Opening shots of the new cold war? Pompeo’s back to back visits in the subcontinent

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News Analysis |

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis are expected to arrive in New Delhi on September 6 (today) for the twice-deferred strategic dialogue with their Indian counterparts Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman, after a stopover in Islamabad on Sep 5, which was the Trump administration’s first contact with Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan, a critic of American policies in the region.

But in what some might see as a throwback to the old routine of US officials looping visits to both countries, Pompeo’ Islamabad layover was to assess firsthand the new prime minister’s outlook after Trump White House adopted a hardball attitude in response to its perceived  Pakistan’s undermining US goals in the region.

The closeness of India with both Russia and India has been a headache for the US administration. The complications in the Washington-New Delhi relationship revolve around the US calls for India to end its buying of Iranian oil and threats to levy sanctions if it continues to buy Russian military equipment.

President Trump had been particularly harsh on the country, starting with a New Year January 1 tweet in which he said, “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

The surprise New Year’s Day tweet by President Donald Trump in which he appeared to decree an end to U.S. aid for Pakistan, sent U.S. officials scrambling to suspend security assistance without even knowing how much aid they were freezing, according to insiders. However, Pompeo’s task in India will also be as tense as he will have to navigate a political minefield. The closeness of India with both Russia and India has been a headache for the US administration. The complications in the Washington-New Delhi relationship revolve around the US calls for India to end its buying of Iranian oil and threats to levy sanctions if it continues to buy Russian military equipment.

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Nevertheless, both Pompeo and Mattis, and their counterparts – Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman – want the so-called “two plus two” talks to go well. The deepening of the US-India relationship is centered on promoting a regional agenda of ensuring, according to the US State Department, “freedom of the seas and skies, promoting market economics, supporting good governance, and insulating sovereign nations from coercion”.

Many analysts assert that the greater part of the Pompeo visit to the subcontinent is over the fate of the region in the coming struggle against China. This was apparent in Pompeo’s calls for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reject Pakistan’s bailout request on the grounds that there was no need for American taxpayers to repay Beijing’s loans underwriting the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The South Asian region seems to be set on becoming a chessboard on which the opening plays of the US-China Cold war will be played. Keeping in view the ever-changing geopolitical and geostrategic realities, Pakistan has to re-evaluate and reformulate its foreign policy as well as security policy in the region.

While America’s longest war in Afghanistan is a continuing agony for the fading superpower, the coming competition with China has already taken over its mindset. The USA is increasingly trying to woo India in order to stave off the rise of China. As the global power shifts to Asia, the US’ Asia pivot strategy aims to maintain a dominant strategic presence in the Asia-Pacific by reinforcing its long-held supremacy in the region. India is seen as a lynchpin of this pivot strategy which is quite clear from the US Department of defense guideline and also from various official statements.

Read more: U.S. efforts to counter China’s hegemony has several challenges down the…

Improving ties with the United States was Modi’s signature foreign policy endeavor when he came to power in 2014. But with New Delhi suddenly uncertain about Washington, Modi has in recent weeks sought to mend ties with Moscow, and with Beijing as a hedge. The South Asian region seems to be set on becoming a chessboard on which the opening plays of the US-China Cold war will be played. Keeping in view the ever-changing geopolitical and geostrategic realities, Pakistan has to re-evaluate and reformulate its foreign policy as well as security policy in the region.

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