West Asia as a region has a long history of turbulence and instability. Many factors have compounded the continuously crisis-prone region; strategic, political, military, economic, demographic and resource related. This article would mostly dwell upon politico-strategic aspects that impinge upon the stability regime.

The conflicts in the region are mostly due to external interventions and vying for influence by the great powers. The strategic imbalances are at the core of all the dilemma. The US invasion of Iraq followed by Arab Spring have unsettled a semblance of stability that existed prior to nine-eleven. The incursions into Libya and the subsequent interventions in Syria have further exacerbated the conflict situation. The Israeli intransigence to go ahead with the settlements in the West Bank tip it further to the brink of chaos. The Iranian nuclear conundrum remains unresolved despite occasional signals from Tehran of  its willingness to engage with IAEA and positive signs of relenting on sanctions by the P 5+1. The growing strongholds of Al-Qaeda in Yemen complicate the security imperatives for the countries of the region.

The West has continued to converge on its objective to control the oil resource and the supply lines out of West Asia. On the other hand, the supply of Iranian oil to outer world is being choked, albeit unsuccessfully, by US and its allies under the garb of international sanctions for Iran’s allegedly frantic efforts for a nuclear weapon. China and India continue to buy oil from the Iranian market despite pressures from the US.

China has its own strategic interests in the region after the gradual decline in the US. and the Russian influence. China looks at the strategically important region  from many angles. Besides oil, it is eyeing the gradually liberating Arab Peninsula. The toppling of the one-man regimes by the popular uprisings in Tunisia, Yemen and Egypt and coming out of the direct US influence, make it easier for China to relate to the people’s aspirations. The unleashing of the process of democratization of societies will have its impact on the countries of the region in the long haul. In the short haul, some of these countries have already undergone catalytic changes  after  the spontaneous mass protests. China and Russia’s insistence on their role in Syrian conflict and the Iranian stand-off, counterbalances the American strategic manoeuvers in the region.

Pakistan has a deep and abiding interest in the region. Its linkages through religious and historical contacts as well as multilateral regional organisations can play a vital role in stabilizing the region. Pakistan’s skilled manpower is another factor of cohesion with the Arab world. It is hamstrung though to play an effective role in bringing about a permanent solution to the Palestinian problem due to its diplomatic disconnect with Israel.

There is a need of a paradigm shift in the West Asia. Both India and Pakistan could come together to reorder  the imbalances in the region. India, historically too, had wider contact with the region through NAM. Its workforce in the Gulf countries is also a cementing factor. On top of it, India enjoys effective diplomatic relationship with the countries of West Asia. In order to have the paradigm shift, Pakistan, India and China should come together on a strategic platform named as PIC (Pakistan, India, China). This triangular partnership will prove a counterbalance to US influence and interventions in the region. India should also rejoin IP (previously IPI) pipeline project. It will have a great stabilizing impact. PIC should engage with Israel to prevent it from proceeding on its settlement plans as well as move towards ceding to a Palestine State with its capital in Jerusalem. Similarly, Arab League may also be brought into negotiating process alongwith Iran to stabilize Ghaza and West Bank. The policy to watch from a distance or mere firefighting will not do. Positive contributions can be made to stabilize Syria. Many a challenge of the region like making it a nuclear- weapon- free zone, smooth functioning of oil reserves  and supply lines, accelerating the development process in the region in collaboration with GCC, OIC, Arab League, equitable economic uplift of different geographical regions, harnessing of natural resources, managing demographic equilibrium, improving governance indicators etc can effectively be met from the PIC platform.

US Asia pivot is focused on North-East Asia and South-East Asia; PIC’s pivot should be West Asia. Both India and China should declare a peaceful rise. Pakistan as an emerging economy and as a nuclear state should also be stabilized by PIC: this in turn will greatly help in stabilizing the West Asian region.

Former MD PTV and chairman Institute of Regional Studies, Islamabad.