China-India-Pakistan - What is the Future? Post-Cold War Analysis
The Cold War has been over for more than thirty years but despite some rather dubious claims to the contrary, history has certainly not ended. The events of the present are rooted firmly in the past and so we are taking a look at some present geopolitical hotspots to give an explanation of current events, how they came to be, and some possible outcomes going forward. This week, we are going to examine the relationships between the Panda, the Tiger, and the Markhor…China, India, and Pakistan. This is…The Post-Cold War! We live in a global and interconnected world and there is often an expectation of being able to access information about anything, from anywhere. Sometimes though, we run into virtual borders that stop us from getting to what we need. And there is always the concern about keeping
you and your personal data safe and secure. Fortunately, for both of these things, there is Surfshark VPN. Surfshark VPN lets you choose what country you want your device to appear in, letting you travel around the world and encrypts all the information between your device and the internet while doing so. Do you really want to watch Shadowhunters but can’t because you are
in the US? Surfshark lets you appear in the UK so you can watch. Surfshark not only encrypts your online data, helping keep you safe, but also doesn’t monitor, track, or store what you do, so no connection or activity logs! Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, meaning there’s no risk to try it so Get Surfshark VPN at https://surfshark.deals/coldwar and enter promo code COLDWAR to get 83% off & 3 extra months for FREE! 2022 was a rollercoaster year in South and East Asian geopolitics. Xi Jinping solidified his control of the Chinese Communist Party while also initiating a series of reforms. In Pakistan, Imran Khan was ousted by the army and then almost assassinated. In India meanwhile, Narendra Modi has been carefully playing a balancing game between India’s long-standing relationship with Russia, while buying arms from the United States. These three behemoths, each with their own proud
histories, have been involved in a bizarre threeway relationship since the late 1940s. India and Pakistan are direct regional rivals with reasons for their mutual animosity towards each other including ideology, geopolitics and specifically, the status of Jammu and Kashmir. At the same time Pakistan has a booming economic relationship with China while China and India are engaging in their own rivalry over unsettled border disputes, as well as competing for economic influence across Africa and Asia. The evolving and competing relationships between China, India and Pakistan are going to be one of the defining fields of 21st Century geopolitics, so understanding those relationships will be key to understanding possible outcomes.
So, what is the past and present landscape of these relationships? What does the future hold? How do the internal dynamics of these three states affect their foreign relations, and how does this then fit into the rest of the world? Let’s take a look. We’re going to start with a few disclaimers. This is by no means an exhaustive contextualization. The 20th Century history of all three states is INCREDIBLY complicated, as you’ve no doubt discovered from other videos the Channel has done on these regions. To start, India and
Pakistan are the products of the partition of the British Raj in 1947, the result of disagreements between the political elites of Imperial India on the nature of a future Indian state. India was set to be a majoritarian secular state, while Pakistan was a home and a safe haven for Muslims. A war between the two newly independent states ensued over the territory of Jammu and Kashmir, with India citing its historic claims to Kashmir as well as links to elites and local Hindus living there, while Pakistan cited its links to the majority Muslim population. Kashmir itself is religiously diverse, though the majority of the population is Muslim. Movements advocating independence for Kashmir or calling for it to join either Pakistan or India were discussed, but never amounted to much due to the Maharaja of Kashmir asking for autonomy inside India. Another major reason for Indo-Pakistani tension, and this is for the more geopolitically and Marxistically minded amongst you, is the presence of mineral resources such as the entirety of India’s Sapphires supply, as well as the source of major rivers which just happen to provide much of the water for Pakistan. Kashmir,
Jammu and Ladakh were split between the two countries, with China also taking a small slice. Now, on the other side of the Himalayas, the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949, and gained control over Tibet in the early 1950s, securing its own infrastructural and water security, but gaining a border with India and Pakistan in the process. Initially, India and China had the Five Principles of Coexistence and as joint Third World countries, appeared to have somewhat cordial relations. However, unresolved border disputes and buffer states led to a war in between India and China in 1962 which ended in Indian defeat. As time went on in the later 20th Century, we see major geopolitical shifts. India gradually
moved from the Western sphere of influence to become a key member of the non-Aligned Movement, while cultivating relations with the USSR. China split the global socialist world in two during the Sino-Soviet split and even ended up collaborating with the United States during conflicts like the Cambodian Civil War. Pakistan, which had a pro-Western foreign policy, linked to America, fought a brutal genocidal war against East Pakistan, which broke off with India’s help In 1971, to form the independent state of Bangladesh. In Kashmir, Indian control became more repressive, leading to first a secular socialist insurgency, followed then by an Islamist insurgency, the latter of which was co opted by Pakistan. Pakistan domestically began to shift towards Islamist and regionalist movements, while the Army intervened not-so-clandestinely in Afghanistan and then moved to project its power in Central Asia in the 1980s and 1990s. This movement is linked with
