabad. Define what Pakistan wants from Russia, define what Pakistan has to offer Russia, define Pakistan’s red lines—and set Pakistan’s price. Simply, a working strategy how Pakistan step-by-step maximizes the Russia opportunity. In all domains. Win-win.

The facts on the ground are already affecting perceptions among a number of people in India’s security community: That China-Pakistan have created a combined front of unsettled borders. That confrontations with China demonstrate that India is in the inferior position to this front. That the USA is no solution. That India’s treatment of Kashmir is detrimental to India’s interests. And India has better get a durable peace solution with both Pakistan and China. Not later. Now.

Russia needs to build good relations with Pakistan. For the sake of all - Russia - Pakistan ... and India.

Russia must not only deal with Pakistan. Russia must make Pakistan a key strategic partner. This from a realistic strategic perspective must happen under all circumstances. Russia needs to manage good relations to India with good relations to Pakistan at the same time from now on. Russia should strive to create a contiguous Mega-region of cooperation from St. Petersburg, Moscow and all the way down to Karachi. And when India is ready for peace, with Pakistan as bridge, on to India.

If India continues to drift from Russia, Pakistan is even more so needed for Russia. If India continues the path towards the US and freezes ties with Russia, a powerful triangle Russia-Pakistan-China - even including Iran, Iraq, and Syria and with friendship to Turkey, should emerge. Strong indeed.

But equally, if India thoughtfully decides that the Quad was really just a thing from Disneyland, that productive Indian relations with Pakistan and China should be established, then Russia should still be there as a prime partner for India. And if India’s élite should come to realize that they need a big peaceful region with Pakistan, China, and Russia, then Russia will be indispensable for helping India to establish such a Mega-cooperation also with Pakistan. Already today, we see that India is locked out of Afghanistan, and India can do nothing before India establishes positive relations with both Pakistan and China.

In all possible scenarios, Russia should act vigorously to build strong strategic relations with Pakistan. And as we shall see below, while India has tended to drift away from Russia, Pakistan is about to move further in a direction, which fits excellently to Russia’s position and geography.

Africa

China is a leading investor and trading partner with Africa. With CPEC, Pakistan becomes the shortest transport route for China-Africa. And as one of China’s closest strategic partners, Pakistan can meet open doors where-ever China goes. Pakistan should maximize these unique and immense opportunities to become a prime partner for all the African Union’s members in diplomacy, technology, education, security, and economics. On that basis, Pakistan can create a plethora of Multiplex Theater scenes of all types and sizes together with African partners.

Africa is a continent of limitless opportunities relative to Pakistan’s potential. In 2020, Pakistan had a GDP of USD 262 billion. Nigeria had a GDP of USD 429 billion, Egypt had a GDP of USD 363 billion, South Africa a GDP of USD 335 billion, Morocco a GDP of USD 115 billion, Kenya a GDP of USD 102 billion, Ethiopia a GDP of USD 97 billion, Ghana a GDP of USD 68 billion, and Tanzania a GDP of USD 64 billion. The whole African Union constituted a market of USD 2.2 trillion in 2020—nearly 9 times the size of Pakistan’s economy [12].

Pakistan in 2020 had a GDP per capita of USD 1,255 per person. This compares to South Africa’s USD 5,625, Egypt’s USD 3,601, Morocco’s USD 3,188, Ghana’s USD 2,226, Kenya’s 2,104, Nigeria’s USD 2,083, Tanzania’s USD 1,110, and Ethiopia’s USD 994 per person [13]. Pakistan as a highly competent country is simply extremely competitive. Africa can do well to source from Pakistan.

Pakistan has an enormous set of high capabilities. Universities at World level. Africans want to boost higher education, and here Pakistan packs some of the best value for money in the World. South Korea kickstarted hi-speed growth with help from university education in Pakistan already in the 1960’ies, and Africa can do so today. Pakistan has military experience and knowledge more than nearly any other country in the World in all kinds of warfare. Nuclear warfare. Large scale warfare. Mobile warfare. Infantry war. From Hi-tech war to mano-a-mano fight. Counter insurgency. Anti-terror. Diplomacy. A vigorous private sector and 5,000 years of trading history. A pivotal position to China, Central Asia, Iran, Arabia, North Africa, Malaysia - the global Muslim World.

