How the looming conflict between India and Pakistan could affect the US
The end of February, 2019, was marked by a sharp increase in tensions between India and Pakistan, and the United States should be concerned about this.
In response to an Indian air strike 26 in February, Pakistan shot down two Indian military aircraft and captured the Indian pilot. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of India later reported that India in response shot down a Pakistani fighter. This situation poses the threat of a potentially greater confrontation between the two nuclear powers of South Asia because of the disputed Kashmir region, writes CNBC.
“We saw not a de-escalation path, but rather actions that could escalate into further conflict,” said Manpreet Singh Anand, a former US deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia.
Anand made this announcement before Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that the captured Indian pilot would be released on March 1 as a “peace gesture”.
Foreign policy experts say that the brewing dispute between the two countries is not an isolated event and may have implications that will affect US policy.
“American foreign policy leaders are very focused on what is happening in Vietnam and we do not know if enough attention is being paid to the problem of India and Pakistan, which, in my opinion, presents a real risk of crisis right now,” said Anand, who in currently is a senior advisor to the Albright Stonebridge Group.
President Donald Trump's meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vietnam abruptly ended February 28 without an agreement on denuclearizing North Korea.
During this meeting, Trump said he expects "good enough news" from Pakistan and India.
“They were going to this, and we tried to stop them,” he said.
Impact on Afghanistan
Afghanistan is the first area of concern. The US still has troops in Afghanistan, which has a common border with Pakistan and continues to fight terrorism. Experts believe that any further disruption of normal relations between India and Pakistan could spread to Afghanistan.
In addition, if the US demonstrates India’s support in this dispute, Pakistan can retaliate, said Rick Rossov, senior policy adviser for the US and India at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Pakistan can do things that hurt American interests,” Rossov said.
India’s strategic role in diplomatic negotiations throughout Asia can also be questioned due to rising tensions with Pakistan. Security analysts say this may be a problem for the Trump administration, given the US dependence on India as a strategic ally in its defense strategy in the region.
“If India gets bogged down in conflict in South Asia, then it will not be able to participate in broader foreign policy issues. With China's growth, the US wants India to play a more important role in Asian politics, ”Rossov said.
General Election in India
Given the long-standing confrontation between India and Pakistan, political experts expect Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and opposition parties to reorient themselves and to give priority to security and defense issues in their policies. Especially, given the need to fight for votes on the eve of the general elections in India in April / May 2019.
Samit Ganguly, an expert on Indian cultures and civilizations at Indiana University, said Pakistan is a hot issue for Modi voters in this election season.
“Modi must appear strong and nationalistic to his electorate,” Ganguly said.
The question is whether Modi will be able to prioritize the areas of security and geopolitics, not losing sight of the economy, which is a more pressing problem for many of India’s agricultural-dependent regions, such as Punjab. While India’s GDP is growing at around 7%, the unemployment rate has risen to 6,1%, which is the highest figure since 1972 of the year.
“There are still some real concerns about farmers' incomes, employment and civil unrest that are likely to play a big role in the upcoming elections,” Anand said.
India’s problems are exacerbated by the macroeconomic uncertainty faced by a number of emerging market countries, especially due to slower growth in China and the prospect of a rise in US futures rates.
Attractive market for oil
Another problem facing India is the rise in oil prices. India is an oil importer and therefore the rise in oil prices will dramatically increase the country's spending. However, India's growing middle class and strong economic growth make it an attractive market for oil-producing countries such as the United States and Saudi Arabia.
Foreign policy experts say this is one of the reasons why Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman made a special trip to New Delhi last week as part of his Asian tour was to meet with Modi and the government of India.
“It was interesting to see how warmly India welcomed him after his meeting in Pakistan,” Rossov said.
A number of Saudi government officials joined the Crown Prince during his visit to India, including State Minister for Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, who said that Saudi Arabia plans to make India a regional center for oil supplies and is ready to invest in India’s energy infrastructure .
Over the next six weeks, any serious escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan could change the campaign and priorities of Modi and opposition candidates.
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