South Asia an emerging centre of power in new multi-polar world order: Speakers

APP04-14 ISLAMABAD: November 14 – Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Chairman Senate Committee on Defence, Parliamentary Committee on CPEC and Pakistan-China Institute addressing at International Conference on Regional Dynamics and Strategic Concerns in South Asia organized by Islamabad Policy Research Institute (PRI) in collaboration with Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF). APP photo by Saleem Rana

ISLAMABAD, Nov 14 (APP)::Discussing the United States strategic interests and priorities in South Asia, speakers at an international conference here on Tuesday said the region (South Asia) was an emerging centre of power in the new multi-polar world order.

The two-day conference ‘Regional Dynamics and Strategic Concerns in South Asia’ has been organized by
the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) in collaboration with the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF), Islamabad.
The speakers, who included former ambassadors, intellectuals and analysts, were unanimous that the world should no longer doubt the rise of a greater Asia.
The upgradation of India from a “major power” to a “linchpin” of the US strategy extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean and South Asia was also seen as problematic by many of the speakers.
Dr Wei Zongyou, Professor, Center for American Studies, Fudan University, China, in his paper on ‘US-China Relations:Prospects and Challenges’, explained that with Donald Trump elected as the US president and his America First foreign policy mantle, and Xi Jinping emerging from the newly-ended 19th National Congress of Communist
Party of China even more powerful and vowing to rejuvenate his country, Sino-US relations had entered a period of turbulence and uncertainty.
He said as no-apology preachers of China Dream and America First, both Xi and Trump vowed to see their policies and agendas set in motion under their watch. “How these two different visions with heavy dose of nationalist flavours can proceed smoothly against each other, especially at the backdrop of an emerging power transition, is an open question,” he added.
“However, for all the challenges and alarms, there’s still room for optimism of the future of China-US relations.
First, Xi’s China Dream does not necessarily collude with Trump’s America First. Xi’s China Dream is fundamentally based on domestic development and modernization, to make the economy more domestic driven and consumption
“The China-US economic relations are not zero-sum, but a win-win set,’ he maintained.
Andrew Small, Senior Transatlantic Fellow, German Marshall Fund of the United States (Asia Program), Washington DC, while discussing America’s strategic interests and priorities in South Asia, outlined that the US and
China had a multidimensional relationship that cut across increasingly large swathes of each other’s economic, diplomatic, and security interests.
“The relationship is characterized by a mix of competition and cooperation, with the balance of those elements varying by issue and region, and fluctuating according to broader trends in the bilateral relationship.
“The two sides are deeply embedded in a global economic order that requires the free movement of commerce and capital, providing a significant shared interest in the fundamental stability of the international system, from energy supplies to global finance. However, translating these higher order interests into practical cooperation has proved
difficult, given the other ideological and strategic differences between the two sides,” he added.
He was of the view that China’s primary regional focus was its immediate neighbourhood in East Asia, and
recent years had seen intensification in the competitive elements of the US-China relationship there.
He pointed out that Sino-US competition was less acute in other regions, where Beijing’s military reach was
more modest and its economic activities were often beneficial.
“South Asia largely falls under this umbrella, and, except during times of exceptional crisis, has been a second order issue in the relationship”, he said.
Professor Dr Syed Rifaat Hussain, Head, Government and Public Policy, National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), in his paper, talked about the risks to strategic stability in South Asia.
According to his analysis, offence-dominant thinking and aggressive Indian-mindset is one of the biggest threats facing the region. He pointed out that Indian commitment to pursue extremist, exclusionary Hindutva ideology posed a threat to strategic stability.
“By propounding and practicing extremist Hindu beliefs, BJP (Bharatiya Janta Party) under Modi, is cultivating a hostile Indian mindset against Muslims everywhere. This not only bodes ill for rational handling of future crises
between India and Pakistan but also allows free rein to forces of death and destruction,” he said.
“Another source of threat in South Asia is Indian arms conventional build-up along with the expansion of its nuclear and missile programme,” he warned.
Dr Shabir Ahmed Khan, Associate Professor, Area Study Center, University of Peshawar, in his paper highlighted that recent deeds and agreements between Russia and Pakistan confirmed that there was an obvious change in Russia’s South Asia policy in favour of Pakistan. “Russia recognizes Pakistan’s importance for peaceful political settlement in Afghanistan and linking Eurasian Union with South Asia, Indian Ocean and beyond. Russia has
stopped viewing India as a counterweight to China in the region,” he said.
He said in contemporary regional geopolitical environment, Pakistan needed to take a positive and correct
course of action through diversification of foreign relations, importantly by having close relations with Russian Federation to enhance its bargaining power in international dealings.
Zamir Akram, former Ambassador of Pakistan and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, chaired the session.