A political agreement between Pakistan and the African Union could be beneficial. A trade agreement between Pakistan and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) seems logical. Africa needs that.

A large segment of Africa’s populations are Muslims and cultural and trade ties in the region of Pakistan and Africa go back thousands of years. A significant number of African states are member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which supports Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. Africa does not need the anti-Muslim hate-traditions which India has nurtured since 1947 and still nurtures today. Africa needs unity, harmony, and peace between all religious affiliations—Muslims, Christians, and Traditional African Religions.

The government of Pakistan has rightly cracked down on anti-Hindu activism. The challenge for Pakistan is to go further, and increase religious tolerance in Pakistan’s civil society, including relaxing Pakistan’s infamous “defamation” laws. Only if Pakistan can work peacefully with Christians, and African and Hindu “polytheists”, can Pakistan get a ticket to Africa.

Pakistan offers an unsurpassed price-value proposition for Africa. Because of Pakistan’s decades of “eating grass” due to the Pakistan-India conflict, Pakistan’s cost level is only half of what it should have been for the value Pakistan can bring in universities, technology, business, and whatever. Compare Pakistan’s cost level with India, and you see this. Pakistan’s cost-level compares to several of the most advanced African states like Ghana and Kenya, and with a lot to offer in return. And with natural African partners from Morocco to Nigeria and Egypt, Pakistan can be a winner with Africa.

Turkey already has tremendous success increasing her diplomatic and economic ties with Africa. Pakistan as a larger country can do even better. Much better.

RCEP and Bangladesh

RCEP is the World’s largest economic area and among the fastest economic countries on the Planet. Muslims with religious-cultural ties in common with Pakistan constitute a large segment of their population. Pakistan should join the RCEP as soon as possible. Bangladesh too. We speak of more than 30% of the World’s population and a combined GDP of USD 26 trillion. The incredible success of Bangladesh’ development is proof of the promising future awaiting Pakistan. Pakistan should again build ties with Bangladesh.

India in her “look east” strategy has also eyed ASEAN as market and partnership. But India failed to buy the ticket to the train for that destination, the train called RCEP. India is making trouble for RCEP member China and for Muslim populations which are strongly represented in RCEP countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei-Darussalam, which are also member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and support Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. And generally, India is failing to take advantage of freer trade. All this adds additional opportunities for Pakistan.

The EU, UK, and West Balkans

The EU is a stagnating economy in the World. But it is still a large market with a GDP of USD 15 trillion in 2020 which has an enormously underutilized potential for Pakistan. Pakistan can achieve an export boom in the EU with a diplomatic campaign to improve the EU’s understanding of Pakistan’s political position in the World and what Pakistan commercially has to offer.

Pakistan has a large diaspora and close connections with the UK. The UK economy with a GDP of USD 2.7 trillion is sinking because of problems self-made by the English. But Pakistan’s close connections to the UK make it worthwhile to exploit the UK market best possible, in spite of the UK’s troubles.

An obstacle are the anti-Muslim sentiments ravaging the UK and the EU countries. For years, the EU deceived Turkey that EU membership was a possibility. The EU’s excuses for not proceeding were always to blame Turkey for never being good enough. But the real issue for the EU is that Turkey is a Muslim country. Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina have many Muslims too. For more than 20 years, they were promised a path to EU-membership, and like with Turkey, they were always blamed for not being good enough. All the way, the EU was just dangling a “carrot-on-a-stick”. The real issue for the EU, again, is the significant Muslim populations in Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. As for Bosnia-Herzegovina, the EU for the same reason allows anti-Muslim Christian groups to split and perhaps incite violence for sedition and terminate Bosnia-Herzegovina as a country.

Precisely these West Balkan countries, Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina are excellent for Pakistan to widen Pakistan’s cooperation in Europe. China is seriously investing in the West Balkan. It will be logical for Pakistan to work with China and these countries. The size of their economies is not yet large, but as with Greece, they are the BRI gateway via the Suez into Europe. They need development, and they are open for new options with countries like Pakistan after 20 years of being deceived by the EU. Albania is also a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and has excellent cooperation with Italy [14]. Italy might also be a great cooperation partner with Pakistan. Establishing a Pakistani business community in West Balkan can help Pakistan achieve a greater position in Europe.

