Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

The wider impact of Pakistan’s internal crisis


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- Implications of Pakistan's internal crisis


As Pakistan goes through a major political convulsion, India must resist the temptation to see the changes across our western frontiers through the narrow prism of bilateral relations.

Why Pakistan matters

  • Pakistan is an important regional piece in the power play between the US, China and Russia.
  • Given its location at the crossroads of the Subcontinent, Middle East, Eurasia, and China, Pakistan has always been a vital piece of real estate that was actively sought by contending geopolitical blocs.
  • The internal and external have always been tightly linked in Pakistan.
  • Today, Pakistan’s internal battles are tied to external geopolitical rivalry.

Two important factors in the political trajectory of Pakistan

  • Any Indian strategy in dealing with the new government in Islamabad would depend on an assessment of Pakistan’s post-Imran political trajectory.
  • Two important factors stand out.
  • 1] First is the changing nature of civil military relations in Pakistan.
  • It is part of a serious intra-elite struggle that transcends the well-known military dominance over Pakistan’s polity.
  • One of the more interesting questions to come out of the current episode is whether the army’s famed internal coherence and unity of command might endure the crisis.
  • 2] Second is the growing fragility of Pakistan’s polity triggered by the deepening economic crisis and sharpening social contradictions.
  • There is no guarantee that the army’s ties with new civilian rulers will be smooth nor can we assume that the civilian coalition against Imran Khan will survive the many challenges ahead as it confronts difficult policy challenges on multiple fronts.

Geopolitical challenges of Pakistan

  • Engaging India is unlikely to be a high priority for the new government in Islamabad.
  • Today, Pakistan has many other things to worry about — reviving its flagging economic fortunes, stabilising the Durand Line with Afghanistan, and rebalancing its ties with the major actors in the Middle East, including Iran, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
  • Pakistan, which traditionally enjoyed good relations with the West as well as China, is finding it hard to maintain a balance in its great power relations.
  • While the army and the new government are eager to restore ties with the US, Imran Khan has made it hard for them.
  • Imran Khan’s repeated praise for India’s independent foreign policy was in essence a critique of the Pakistan army that has long steered Islamabad’s international relations.

Way forward

  •  Delhi should focus on the potential shifts in Pakistan’s strategic orientation triggered by the current crisis.
  • The good news from Pakistan is that India is not part of the argument between the political classes or between Imran Khan and the “deep state” represented by the army.


An India that gets an accurate sense of Pakistan’s changing geopolitics will be able to better deal with Islamabad.

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