New Geopolitics of China, India, and Pakistan

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South Asia is in the midst of a geopolitical transformation wrought by several simultaneous developments: China’s rise, both economically and militarily, and its efforts to increase its commercial and diplomatic influence throughout Eurasia; India’s rise, and its own efforts to work with South and Southeast Asia; and attempts by the United States to recalibrate its own grand strategy to address new power dynamics across the arc of Asia from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean. These shifting dynamics carry within them not only the seeds of potential conflict but also the hope for greater cooperation, both among regional powers and between them and the United States. 

The Council on Foreign Relations’ Asia program hosted a symposium to discuss the new geopolitics of southern Asia. This report, which you can download here, summarizes the discussion’s highlights. The report reflects the views of symposium participants alone; CFR takes no position on policy issues.

Framing Questions for the Symposium 

Flashpoints in Southern Asia

How will the rise of China and India affect regional dynamics in southern Asia? Could a combination of crises trigger conflict between China and India, given their historical relationship and future ambitions? What might change the nuclear escalation scenario in South Asia, particularly between India and Pakistan? How could China and the United States encourage de-escalation? How would a U.S.-China collision affect regional stability (for example, in the South China Sea), and how will India respond to China’s expanding maritime activities in the Indian Ocean region? In what ways could China, India, Pakistan, and the United States best support stability in Afghanistan, and how can the regional countries overcome the competition for influence in Afghanistan?

Integrating the Region

Will China’s ambitious One Belt, One Road blueprint create opportunities for regional collaboration, or spark competition in the region for economic influence in Asia? Will China deliver on its $46 billion pledge to develop the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor? How can the United States leverage its New Silk Road initiative with China’s efforts to promote regional connectivity? Similarly, will it be possible to link up India’s infrastructure efforts in the greater Mekong Delta area with China’s project? How can India lead integration efforts in its neighborhood while facing continuing resistance from Pakistan to allowing overland access between India and Afghanistan? How can China, India, and Pakistan cooperate on river management to mitigate the effects of climate change?

U.S. Policy Toward Southern Asia

How can the United States work with China, India, and Pakistan to promote economic integration across southern Asia? How will China’s increased involvement in Afghanistan affect U.S.-China relations? What is the appropriate balance of U.S. military, economic, and political involvement to effectively advance U.S. foreign policy goals in Asia? What steps can the United States take to boost India’s profile in regional trade organizations and other regional groupings (for example, U.S. support for India’s membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum)? How can the United States join or increase its involvement in regional groupings? Is regional cooperation on counterterrorism feasible? How should the importance of the U.S. role in Asia be explained to the American public to assuage concerns related to trade and international involvement?