The Persian Gulf

The Arabian Peninsula has traditionally been a crucial financial partner for Pakistan, and a welcoming place for Pakistanis working abroad. It should remain so, and Pakistan must continue carefully to work these relations. Pakistan, however, must avoid dependence. For that end, Pakistan must develop new Horizons, markets, security partners, and sources of income, finance, and technology.

Iran represents a new set of unique opportunities for Pakistan. Pakistan must be praised for having managed not to be swept into the whirlpool which draws energy from many sides in relations with Iran. Iran is not only an important market and strong partner in herself. Iran is also a key to maximize Pakistan’s Regional connectivity with Turkey, Central Asia, Russia, China—and even, given that peace comes one day, with India. India is working with Iran on a great plan for the International North-South Transport Corridor (INST) via Iran and Russia to Europe. It is a good vision, also for Pakistan. But as things are today, India cannot drive trains through Pakistan to Iran. India needs to reload from train to ship in Gujarat, sail to Iran, and reload again to train in Iran. Trans-continental train transport still tends to be more costly than overseas shipping, unless a top-notch level of efficient operation is achieved on every point of over thousands of kilometers. China is an important partner to get involved, because China knows how to build and optimize this kind of mega-logistics. And to keep costs in check and harvest the speed advantage of trans-continental train-lines over shipping, reloading must be minimized, including between ship and train. Ship-train reloading in Iran also poses additional risk for goods perishing. To realize the benefits of trans-continental train transport to become competitive with timely, priceworthy, and fresh goods in Europe, India needs one piece, and that is peace. With Pakistan.

USA is irrelevant for Pakistan

The USA is neither a needed nor an attractive partner for Pakistan.

The US is no longer an alliance partner of Pakistan. Since 1971, USA has demonstrated its irrelevance for Pakistan’s security. The irrelevance and even negative impact of the USA for Pakistan’s security has been stronger and stronger demonstrated for the past 20 years. The USA stirs up trouble with destabilizing drone and CIA operations, and bombards Pakistani border posts. The USA is so addicted to sanctions that it makes trouble for everyone, even US NATO partners like Germany (for gas), Turkey (for S-400), and the whole EU (for upholding the JCPOA with Iran). The US sanction-disease also affects vital US weapons exports including combat aircraft to Pakistan. Good that the USA is now finally out, not only of Afghanistan, but out of the whole Region. Now, Pakistan wisely keeps the USA military and the CIA out.

Pakistan can get all the advanced weaponry and all kinds of technology she needs from China. Since the American embargo on exporting F-16 to Pakistan, the US is no longer a supplier of advanced weapons to Pakistan. As an investor, the USA is irrelevant for Pakistan too, totally overshadowed by China and the CPEC.

With a GDP of around USD 21 trillion in 2020, the US does have an interesting size, and with a large Pakistani diaspora in the US, the US is still an important market for Pakistan. But it would be unwise of Pakistan to put too much energy into the US, because sooner or later new sanctions will be designed by the US Congress. Excuses for new US sanctions do not matter—they will be invented from time to time. US policy makers are persistently destroying predictable long-term relations with the USA. That counts heavily against the USA. The political strings and risks attached to dealing with the US simply make the cost and risks high for Pakistan to pursue the American market further.

As Dr. Rabia Akhtar has noted, the history of Pakistan-US relations is a history of “aid & sanctions” (ref. Annex II). That is a very bad foundation, and as Dr. Akhtar notes, Pakistan should not continue that. Pakistan no longer needs to deal with neither aid, nor sanctions. Free of the US, Pakistan should instead build on and develop the significant leadership capacity Pakistan already has.

