The Second Pakistan Front War: A Geopolitics


The one thing that sticks in my mind over the past few years is the warning from Obama to Trump when Obama left the White House. Obama warned Trump that the geopolitical situation he feared the most was the border between India and Pakistan, that the situation there could get out of control very quickly and that the consequences would be devastating. If you take into account nuclear weapons, it is very easy to see why the stakes are so high, and how any escalation in this theater could push Pakistan into a “use it or lose” thinking event that India would have pushed across the border.

To move forward on this, we’ve put together a panel of experts to discuss exactly this issue, and what it means for the region.

This week is on the board.

Aisha Jalal (Tufts University)
Adam Weinstein (Quincy Institute)

As I see it, Pakistan faces a two-front war, one against its historic rival India. The other is the internal factors that tighten the fabric of the Pakistani nation. Pakistan has many geographical advantages, but also many disadvantages. One of the major disadvantages is their dependence on the Indus River, as this river provides the majority of the country’s water and internal transportation. The river is Pakistan’s lifeblood, but it originates in the Casmere region in the Himalayas. Pakistan knows that if the Indians occupy more of Kasmir, it will put Newdahli in a position to build dams on the tributaries of the river and control the flow of water into Pakistan, a situation where our expert from Tufts tells us that it will almost certainly push Pakistan into war with India. There is virtually no way Pakistan could ever feel comfortable with the New Daily having so much leverage over them at any time.

The geography of the war between India and Pakistan is also terrifying for Islamabad, as the situation is daunting against them once again. Most of the major Pakistani cities such as Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore are located less than 100 kilometers from the Indian frontlines, which means that if the Indians were to launch a massive surprise attack (although this is very difficult in today’s satellite age) the Indian Army might have come close. From the outskirts of these cities in a matter of days or hours. In the case of Islamabad, the Indian starting sites are located only 86 km from the outskirts of the city. Which means that the Pakistani leadership will have little time to formulate a response to the attack. This might force them to panic and switch to tactical nuclear weapons to slow India’s rapid advance, but once the nuclear genie is out of the bottle, it’s very difficult to put it back on. India may fear that it is only the first wave and seek to use their nuclear weapons to destroy as many Pakistani missiles as possible before they are launched. All in all, a terrifying set of circumstances.

As we often find when we look at these pieces, colonial frontiers are often the source of internal problems, and I will not go into even Casimir’s entire position. Pakistan has the Baloch people (divided between Iran and Pakistan) seeking independence, and the Pashtun people (divided between Afghanistan and Pakistan) both seek independence. If the Baluchis manage to withdraw, it will destroy much of the Chinese coastal investment that was poured into the country, and if the Pashtuns manage to withdraw, it will take a large portion of the heart of Pakistan. Pakistan is trying to keep the cover on these two groups, but other actors such as India seek to provoke them. India tried for years to improve its relations with Afghanistan in the hope of turning it against Pakistan and forming a two-front war, and at times Kabul pushed a little in this direction.

The real game at the moment, although it revolves around Pakistan, is between Beijing and Washington. Washington needs Pakistan for a logistical route to Afghanistan, as well as a potential starting point for operations in Iran, Central Asia, or western China. Washington is also well aware that if Pakistan collapses, it will likely become a hotbed of terrorism far worse than Afghanistan has ever been, and if that spills over into internal turmoil that could put nuclear weapons in the hands of the reins.

Although China wants Pakistan for two completely different reasons. The first is as a way to circumvent any possible blockade of the South China Sea, hoping that Pakistan will accept the goods that China needs to its southern ports and then transfer those goods to Pakistan and to western China, but the problem lies in that road that they built for it. Actually realizing this snakes in Indian lands for a few miles; In addition, due to its high in the mountains, it will be easier to cross than the South China Sea. China’s second use of Pakistan is a wedge against India, knowing that tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi are forcing India to focus its forces on Pakistan, rather than China.

I don’t think it will happen anytime soon, but in the dreadful state of the nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, China will be the final potential winner in this situation, as India will suffer devastation and China unscathed.

I don’t think a nuclear war is “likely” between these two things, but if I had to choose a region of the world, it would most likely happen in that region.

Thanks again for this sub-section for all of your articles and recommendations, I wish to have your thoughts on the article and the questions below?

How far do you think nuclear war is here?

Will a trade corridor from Gwadar to western China actually work in the event of a blockade of the South China Sea?

What is the most similar event to igniting a war between these two matters, and to what extent do you think Indian tanks must reach Pakistani soil before Islamabad contemplates a nuclear response?

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