A major reorientation of regional and global powers is afoot. As the US egresses from the South-Central Asian Region (SCAR) and shifts pivot to the Asia Pacific, China appears ready to make its ingress into the SCAR and move on to the Arabian Sea/Indian Ocean rim; a masterful manoeuvre, superb in timing and intent. It portends serious strategic and economic ramifications for the region and beyond, too!

Pakistan’s strategic inclinations and priorities are abundantly clear.

However, a new strategic approach by the US, UK and India is already underway to secure their interests. Its groundwork was, perhaps, laid (before -?) during the intriguing and time-specific visits of the British Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague to Pakistan. Its major strategic contours will, perhaps, emerge when US Secretary of State John F. Kerry visits Pakistan. They will attempt to counter China’s growing ingress and influence in the region by projecting India as a viable counterweight. And for that purpose, India and Pakistan would be made to overcome their traditional animosities and “encouraged” to align their interests to suit Western ones.

Thus, binding and restrictive economic stakes are likely to be built into Pakistan’s relationships with the US, UK and India proffering sub-continental solutions to its economic and energy woes, instead of Chinese specific ones. Furthermore, alternatives to the IPC (I -?) and Kashgar-Gwadar Economic Corridor (KGEC), in the shape of TAPI and the New Silk Road Project (NSRP) respectively, could also be mooted. But buying 500MW of electricity from, reportedly, “an energy-deficient India” is a rank preposterous idea and must be rejected straightaway. Will it be produced by water stolen from our rivers?

The new Pakistan government has apparently made the right moves by launching a regional diplomatic offensive engaging in particular China, Afghanistan and India. However, its suave diplomatic manoeuvring and positioning is nullified by its rather bewildering and intriguingly appeasing posture towards India that impinges abrasively on national morale, self-respect, pride and dignity.

India can benefit greatly from the enormous economic activity that is likely to be generated in the SCAR in the near future. Fossil fuel pipelines and trade corridors are expected to crisscross the region, ushering in an era of peace and prosperity for its peoples.

Geopolitically, India’s image can get a boost as the US-UK combine is likely to grant it some reasonable role in post-2014 Afghanistan. Most importantly, it will be required to counter China’s influence in the region in every possible way.

Geostrategically, by getting into Afghanistan, India will “not only occupy and deny the totally misunderstood and irrelevant ‘strategic depth’ to Pakistan”, but would also threaten to envelop it. Further, it might be obliged to carry out some of the counter-terrorism, rehabilitation and reconstruction tasks left incomplete by the US/Nato/Isaf combine. The US might even expect it to help keep an eye on Iran’s nuclear programme. However, India has thus far displayed scant political will or military and economic capacity to take on such an ambitious regional role.

By engaging Pakistan positively though, it could benefit from a shorter and more direct land access to Afghanistan. Furthermore, it could potentially be linked to the fossil fuel reserves of Iran (oil and gas), CARs including Turkmenistan and Greater Middle East Region (GMER). It could also benefit from the trade corridors like the KGEC, the NSRP and those that emerge from the CARs and Russia. Its trade with the GMER and Europe could benefit enormously because of shorter and well developed road and rail routes.

Should Pakistan be courting India or vice versa?

Where is the quid pro quo for Pakistan in all this, then?

Pakistan has emerged in a very central position for the future of the region in all its manifestations. The announcement of the KGEC project has added impetus and urgency for the Western powers to initiate course corrections in their policies towards this region. India must do likewise, too.

Pakistan must seek a comprehensive resolution of all outstanding issues with India. In a clearly defined end state, the PML-N government must lay down its policy objectives to be achieved. It must also consider international arbitration as an option as bilateralism with India has so obviously failed. We must not continuously reinforce failure; ad nauseam.

Kashmir must be reinstated as the core issue between India and Pakistan. All other issues must become secondary. There must be an irrevocable agreement on the Kashmir issue according to the relevant UN resolution. Chanakya’s disciples have been crafty practitioners of his art. By not discussing Kashmir as the primary bone of contention, they have very cunningly put it on the backburner. Next they reduced the water issue to virtually being a subset of the Kashmir issue. Since Kashmir was on the backburner so was the water issue. They have thus created the time and space needed for their nefarious and totally immoral water thievery. The Indus Waters Treaty appears consigned to the dustbin. It is incomprehensible that issues like Kashmir and the dams on our rivers, which can bring the region to the brink of a nuclear war, have been consigned to the backburner, while all those issues that suit India (trade, access to Afghanistan, CARs, TAPI, even IPI now et al) are being discussed first and foremost.

Furthermore, issues of Siachen, Sir Creek, Indian interference in Balochistan and Fata must be resolved post-haste. All Indian consulates (?) on Pakistan’s Western borders must be removed.

The composite dialogue and back channel diplomacy processes need to be revisited and made more responsive to our interests as well.

Pakistan has manoeuvred itself into a very strong negotiating position. It must make sagacious and bold moves to exploit its hefty leverage in the region and secure its abiding national interests vis-à-vis India, in particular. A strong stand here will pay dividends.

On the contrary, a policy of abject appeasement banking on the largesse and magnanimity of the Indians, and the manipulative diplomacies of the US and the UK, will only be counter-productive, demoralising and self-defeating.

The writer is a retired brigadier and a former defence attaché to Australia and New Zealand. Currently, he is on the faculty of NUST (NIPCONS).