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Navigating the Stormy Indo-Pacific: How Quad, AUKUS, & US-China Competition Shape Pakistan’s Choices

Read and download the complete Working Paper. 

As China accelerates its status as a world power, relations between Beijing and Washington DC are likely to become more adversarial.

With increased R&D in emerging technologies from artificial intelligence and data analytics to lethal autonomous weapons and directed energy weapons, it is becoming clearer that China is flexing a new brand of national power.

Is China’s power projection merely benign? The ASEAN states are not convinced.

Beijing has become more assertive in both East and South China seas, arousing suspicion from Japan and Australia. This fuels the friction between China and the US. Washington DC perceives China’s advancement as a threat, and this has helped accelerate its adoption of the notion of the “Indo-Pacific. Couched in the narrative of upholding a rules-based order and freedom of navigation, Washington wants to reassert its primacy in the region through the Quad and AUKUS alliances.

How does Russia’s invasion of Ukraine complicate matters?

China, India, and Pakistan have abstained from condemning Russia’s military offensive against Ukraine. Russia-China relations will likely have a bearing on how the US and its NATO allies frame their China policies. Growing tensions will force many countries to either demand or be forced to acquiesce with stringent geopolitical choices.

What do these growing geopolitical tensions mean for Pakistan?

First, Pakistan needs to carefully navigate the China versus United States dynamic. It must assiduously avoid choosing sides, even when pressured to do so, given its substantial stakes in both Beijing and Washington DC.

Second, Islamabad needs to monitor and counter the threat of growing military asymmetry between India and Pakistan. This is of ever-increasing importance, as the United States wants India to play a more active maritime role in the “Indo-Pacific” and is eager to enhance India’s military capabilities.

Read the complete recommendations for Pakistan in the Working Paper.
Ejaz Haider
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Ejaz Haider has been a prominent news editor for two decades, having held editorial positions at The Friday Times and Daily Times. He has written extensively for a range of publications, including The Frontier Post, Pakistan Today, Express Tribune, Daily Times, The Washington Post, and Times of India, and remains a regular commentator on international TV channels. He has also hosted talk shows on Dawn News and Samaa TV.

Haider was a Ford Scholar at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (1997) and has been a visiting fellow at the Foreign Policy Studies Programme at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C (2002-03). His primary focus of study encompasses defense and foreign policy, nuclear strategy, concepts of war, and international relations.

Until recently, he was Executive Editor at Indus News, an English-language channel, and hosted In Focus with Ejaz Haider, a policy show.