a struggle between the military deep state and populist clans of politicians in cycles of coups. China opened up to global markets under Deng Xiaoping and has become an economic behemoth, developing many relations with Africa and Asia, and then becoming more assertive under Xi Jinping. Pakistan during this time also became friendly with China, which was at times still quite antagonistic towards India while at other times tried to balance between the two. India for its part, faced neoliberal reforms which partially affected its industrial sector. Eventually, the far-right BJP came to power first in 1999, and then from 2014 to the present, under the leadership of Narendra Modi, whose policies have become increasingly Islamophobic and neoliberal. All three states face internal regional movements; in India there are Naxalite movements in the east, who operate with some Chinese support, while in Kashmir, Islamist movements operate with backing from Pakistan. In Pakistan, there
is unrest in Baluchistan, where China is building a large port facility in the city of Gwadar. Pakistan also faces anti-government movements from the Pakistani Taliban and Pashtun community primarily located in the north of the country. China faces regionalist opposition movements in Xinjiang Province as well as Tibet, with the latter having a long-time government-in-exile hosted in India. All three countries are both regional and global players, although China is the undisputed champion of global outreach and influence. India is a major trading partner which has increasingly looked westward, while Pakistan has been locked in more moderate geopolitical ploys in Southern and Central Asia, balancing itself between the United States and China.
Let’s now look at present-day India specifically. The country has seen a remarkable and for many, a troubling shift in recent years, one that has both internal and geopolitical implications. Narendra Modi’s BJP, a right-wing Hindu nationalist party, has established its hegemony over large parts of the Indian state. Modi has done this by increasing implementation
of neoliberal policies, as well as trying to imitate the Chinese miracle. As could be expected, these neoliberal reforms have further solidified and exacerbated many of the inherent economic and social inequalities in India. Modi faced strikes against reforms that would weaken unions as part of his “Build in India” initiative, as well as a massive 2021 strike against agrarian reform, the largest strike in recorded history. This historic opposition however goes up against the BJP’s increasingly militant and highly organized social structures. Writer and author Arundhati Roy
describes how the BJP has wings for all castes, allowing it to throw a very wide net in terms of the support it draws in. This allows them to mobilize a massive number of voters, and trolls, against their enemies. The once-dominant Indian National Congress has significantly weakened, and the other parties on the left are mainly regional in nature. This domestic strength gives Modi a lot more leeway when operating abroad. Geopolitically, the BJP is playing catch-up to China. Initiatives with Japan and with Australia aiming to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative have seen limited success, but India can still leverage its position using two cards. One is
its soft power, through its cultural influence especially with its large global diaspora, and the other is its relations with the United States and Russia. India’s participation in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a joint security initiative with Japan, Australia and the United States, is now key to Modi’s foreign policy and has been followed by recent arms purchases from the United States. All this is being done to counter Chinese influence, and, especially given the U.S. Pivot to Asia, India will no doubt keep its focus there. What this does not do however, is address the ongoing Indo-Chinese border disputes. These disputes have a tendency to flare up when
infrastructure projects in the border regions begin, as happened in December 2022. Modi is likely to continue moving his foreign policy towards the United States, potential allies against China, but this will certainly strain his relationship with Putin’s Russia. This is a relationship that Modi cannot completely break off though, as Russia still supplies India with weapons and military equipment. Russia also serves as a mediator with China in places such as Central
Asia, and Indian public opinion strongly favours at least non-alignment, if not support for Russia, as is being seen in the war in Ukraine. How Modi will navigate this balance is difficult to say, but rivalry with China and Pakistan is more likely to increase. Kashmir’s autonomy was revoked in 2019, and Modi has looked to shift public perception and discourse surrounding Kashmir, changing it from ‘The Rose in India’s Bouquet’ to a supposed haven of Islamic extremism. Modi is likely to strengthen Indias hold on the region to ensure continued access to its precious minerals as well as being able to leverage water-rights over Pakistan. This has two potential implications though. One is that Pakistan’s rivalry with India will continue, but now there is an added rivalry as to who will show themselves to be a more reliable partner to the U.S.
