The Foreign Service Journal, September 2022

14 SEPTEMBER 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL focused on the integration of a demo- cratically and economically viable Indian partner into the liberal world order, on one hand, and the prevention of terror- ist attacks and nuclear proliferation by Pakistan on the other. The end of the Cold War allowed the U.S. more flexibility in pursuing greater economic integration in South Asia, particularly with India. With a global rebalancing of priorities following the 2017 National Security Strategy, which continues under the current interimNSS, actions designed to bolster the rules-based order in regions like South Asia are now at the forefront of U.S. policy. However, China’s own regional strategy threatens to reverse decades-long progress and stymie future gains. China’s Strategy China is currently Pakistan’s primary supplier of military arms, and its infrastructure investments into Pakistan are expected to exceed $60 billion under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor umbrella. While CPEC creates a significant debt burden for Islamabad, the country lacks any true alternative for financing infrastructure development. China’s investments in Pakistan coun- ter decades-long efforts by the United States to improve Pakistani governance and manage the India-Pakistan rivalry. LETTERS-PLUS Opportunity in South Asia BY CHRIS HIPPNER RESPONSE TO JULY-AUGUST COVER STORY, “U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS AT 50: LEARNING LESSONS AND MOVING AHEAD” R obert Wang’s assessment of U.S.-China relations and recommendation to adopt stronger measures that coun- ter China’s trade practices, as laid out in his July-August article, have merit. His “lessons of history” suggest China will continue to be a challenging competitor, and an occasional partner, for the foreseeable future. In applying more direct measures, I would point to South Asia as a prime region for advancing his approach. With Afghanistan no longer the central driver behind policy in the region, the U.S. should develop a South Asia strategy that advances the region’s economic and political integration into the greater liberal world order and provides an alternative to the Chinese Communist Party’s power- politics framework. Such an approach would build on work done by previous administrations and ultimately shape the regional envi- ronment to the benefit of our long-term interests, as well as imposing on Beijing the kind of change-inducing costs Dr. Wang describes. The cornerstone of such a strategy would be an increase in diplomatic, eco- nomic and military ties with both Pakistan and India. Prior to 2001, U.S. policy in South Asia China’s relations with Pakistan center on a shared suspicion of India, a common desire for economic development and obsession with combating “extremist” groups. Further, China’s predatory economic programs in Pakistan and heavy-handed “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy with India will potentially constrain U.S. diplomacy during any future India-Pakistan crisis. Historically, China avoided making any firm commitments to Pakistan. During the 1971 Pakistan-India War, China publicly supported Pakistan, but privately told U.S. interlocutors: “You have strength to persuade India. You can speak to both sides.” But since 1971, the level of China’s investment in South Asia under the One- Belt, One-Road Initiative has soared, and the region has become key to the country’s continued economic prosperity. China’s economic interests in the region alone suggest it may play a more active role dur- ing a future crisis. In the event of another India-Pakistan crisis, how would the U.S. facilitate de-escalation, as it has done historically, if Pakistan now has another major global power to leverage for support and compel India to de-escalate? And, assuming China chooses to intercede on Pakistan’s behalf, would India look solely to the U.S. for support? This scenario quickly starts to look like a patron state–client state standoff between two competing global systems. On one side, the U.S. representing a world Chris Hippner is currently a student at the U.S. Naval War College. He is a member of the U.S. intelligence community who specializes in East and South Asia. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. government.