Great powers & South Asian security dynamics

South Asia has experienced both hard and soft power projection by the US and China that plays fundamental role in shaping the outlook of regional security architecture

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South Asia- a region embedded with geographical proximities among nuclear powers-Pakistan, India, and China whilst at center stage fragile Afghanistan often known for embroiling turmoil, and escalated hostilities through mercenary warfare between regional actors at inter and intrastate levels. Adding further, adjacently nuclear aspirant – Iran-power house of Persian Gulf plays a fundamental role in determining the geopolitical outlook of the region. Notwithstanding its hostile configuration the region remains a key component of the geopolitical competition among the great powers, in particular during the post-cold war era, this region remained an epicenter of geopolitical intrigue between the US and China. In broader terms, both states hold regional engagement through shaping alliance and strategic partnership with regional states, in particular India and Pakistan. The alliances of regional states with engaged global powers in the region at the vary point is one of the key aspects of extended geopolitical competition. The rivalry between India and Pakistan spurs unprecedented vulnerabilities that allowed the US and China to extend their regional sphere of influence and also pave the path for containment hegemonic designs of each other through different means. South Asia has experienced both hard and soft power projection by the US and China, both former and latter seemingly working for major powers in the attainment of their respective goals. Another unorthodox factor, the extended competition of Washington- Beijing in South Asia also holds influence on the regional equation of balance of power. Nevertheless, China has an edge over the US due to greater acceptance of soft power projection through economic means. On the other hand, The US strategic policies vis-à-vis Beijing’s regional economic progression preluded with skepticism, predominantly lured with hostility, contention where necessary, and controlling governance of sovereign states, thus generating a vicious drive through hard power. History vindicated that ever since China projected its economic expansionism in the region. The US strategic response more often remained assertive and coercive to contain the Chinese notion of economic expansionism through Soft power. Diplomatically, Washington fostered harmonious defense and military-strategic ties with Delhi to checkmate Beijing through promoting regional actors as competing power. To keep its arms sales industry running, the US Signed the Next Step in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) in the year 2004 to define the key emblems of the Indo-US bilateral nexus in foreseeable future. Apart from civil nuclear energy deals, the US-supported India in NSG membership bids, providing equal leverages to the NPT member states. It is pertinent to highlight that since the year 2012, the arms sales to India have witnessed a mounting increase to 557% to date. To undermine China’s flagship project CPEC, its policy remained the mirror image of Indian narratives against Pakistan, thus fostering hostile regional configuration through promoting conflict escalation between two regional nuclear powers and also pushing the entire region into a military-industrial complex through disrupting the equation of balance of power. Adding further, the US invasion of Afghanistan also hampered Beijing’s economic policy Principles. Leaden with protracted violence, the Afghanistan quagmire has become the key hurdle in the regional progression of BRI. The miscued policies and strategic belligerence ensued colossal blow the regional architecture of perpetual peace and posed daunting security challenges by creating a vacuum for militant non-state actors such as the Taliban and Daish to increase their influence. Furthermore, to undermine the growing Chinese South Asian influx, the US projected policies strained Pak-US ties which hampered the counterinsurgency efforts of Pakistan in currently vitiated circumstances. Keeping the apprehensions aside, in the aftermaths of the Afghan peace process the regional security architecture is heading towards a certainty. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan allows China to pursue its economic expansionism thus regional geopolitical influx may shift from security to geo-economics. Above all, the role of the US and China will remain significant in the region due to the various conflictual factors. The Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan always aspires to the prominent role of great powers to ensure the crisis management and de-escalation of hostilities. Likewise, concerning Chinese regional rise, the US will tend to empower the military hardware of Delhi to raise security concerns for Beijing. To conclude, South Asian security architecture may witness such kind of challenges in the foreseeable future, and engagement of the great powers in this region has become an ultimate reality.

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