The second is that Modi will try to accelerate land reforms which would allow Indian capital to further penetrate and solidify economic control over Kashmir. The infrastructure-building projects that Modi uses for legitimacy, including those in the less-connected and less-developed Northeast, link to regions such as the nine "strategic" rail lines, including the Missamari-Tenga-Tawang line and the Bilaspur-Mandi-Manali-Leh sections. Others strategic positions, like the Daulat Beg Oldi airstrip in Ladakh, will be used to solidify control over Kashmir, but with its position being so close to the Chinese border, these are likely to be contentious hotspots as the two rivals compete for hegemony. Now, Xi’s China has moved a long way away from
both Mao’s tenets and Deng’s pragmatism. It is in fact, a mixture of both, and this naturally has implications for its relations with India and Pakistan. Xi has centralised his power and control during the most recent Communist Party Congress, but has faced increasing challenges on both the economic and geopolitical fronts. Xi’s consolidation came from carefully preparing and isolating his factional rivalries with other Party officials. One important tool in this internal struggle has been the politicisation of corruption.
As was counselled by the late Michael Brooks, Corruption is about power, not institutions, and China is no exception. Xi’s anti-Corruption campaign has leveraged Chinese public opinions of corruption amongst local party officials, in order to make himself appear more legitimate. China’s economic model, which has been based now for decades on a mixture of Western capital combined with state intervention, has seen skyrocketing growth, but this has been done at the cost of the creation of many corporations which have become too big to fail, with the property-development company Evergrande being a prime example. The Chinese model is now facing the difficulty of transitioning to a high-income economy, and this includes tackling inequality. Xi has announced many nation-building efforts in the cultural sphere,
as well as economic alleviation measures to reduce inequality. He has also used the state apparatus to promote national ‘unity’ by clamping down on separatism in Xinjiang with harsh cruelty, particularly focused on the Uighyer minority. All of these things have geopolitical implications. China can, just as easily as India, try to export instability or inequality by strengthening nationalist sentiment abroad as well as going on geopolitical adventurism. However, for Xi this is more likely to occur in the South China Sea than along the Indian border. China is, keep in mind, steadfastly devoted to two things; ensuring what it sees as its territorial integrity, and the advancement of its own sphere of influence in the model of double consumption; protecting internal markets while expanding industrial markets outwards.
This makes Tibet and Xinjiang essential, and this is why China will likely continue to build infrastructure in the region, ramping tensions with India in the process. Neither side seems willing at this moment to settle on the matter. With regards to the Belt and Road initiative, which has become an increasingly unwieldy and overly ambitious project, Pakistan will be a key ally in projects such as the Gwadar Port. China is likely to continue to court Pakistan and try to invest in its economy to gain influence, as it will not only build another bridge to Central Asia, but also give it port-access on the Indian Ocean, helping to isolate India. China is not often willing to get directly involved in the spats of other countries, but this is close to its borders and there is potential for spillover. Balochi separatists consider Chinese presence in Balochistan to be an occupation and have attacked Chinese outposts as a result. The
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a series of infrastructure projects that have been ongoing since 2014, have been part of this quid pro quo strategy. They also serve as a counterweight to the policies of the Quad, and a way to maintain an ally in this Asian threesome. Maybe don’t google that particular phrase at work. The success of this Corridor is contingent on China’s continuous
investment, which it has continued to provide. However, China also has to deal with secessionist movements in the region, like the Balochis around the Gwadar Port. To deal with this, China has brought in its own workers and even armed security for many of its projects, cutting out many local interlocutors and therefore cutting out a potential source of local support for the projects. Its infrastructure projects, while still welcomed by many, require constant investment, and China will most likely try to solidify its influence in Pakistan to ensure its survival. Pakistani politics, influenced and guided by its deep state, are always prone to the whims of geopolitics. As noted British-Pakistani journalist and historian Tariq Ali comments,
there are two political clans in Pakistan, the Bhutto-Zanafir and the Sharif families, each with their own large political parties and their accompanying corrupt paternalistic networks. There are also the various regionalist movements, such as the previously mentioned Balochis and the Pashtuns, as well as large Islamist movements which include a disorganized Pakistani Taliban. These are interestingly, spillovers from earlier Pakistani attempts to promote Islamism as a means of power projection during the Soviet-Afghan War.
