The battle for Pakistan

As India seeks to re-launch its dialogue with Pakistan this week, Delhi must come to terms with the enduring geographic significance of our special neighbour to the west and the unfolding contest for the control of its territory and political soul.

China's decision to expand its nuclear cooperation with Pakistan in defiance of the international norms and the American reluctance to vigorously challenge it, underline the unique value of the Pakistan army for Beijing and Washington.

Further, the many challenges of our time — the changing relationship between a China that believes in its own unstoppable rise and a United States that is brooding about its relative decline, the spread of nuclear weapons, and the challenge of violent religious extremism — all come together in Pakistan.

The American and Chinese stakes in the relationship with the Pakistan army headquarters in Rawalpindi are high and rising amidst the expectations of a rapid political evolution in the Af-Pak theatre in the near future and gathering confrontation between Iran and the West. Whichever great power can shape the politics of the territories along and across the Indus that the Pakistan army holds will gain a decisive influence over the developments in the subcontinent, inner Asia and the Persian Gulf and the orientation of violent religious extremism.

India's problem with the Sino-Pak nuclear deal is not that it might add to the strength of Pakistan's atomic arsenal. The Pakistan army is well on its way to rapidly expand the size and sophistication of its nuclear deterrent. India's difficulties do not lie in the numbers of Pakistani nuclear weapons or the kind of delivery systems it has; they are rooted in the fact that the Pakistan army has used the constraining effects of its nuclear deterrent on India to pursue a sub-conventional war that Delhi is yet to find effective ways to cope with.

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