Looking at Pakistan’s needs for trading partners, we have to bear in mind, that economies of different sizes need different sizes of export markets. For instance, the UK had a GDP of USD 2.7 trillion in 2020. With that size of economy, there are only three export markets which can really fulfill the UK’s needs, and these are in order the EU, the US, and China. The UK is now shooting itself in the foot by misbehaving with two of these three markets, namely the EU and China. This leaves post-Brexit UK economically totally dependent upon that Westminster follows the political whims of Washington DC.

Pakistan’s size of GDP of USD 262 billion is one tenth of the UK economy. Pakistan therefore has so many more opportunities to find export markets of sufficient size than the UK has. Pakistan in fact has the whole World as an option. Though Africa is fast growing in many places, Africa will for quite some time continue to be an insignificant market relative to the UK. For Pakistan, however, Africa is already a big and under-prioritized market with enormous and fast-growing opportunities. So contrary to the UK, which needs the US market, Pakistan is free to choose. Pakistan simply does not need the US to find enormous opportunities for trade expansion. Pakistan even does not need the US for technology, because in the new World Order, Pakistan can have plenty of other high-tech partners in China, East Asia, the EU, Russia—and even Turkey, Iran, Brazil, and South Africa. Moreover, the US treats partners with disdain. The US even treats the EU that way. Pakistan can find lots of trading partners which are prepared to treat Pakistan equally, and not the way the US does.

As an export opportunity for Pakistan future growth, the US is overtaken by much more attractive World-markets like RCEP, Africa, and the EU. Together, these constitute a far more accessible low-risk growth opportunity of USD 44 trillion—more than twice the size of the US market. And here we have not even factored in, that the USA is destabilizing its own economy with debt and inflation have in just 9 months exploded from around 1.5% in January to 6.2% in October, 2021 [i].

The foreign policy establishment of the USA and UK may not be happy about Pakistan’s potential as an economic pivot, and talk it down. An article in Foreign Policy magazine in Spring 2021 [ii] was very indicative of the condescending attitude of the West toward Pakistan’s potential and CPEC. But even as Foreign Policy magazine was talking down Pakistan’s CPEC in April 2021, they also could not see the collapse their Western puppet régime in Kabul and the humiliating disaster of the USA in Afghanistan just a few months later. The World is developing fast everywhere else than in the West. But their minds are Western-centered. So why on Earth should they be able to understand the immense opportunities in Afro-Eurasian connectivity, not involving the USA, which the new situation in Central and South Asia opens up for now with the conclusion of 20 years of disastrous US war in Afghanistan.

The US itself is in tatters. Not only did Afghanistan prove that the US military is sinking. The US economy is sinking too. Nominal interest rates of around 0% are unsustainable in the US, as inflation rises fast from 1.5% in January, in November already at 6.2%, and moving towards double digit inflation in the beginning of 2022. Remembering the US financial crash of 2009, the worst for 90 years since 1929, the severe prospects rising US inflation suddenly causing sharply rising US interest rates with a potential cataclysmic crash in the US bond market are a ticking financial crisis also affecting the dollar. This makes it advisable to avoid every kind of dependence on the US market, the dollar, and US finance.

The USA is irrelevant and often even a hindrance for Pakistan. It is better for Pakistan to keep the US military out and not depend on the US in any way, neither economically, militarily, nor politically.

Realizing Pakistan’s Opportunities

Pakistan, as can be seen, is going from decades of “eating grass” to a possible new era of opportunities. How can Pakistan maximize the realization of these opportunities?

A preliminary list to work from might look like this:

  1. Trust in Pakistan’s own capacities.
  2. Keeping a distance to the USA.
  3. Partnership with China.
  4. Regional orientation - including connectivity.
  5. Orientation to new Horizons—incl. RCEP, EU, Russia, and Africa.
  6. Openness for peace along the LOC with India - given a dignified arrangement in Kashmir.
  7. Religious tolerance and social harmony.

The inner organization of Pakistan must be the engine. Focus is the key.

Annex I and Annex II: Inspiring thoughts by Brig.(ret.) Feroz Hassan Khan, MA and Dr. Rabia Akhtar.