There is also the Army, which includes their handlers, the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI. Recently, we have seen Imran Khan, a populist politician and former cricket team captain, win an against-the-odds election, relying on a blend of Islamic values and socialist-leaning policies. Initially, having the backing of the army, he pursued an increasingly autonomous foreign policy, but failed in many of his promises. Political manoeuvring quickly led to his
ouster, but he has continued to rally against his political enemies, including the army, even after an assassination attempt in November 2022. Corruption and capital have always been at the heart of Pakistani politics, as the army claims to be an impartial mediator. The truth is best summarized by Tariq Ali, who says: “The country’s political parties rarely change with the times. Dynastic rule ensures that large reserves of capital, often illegally acquired, remain in the family. And the uniformed umpires at military GHQ in Rawalpindi, who make and break governments, are provided with huge grants of land and other perks.” Thus, the army, which is sensitive to international pressure, is the key to foreign policy.
Pakistan is committed to being involved in Kashmir, supporting the local struggle for independence on its own narrow terms as the alleged protector of the Kashmiri Muslim population. However, when it comes to its relationship to China or the United States, the stakes are much more nebulous. Pakistan will certainly continue to trade and build relations with China, however the US is increasingly been seen as a new partner to India while simultaneously becoming more skeptical of Pakistan. The army will do its best to tread
the fine line between the two superpowers while still working against India. However, the country is increasingly fractured and polarizing, with brutal government crackdowns against Balochi and Pashtun movements, both armed and unarmed, which will undoubtedly create even more difficulty. Corruption, perennially untackled, means local populations may not see the benefits of Chinese infrastructure projects, and Xinjiang’s tribulations have also caused suspicion amongst many Pakistanis. Of course, the same can be said for American interventions in Pakistan. The question over who to side with may become a defining issue in an increasingly polarised Pakistani society. Khan will certainly use this against rival factions and blocs, as he has done previously, as populism is his main counter against both the nouveau riche capitalists who bankroll rival parties and the state capitalism of the Army. Pakistan is likely to remain unstable for the foreseeable future, leaving it susceptible to foreign intervention and influence. This could
lead to the army conducting a coup, a seemingly time-honoured tradition in Pakistani politics. An possible alternative could be the unifying of the country behind a cause like Kashmir or Xinjiang, but this depends on geo-economic leverage by either China or America, or who wins in the polarized power struggle inside the country and what ideology they may rely on. So, instability in Pakistan is likely to continue, the Far-right consolidation of India is likely to continue, and Communist Party assertion in China is likely to continue. These
all have implications for geopolitics. As India and China increasingly begin to compete directly for influence in Asia while also building infrastructure in disputed or unstable regions, clashes are likely to continue and possibly even increase. These clashes may also extend to other geographic areas including the wider Indian Ocean region. China needs to work to shift its economy
to ensure longevity and to establish a sphere of influence for its markets. For that to happen, both domestic and international stability will be necessary. As such, its assertiveness and engagement with Pakistan are chief geopolitical goals in South Asia. As for Pakistan, it is likely to be deadlocked, treading a fine line between China and the United States. India and Pakistan will continue to be rivals, as the Kashmir conflict remains at a standstill and local voices calling for independence there find no backers. India will continue to use American influence as a
counterweight just as some Pakistani factions will do the same in order to gain or maintain power. Barring a serious dialogue between these three Asian behemoths, their intertwined relations are likely to be subject to power plays between the three, as each looks to gain the upperhand. This makes the region a significant and dangerous hotspot for the foreseeable future. Nehru and Mao’s Five Principles
of Co-Existence seem forgotten, in an era where they are most sorely needed. Get Surfshark VPN at https://surfshark.deals/coldwar and enter promo code COLDWAR to get 83% off & 3 extra months for FREE! We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode and to make sure you don't miss our future work, please make sure you consolidate your power at home while conducting a foreign policy based on adventurism, all in the name of defending YOUR Bell Button . Please consider supporting us on Patreon at www.patreon.com/thecoldwar or through YouTube membership. We can be reached via email at email@example.com. This is the Cold War Channel and as we think about the Cold War, please remember that history is shades of gray and rarely black and white.