Southern Asia's Escalating Strategic Competition

Opinion
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War on the Rocks

Southern Asia's Escalating Strategic Competition

Editor’s Note: Welcome to the first installment of “Southern (Dis)Comfort,” a new series from War on the Rocks and the Stimson Center. The series seeks to unpack the dynamics of intensifying competition—military, economic, diplomatic—in Southern Asia, principally between China, India, Pakistan, and the United States.

The United States has spent the first decade of the 21st century consumed by “hot wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq until the Obama administration, in recognition of China’s growing economic and military might, sought to “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific. Now, once again, the potential deployment of more troops to the rapidly deteriorating “stalemate” in Afghanistan, along with the human catastrophe in Syria, the U.S.-led military campaign against ISIL, and North Korea’s rapidly advancing missile program are likely to limit the Trump administration’s bandwidth to recognize some of the larger tectonic shifts over the horizon and the risks they bear.

Though comparatively unnoticed in Washington policymaking circles, “Southern Asia” and the broader Indian Ocean region form one of the most competitive strategic environments in the world. This article is the first installment of “Southern (Dis)Comfort,” a series organized with the Stimson Center’s South Asia Program to unpack the range of competitive dynamics in Southern Asia today.

The region matters a great deal because it hosts multiple major nuclear powers, some of the world’s largest and most powerful conventional militaries, dozens of terrorist organizations, 40 percent of the globe’s population, and one of the highest volumes of trade alongside critical maritime chokepoints. China is increasingly being drawn into Southern Asia’s competition through its expanding arms sales and technology transfers, economic investments, and naval presence. India and Pakistan remain bitter rivals locked in a search for escalation dominance while deepening their respective alignments with great powers. Moreover, during the past year, Southern Asia has witnessed two separate militarized border crises — “surgical strikes” across the Line of Control in Kashmir and the ongoing Doklam standoff — that had (or have) the potential to escalate to full-scale war between nuclear powers.

Read the full article here.