Javid Husain With the worlds second and third biggest economies (China and Japan), with countries on the fast economic growth trajectory like China, India, South Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia, and with vast manpower and material resources, Asia is slowly, but surely being propelled to the central position on the stage of international economic activity. In anticipation of the shift of the centre of gravity of the international economy to Asia in the next few decades, it is but natural for the US to pay increased attention to Asia. President Barack Obamas recent visits to India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan to cement bilateral ties, as well as to attend the meetings of G20 and the APEC summit, were in recognition of the growing economic and strategic clout of Asia. The immediate result of the US victory in the cold war was a unipolar world in which it loomed large like a colossus over the globe both economically and militarily. The overarching strategic aim of the US since the end of the cold war has been to prevent the emergence of a great power anywhere in the world, which can challenge its global dominant position or hegemony. However, the USAs 'unipolar moment was rather a short one lasting hardly two decades. By now, the world is already multipolar economically with several centres of economic power, like the European Union, China, Japan, Brazil, India and ASEAN, competing with the US and one another for influence and economic opportunities. But in military terms the US superiority is still unchallenged. The rapid economic growth of China at the dizzying rates of 9 to 10 percent annually for the last two decades has propelled it to the position of the second biggest economy in the world, overtaking the Japanese econo-my in the process. China with GDP of $5.5 trillion is, of course, far behind the US whose GDP is estimated to be $15 trillion approximately. However, if China is able to maintain its high economic growth rate, it will overtake the US economy in purchasing power parity terms by 2025 and in nominal terms by 2045. In line with the rapid growth in Chinas economic power, its military strength is also likely to increase rapidly over the next few decades. Keeping in view the present trends, it appears that by the middle of the 21st century, China would have emerged as a formidable economic and military power capable of challenging the US hegemony, particularly in Asia. It is this prospect which worries American strategic thinkers. The main thrust of the US strategy in Asia, therefore, is to prevent China from posing such a challenge to Washington. For this purpose, the US has adopted a multi-pronged strategy. It has engaged China in a dialogue bilaterally as well as in multilateral institutions like G20 so that its growing power is accommodated within the existing international system with or without appropriate reforms. This would require adjustments in IMF and other international economic bodies to allow China greater say in their working. Chinas proposal mooted last year for a new international reserve currency was an example of the kind of changes and adjustments that one is likely to see in the international system if the rapid growth in its power is to be accommodated peacefully avoiding both confrontation and disruption of the existing international order. The rapid growth in the US-China trade and economic relations will also establish linkages, which will work in favour of continued US-China cooperation in various fields. Simultaneously, the US strategy in Asia aims at containing China through a network of alliances on its periphery. The steps taken by Washington to strengthen its alliances with Japan, South Korea and Australia, its policy of wooing members of the ASEAN, and its strategic partnership with India to enable it to become a major world power of the 21st century need to be seen against this background. Even the US military occupation of Afghanistan ostensibly to fight terrorism partly serves the purpose of containing China. Its military presence in some Central Asian Republics again helps in containing China, as well as keeping pressure on Russias soft underbelly, besides facilitating the war effort in Afghanistan and its efforts to exploit Central Asias vast oil and gas resources. Obamas visit to India was in recognition of its rapid economic growth, which will make it the third largest economy in purchasing power parity terms in the near future, its attraction as a large market for the US goods and military equipment, the accretion to its military power and its status as the largest democracy in the world. But above all, it is the prospect of India playing the role of a counterweight to Chinas rapidly growing power, which has imparted special importance to it in the eyes of the US policymakers. From this perspective, there is an essential continuity in the policies of the Bush and the Obama administrations towards India, as witnessed by the continued US-India cooperation in the field of civilian nuclear technology, a facility denied to Pakistan. One should, therefore, be prepared to see growing US-India strategic partnership in Asia and on such issues as terrorism. The surprise development, of course, was President Obamas announcement of support for Indias permanent membership of the UN Security Council during his visit, despite Pakistans strong reservations. What are Pakistans options in the face of the evolving US Asia strategy? To begin with, Pakistan neither has the ability, nor the desire to act as a counterweight to China. On the contrary, it is in Pakistans strategic, economic and military interests to strengthen friendship and develop deep and wide-ranging cooperation with China. While there is no difference of opinion on the direction that our relations with China should take, Pakistans commercial and economic relations with it remain far below the desired level partly due to the weakness of our economy. As for the US, we should recognise that its decision to dehyphenate its relations with India and Pakistan was aimed at according higher priority to its relations with the former for reasons enumerated above. Our relationship with the US is likely to be limited by divergence of interests on the policy towards China and on the situation in Afghanistan. This reality should not, however, prevent us from developing a stable friendly relationship and wide-ranging and mutually beneficial cooperation with the US, which is likely to remain the most powerful country of the world in the foreseeable future. However, this friendship must be based on mutual respect and accommodation of each others interests, while being fully conscious of their convergence and divergence. And in pursuit of our legitimate desire to develop close friendly relations with the US, we should not sacrifice or damage our vitally important friendship with Iran. Nevertheless, such a dignified foreign policy presupposes a leadership committed to the policy of self-reliance. Unfortunately, this is the last thing in the mind of our leadership, which has a begging bowl constantly in its hands. The writer is a retired ambassador. Email: javid.husain@gmail.com