ANNEX I

Excerpt points of conversation with Feroz Hassan Khan, Brigadier (Ret) and MA

A key contributor in formulating Pakistan’s security policies on nuclear and conventional arms control and strategic stability in South Asia. The conversation was organized by Dr. Rabia Akhtar, 30 May 2020 at the 22nd Nuclear Anniversary of Pakistan. Transcription starting at 1h 21m 43s.

https://youtu.be/NYsj4JT4y8k?t=4903

The “genie of terrorism” will go “back to the bottle” in the next couple of years. It will not last very long now. This terrorism has been so detrimental for Pakistan. But just as Pakistan is putting that genie back in the bottle, India is putting her own genie out if the bottle. Jihadism is going down, but what India is doing may unleash it again.

And then there is the question of autonomous weapons.

The stability-instability paradigm will be tested much more—actors testing how far they can an actor go, below the nuclear threshold?

Great power politics are returning, and middle powers, of which Pakistan is one, return to a role of serving a great power.

India does not want to lead, but to dominate. Sri Lanka says enough is enough. Bangladesh will say, enough is enough. The Line-Of-Control will eventually become the border between India and Pakistan—there is no solution left. With China, we see a recap of 1962, which in the Chinese narrative is that India (not China) was inching and inching forward, until China said: Enough is enough. A conflictual border-relation with China serves India to get support and weaponry—in 1962 from the Soviet Union, today from the USA.

Pakistan as a middle power will be seen as closely aligned with China, and the challenge of a middle power like Pakistan is to have good relations with all, including the West. Triangular tight-rope walking between Beijing, Moscow, and the USA—and Pakistan has the strength to do that.

Cumulative national power is important, and nuclear weapons are just one part of that. If the cumulative national power is weak, then nuclear weapons may become a liability.

In the past 20 years, Pakistan has been losing in influence. People not investing in the country and so on.

ole dragging—even when the situation changes fundamentally (e.g. the end of the First Cold War), there is a tendency for countries to drag on with their previous role. Acting like a nuclear power takes time to learn and incorporate.

Terrorism - yes with the end of the war in Afghanistan, terrorism in Pakistan can now be thoroughly addressed and hopefully solved. Recent processes in Pakistan these days demonstrate, that Pakistan’s government is actively moving on this.

The stability-instability paradigm of nuclear weapons is a crucial point - not only for Pakistan-China-India, but for the whole World’s perception of nuclear weapons. I should here like to draw parallels to China’s soon upcoming control of Taiwan (which I see is inevitable) in spite of a US armada of nuclear weapons trying to deter China from doing so. After studying these matters for indeed some time, my perception has become that in Asia the stability-instability paradigm is much more aggressively tested than elsewhere in the history of nuclear armed powers. I have had several discussions not about Asian nukes but about military issues and nukes in general with a good relation, a well-known scholar who opines that nuclear weapons always keep peace due to a presumed fear in all parties of any clash leading to nuclear annihilation. I question this. He is a world-famous professor in these issues. Still, I am sure that I am on the right path on this.

Great power politics and middle powers - I see a demise of US power, but I have a more differentiated view on what is replacing it. I see a Regionalization of global structures, and I agree with Prof. Amitav Acharya’s idea of a new Multiplex Theater World.

See my theoretic work

The Complex World Order

https://russiancouncil.ru/en/blogs/kriise/the-complex-world-order/

Also see my theoretic work

Mega Regions

https://russiancouncil.ru/en/blogs/kriise/mega-regions/

Based on my theoretical analysis of the new Complex World Order, Pakistan will have more opportunities than having to "Triangulate" or tight-rope walking between China and the USA. It is also becoming more and more obvious to the World, that the USA is impotent. The USA got battered after years of occupation of Iraq. The USA couldn’t handle Russia in the Crimea scenario. The USA couldn’t handle even the exit from Afghanistan. The nail in the coffin of US "power" will come, when Beijing takes Taiwan. The perception of Regionalism (my thesis) and Multiplex Theatre (Prof. Amitav Acharya) is that Pakistan will have a plethora of scenes to act on - and the Regional theatre will have preeminence. This is good news for Pakistan.

Then there is Feroz Hassan Khan’s and Pakistan’s view of India in the Region. I will not go deeper into it here. Suffice to say, that I have noted that India has a lot of weight moving in all the neighborhoods of the former British Raj. You all should form a community - that will come one day. But some existential realizations and quitting of "role dragging" will have to take place in various places.

