A clear-eyed approach also requires accepting that China or Russia (or both) will likely gain more of a footing as the United States withdraws from its role. So far, China has successfully inserted itself into Indo-Pak dynamic by earning Indian goodwill after it withdrew its objection to placing Masood Azhar in the UN-designated global terrorists list but at the same time, symbolically siding with Pakistan during the crises. Similarly, the Kremlin has established itself in the region by gingerly stepping out of its Cold War antagonism to Pakistan and improving its relations with that country. However, Russia has not let this come to affect its traditional friendliness with India. Both Beijing and Moscow have demonstrated an urge to forge equilibrium in how they deal with the never-ending crises between the South Asian rivals, an art which the United States must learn.
These recommendations all involve accepting a key role for the United States in the region. Those who prefer that Washington withdraw from such a role entirely underestimate how dangerous a resulting power vacuum could be. The United States does have important interests in the region which range from cultivating peace in Afghanistan to reigning in Chinese ambitions in Asia-Pacific. Realizing these objectives will require greater participation in regional affairs particularly between India and Pakistan, this for the sake of the United States and the region itself.
On the eve of his visit to the subcontinent, President Bill Clinton called the ceasefire line that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan as “the most dangerous place in the world.” That remains true to this day. However, the Trump administration’s lack of concern should worry us as the recent crises manifest the dangers of leaving the region at its own discretion.
Minaam Shah is a student of international politics based in Kashmir and editor of the Asian Peace Review. He can be reached at [email protected] and tweets at @minaamshah.