Kashmir, the most underrated of all global crises, is fast becoming the hub of conflicting geopolitical, geostrategic and geo-economic interests of global powers as they manoeuvre to gain advantageous positions in Asia. The national interests of three nuclear powers clash directly here making it the most critical and sensitive of all possible global nuclear flashpoints.

India has recently breached the status quo in the Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOJ&K) region by (theoretically) “annexing and absorbing” it into the Indian Union. The international community however continues to acknowledge the UN mandated disputed nature of Kashmir. India persists in vitiating the strategic environment senselessly. Left unresolved, the Kashmir issue will lead to a conventional-nuclear war between India and Pakistan. The powers that be will get inexorably swept into the vortex of such a war and a consequent global nuclear winter as well!

The US is a power in retreat and appears to have almost abdicated its role as an Asian power. The transition of power is very palpable. It is literally restricted to the fringes of Asia - in the Arabian Peninsula, Israel and then in the Pacific Ocean, South Korea and Japan. It has no worthwhile presence on mainland Asia at all (leaving Afghanistan, too). An uncoordinated (?) Sino-Russo juggernaut is moving ominously into the emerging vacuum and overwhelming Asia in a gigantic geopolitical manoeuvre. Russia has moved decisively into Syria, Turkey (a NATO ally), Iran and is now engaging Pakistan very positively. China, through its BRI-CPEC initiatives has already made massive inroads into CARs, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. Both Russia and China are now wooing the Arabs (KSA-GCC) in the ME and moving into Africa. Once the Russians and the Chinese cement their ingresses it would be nigh impossible for the US to regain its lost sphere of influence in Asia. It might well be on its way to becoming a past Asian Power! A competing pole is apparently emerging to challenge the US-led Wests’ (including India). It comprises China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey (CRIPT), which as a subset of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has tremendous economic, political, diplomatic, technical and military potential. If these geopolitical alignments crystallize as expected, then we are likely to see a bi/multi polar world emerging. A new collective approach of CRIPT on international issues like Kashmir is most likely.

Therefore, it becomes a compulsion for the US to muster India as a strategic ally. It will hope to entice it away from Russia and encourage it to confront China. However, India’s abject and frenetic fixation with Pakistan (and Kashmir) has it seriously pegged and limited to the subcontinent. India has 80-90% of its military assets either deployed or poised against Pakistan. It just cannot free itself from Pakistan to pursue its own interests in the regional/extra regional dimensions, much less the US’. India-Pakistan’s next war too, most probably, will be over Kashmir. The US might have to intercede and thwart war between these two irreconcilable belligerents, very soon again. The only way that the US can possibly undo India’s obsession with Pakistan and employ it as a proactive strategic ally against

China is by resolving their bilateral issues, especially Kashmir. Even the resolution of the Kashmir issue does not guarantee that India will follow US’ diktat, yet that is the only plausible option left for it. An Indo-Pak war in the current strategic environment would be extremely detrimental for US interests in Asia. Regardless of how it ends, India will have suffered such horrendous losses to its military and economy that it would cease to exist as a major player at the sub-regional/regional levels. Its potential to project power in the subcontinent/region would be massively decimated and circumscribed. Thereafter, it would be of scant utility to the US as a strategic (?) ally against China or anyone else. The US will therefore have to mediate and help resolve Indo-Pak issues, like Kashmir, promptly. Else, India will never be able to become a fulltime and dynamic strategic ally of the US. That will weaken the US’ position as a viable, proactive and effective Asian power. US’ domination of Asia might thus indirectly rest with the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir problem between India and Pakistan - and India’s willingness to play ball!

Elsewhere, the Russian juggernaut is marching on relentlessly into Asia. Caught between an expanding NATO in the West, ice in the North and a rising China in the East, Russia has perhaps only one direction to go in to expand its sphere of influence - South! Thus, we see Russia moving in determinedly into the Greater Middle East Region (GMER) including Pakistan!

USSR-Russia have had very close political, military, economic and diplomatic relations with India. These relations suffered a serious setback when India started diversifying and weaning itself off the USSR-Russian defence/weapon systems supply line. However, much to India’s chagrin, Russia has now offered Pakistan assistance at the macro-economic level to help rejuvenate its economy. There are reports of substantial defence deals as well. Will that be yet another fateful step away from the US for Pakistan and/or for Russia from India, inevitably bringing both closer? Will it cause some divergence too in the positions that both India and Russia hold on international issues like Kashmir? USSR-Russia has traditionally used its veto in the UNSC rather liberally in India’s support. However, last year it allowed the UNSC to have a consultative meeting on Kashmir much to India’s distress. Was it a genuine paradigm shift in the Russian positions on Kashmir, India and Pakistan? The more India slips into the US embrace the more is Russia likely to recalibrate its policies towards Asia, including on Kashmir. However, the Russian ingress into Asia will receive a very serious setback were a conventional-nuclear war to break out between India and Pakistan. That would disrupt, delay and upend Russian geopolitical, geostrategic and geo-economic manoeuvres/plans into the GMER including Pakistan, very seriously. It is thus imperative for Russia too to see a viable, peaceful and just solution to the Kashmir issue in line with the numerous UN/UNSC Resolutions on the subject.

(To be continued)

The author is a retired Brigadier from the Pakistan Army. Email: im.k846@gmail.com Twitter: @K846IM