Feroz Hassan Khan’s comments on the past 20 years of Pakistan is a reflection that Pakistan has had to "eat grass" for decades. Just look at the immense burden of Pakistan’s defense costs relative to Pakistan’s GDP. This is a cost-income relation we must change decisively to the better for Pakistan to move on . And there are only two ways to do this: (A) Increase the GDP of Pakistan - and (B) strategically act in ways, where Pakistan’s burden of defense can be reduced. I say: Eating grass no more.

Cumulative national power beyond nuclear weapons, is very much what this piece about Pakistan’s Opportunities is about.

Role dragging is an extremely interesting concept - I have never heard about it before.

Role dragging as Feroz Hassan Khan describes it, is an exceedingly useful lense for understanding a lot of things, like the USA dragging with it a defunct and self-destructive role as "the defender of the free world hegemon". The West, especially the UK and France, are also still (more than half a century of their humiliation in the Suez Crisis 1957) dragging with them their self-harming self-perception of having an "Imperial" role. "Mission civilisatrice" - or "White man’s burden", as the French and English call it. As an English in his pride mentioned to me shortly before Brexit: "Scratch an Englishman on his back, and you find an Imperialist". How witless. There I stood before an educated Englishman bragging about his own delusions. France a similar thing, though France at least in the 1950’ies could shift its sense of "loss" of empire with a new "mission" in Europe. France is still dragging on with its old "Imperial" role, especially in Africa. And as we have recently seen, even with a delusion of a "French Empire" in the Pacific (New Caledonia etc.) and a lonely, aged French aircraft carrier in the "Indo-Pacific" (an ocean which does not exist except in some imaginations) making no difference at all, other than annoying the Chinese and making the US trample on France.

ANNEX II

Transcription of highlights by Dr. Rabia Akhtar, 15 October 2021

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6YLEOsA2Wg

Pakistan-US relationship historically has been a relationship of “Aid & Sanctions”. A history of grievances on both sides. Both sides have felt misunderstood by the other, for either their motivations or their actions.

And it seems that we are coming full circle again with respect to misunderstandings of each other’s motivations and actions. After all these years, two things have happened now. We are free of tags in this relationship. First the “AfPak” prison has broken. Second, the “Indo-Pac” is also, I believe, to our advantage. So, do we wish the past to be our prologue? If we do not, take a step back. And if we do not enjoy this tag free relationship, this relationship, in which we have no baggage of Afghanistan. We have no India baggage. No matter how low-key this relationship is, then the past unfortunately will be our prologue going forward.

I strongly believe that Pakistan has this opening of space whereby Pakistan’s identity in the Region for the first time is not identified by any tag. And this must be used to craft Pakistan’s own independent foreign policy. And Pakistan has so much on its plate. It should focus on regional connectivity. It should finish the CPEC project. It should work towards building its economy and building its Regional alliances. This is that point in history where if we do not have a strategic dialogue with the United States, that is okay. We should not go looking for one. Let it be a low-key relationship. Let us focus on [inaudible], let us look at the Region. With respect to Afghanistan, I completely agree with all your points. And also the point you made on stresses on Pakistan-US relationships.

But Afghanistan, you are right, is sucking the oxygen from what Pakistan-US need to establish bilaterally. And that is happening because a lot of convergences that existed for the past 20 years, have suddenly transformed with the Taliban take-over in Kabul into divergences. Both Pakistan and US were working towards stability in Afghanistan, they were working towards intra-Afghan peace process, and all of that has just flipped on its head. Now, all of a sudden, Pakistan is, we have been predicting this for so long, that the United States’ Plan B is scapegoating Pakistan, because nobody else “fits the bill”. But right now, Pakistan is faced with a lot of aftermath, exactly the same way our history is repeating itself. With respect to counter terrorism and intelligence sharing, probably there is a very-very narrow window in which the US might engage with you.

