Modern history has witnessed many phases, from time to time. There was an era when the whole world was divided into two powerful blocs. The capitalists and the communists. Small nations went to either camp according to their national objectives, ideology, and historical alignments. Yet some nations were forced to join a bloc by the power of threat, blackmail, extortion, isolation, economic embargos, and sanctions, and by other unpleasant tactics. The countries that refused to join either bloc faced even worse misery and hardships.
There is always a powerful entity or a number of entities that seem to bully the weak. In the words of Richard Crawley, “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”. Yet some nations try to keep a balance between the opposite sides. In diplomatic language, they try to pursue a policy of “non-alignment”. Pakistan is one of those countries that has experienced being part of a camp and has always suffered dreadfully. According to the new geopolitical developments in the world, Pakistan now rejects the concept of bloc politics, and now advocates good relations with either side but the question arises, for how long can Pakistan stand by this position till it forcefully or consensually falls on either side of the fence?
Important lessons from the Cold War
After the end of WW2, the Cold War started its natural course. Two sides emerged into the world of international politics. On one side it was the United States of America with almost all democratic European countries rooting for it and on the other side, it was the Soviet Union. Most of the Arab world during that time was inspired by the idea of socialism and naturally supported the Soviet Union. Keep in mind that neither side was good nor bad, everyone had their own way of thinking and their own ideology of how the world should run. Pakistan was a young nation which for some unknown reason sided with the American bloc. Naturally, India went into the Soviet camp.
During all major conflicts between Pakistan and India, Pakistan was selfishly abandoned by her American ally. Pakistan was equipped with all American weapons yet these same weapons were forbidden by the US to be used against India in case of a war-like situation. During the Afghan-Soviet war 1979-1989, Pakistan with US’s financial and hardware support played a crucial role in bringing down the Soviet Union and eventually breaking it.
But after the end of the war, the US rewarded her Pakistani ally by abandoning Afghanistan as a shattered, war-torn country, Pakistan ended up having 3 million Afghan refugees on this side of the border. The emergence of Kalashnikov culture and drugs started flowing into Pakistan. And a political turmoil and a bloody civil war erupted inside Afghanistan which lead to the emergence of the Taliban government in the end. One must ask the question, why was Pakistan even in the American bloc, if the bloc was going to abandon Pakistan whenever it was needed the most?
The emergence of a superpower after the end of the Cold War
After the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, it was impossible for the Soviet Union to recover from this grave setback. Slowly the whole Soviet empire crumbled like a house of cards. Nations that were under Soviet control slowly gained independence, starting from East European countries to Central Asian republics. This was the balkanization of the great Soviet Union.
After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the world order suddenly shifted into a unipolar system, making America the single most powerful nation in the world. With power came an oppressive mindset. Ironically America saw itself as the savior of the world, champion of democracy and human rights. It started interfering in other country’s internal politics, making and breaking governments, forcefully enforcing American-style democracy in foreign lands, and sometimes even supporting dictators if they are in the American interests.
Allies in the war on terror era
Then started the era of war on terror after the 9’11 attacks. The world stood united against so-called “international terrorism”. Nonetheless, there was still the American bloc recruiting countries to join their ranks. As President Bush famously said, “either you are with us or against us”. Countries with weak leadership during that time like Pakistan were forced to join the American camp against their own interests. America with the help of Pakistan started interfering in Afghanistan. The Taliban government was forcefully overthrown replaced by a new American puppet government.
Pakistan also helped America invade Afghanistan and let Americans drone Pakistan’s tribal areas which lead to the creation of terrorist groups like TTP and JuA who waged a country-wide insurgency against the people and state of Pakistan. This unleashed a 20-year long civil war that led to the killing of 80,000 civilians in suicide bombs, terror attacks, and IED blasts. Unfortunately, even after what the Pakistani nation suffered all these years, Pakistan was blamed by its American ally for double-crossing and made a scapegoat for American failure and defeat in Afghanistan after 20 years of conflict. Pakistan is perhaps the only country in the world that will go against her own national interest for her American ally.
A tri-polar order & a new Cold War
Today’s geopolitical environment indicated a formation of a tri-polar world order. While US and China are competing with each other in geopolitics and trade war, Russia has also emerged yet again as a rising power and an important player in world politics. Compared to the United States, China’s economic influence is seen somewhat in positive terms. Many Chinese experts believe that America represents the western civilization’s core values and that it is in conflict with the Eastern civilization represented by China.
Therefore, Chinese leadership sees American influence as a challenge and threat to China’s political stability. New concepts have also emerged as the “New Cold War” between US and China. It is something that most defiantly promotes bloc politics at every level. At the same time, Russia is also challenging the Western world in Ukraine and the Middle East.
China as a rising power
Today China has become the rising power, it is the world’s second-largest economy and the largest exporter by value. Since the announcement of its BRI project in 2013, China has included more than 120 countries in it including Pakistan. Through BRI, China has been investing in overseas infrastructure projects all around the world such as Pakistan’s CPEC. The West however sees the BRI project as a grave threat as China is growing its influence in the world. China’s strategic economic strategies have made China an economic power. The value of China’s imports and export was up to $280.9 billion or 3% of global trade in 1995.
Today the amount has reached up to a staggering $4.6 trillion or 12%.4% of global trade by the year 2018. China’s economic progress has provided the Chinese armed forces an opportunity to build one of the strongest militaries in the world. Under the strong leadership of Premier Xi Jinping, China has asserted in its military activities in the South China Sea and recently it has also engaged in skirmishes with India at the Line of Actual Control in the Ladakh region. As far as Pakistan is concerned, Pakistan sees China not just as a strategic partner but as a historic time-tested friend. Although Pakistan rejects bloc politics yet it is unavoidable for Pakistan not to take China’s side in any international matter.