So my sense of this is to, let us utilize the space that we have today in order to just look inward and build our Regional alliances. If you continue to bring back the United States to the Region, and say “you must recognize the Taliban government, you must work with them”, then you yourself are narrowing down your options to play the leadership role that you have the capacity to play as a country. So, it is okay to continue to engage the US, but the US, I think, is no longer interested. In their mind, the Al Qaeda threat is already almost neutralized. That was their top-priority with their entire Afghanistan-thing. So these are just my two things, I don’t know how you would feel about this, but I believe that Pakistan has an opportunity in a tag free environment. US is building up India—this it has direct repercussions for Pakistan’s security. But there is so much positive that is happening in the Region for which Pakistan has the leadership capacity to just move on, look at the positive, and minimize the negative.

Transcribed by Karsten Riise, who also is responsible for any possible errors in the transcription.

1. See Annex I and Brig. (ret) Feroz Hassan Khan’s conversation with Dr. Rabia Akhtar 30 May 2020 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYsj4JT4y8k

Brig. (ret) Feroz Hassan Khan wrote a book on the topic: “Eating Grass – The Making of the Pakistani Bomb”, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 2012 (paperback edition).

2. Dr. Tanvi Madan who primarily based on US sources researched a whole book for the US Brookings Institutions about neutral or cozy India-US relations against China including up to the 1970’ies, in her conversation with Dr. Rabia Akhtar does not make one single reference to the extraordinary US Navy threat against India during the war in Bangladesh in 1971 or to US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s insidious attempt to instigate China to attack India in order to aid West Pakistan’s genocide in Bangladesh. Convenient for political anti-China narratives current in India, Dr. Tanvi Madan in her conversation with Dr. Rabia Akhtar also does not mention that China during the 1971-war did not want to attack India, even when an opportunity for this was served on a silver plate by the USA. See https://youtu.be/zyEnGT--hBY?t=1300

One wonders why Dr. Tanvi Madan, who specifically studies US-India history, in her presentation omits this very problematic US episode against India. It is noteworthy, that the 1971 episode is very destructive for today’s newly constructed US-Indian anti-China narrative about the “eternal evilness” of China’s “authoritarian régime” and about the “eternal natural harmony” between the “World’s ‘two biggest democracies’” US and India. Dr. Tanvi Madan also does not touch upon how India’s identification with Socialist ideals during the Cold War and treaty with the Soviet Union created a deep divide in the Indian view of the USA as well as the other way around. And Henry Kissinger then and today saw the Soviet Union – not China – as the real US opponent.

Dr. Tanvi Madan’s book is: “Fateful Triangle – How China Shaped U.S.-India Relations During the Cold War”, Brookings Institution, Washington DC, paperback edition, 2020.

3. 2020 figure, IMF WEO 2021/10

4. South Korea and ASEAN have much stronger economic ties with China than with the USA. They like to keep their ties with the USA, but they prioritize their economic ties with China over US military moves against China. And they do not want to be dragged into a war with China.

5. From India’s perspective vis-à-vis China in the Himalaya, “The problem with air power is that it definitely is escalatric” – see https://youtu.be/LaES8HL5BQY?t=352.

6. Prof. Amitav Acharya: “The End of American World Order”, Polity Press, Cambridge UK, 2nd edition, 2018.

7. Full citation: “Pakistan is the Pivot of the World, placed on the frontier on which the future position of the World revolves”.

8. In Islamic history, Pakistan is also known as Bab-ul Islam – the Gateway of Islam to the Subcontinent.

9. A key example of Pakistan’s pivotal position even for India – especially after peace is achieved in Afghanistan in 2021 – is the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project.

10. See Taliban spokesperson’s comments of making Afghanistan an economic corridor on.

11. In the words of Dr. Rajesh Rajafopalan, “India has its own region, where India is the dominant power and therefore it scares all of its neighbors. Which means that China also has a way of balancing against India by using smaller neighbors of India to balance against India”.

12. IMF WEO 2021/10 figures

13. IMF WEO 2021/10 figures

14. Ref. personal conversation with a representative of Albania.

i. See https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cpi.pdf

ii. Foreign Policy magazine, 5 April 2021: “Pakistan’s Geoeconomic Delusions” by Arif Rafiq https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/04/05/pakistans-geoeconomic-delusions/


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