US Security Policy towards South Asia after September 11 and its Implications for China: A Chinese Perspective

Zhang Guihong is Associate Professor and Deputy Director at the Institute of International Studies, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, P.R.C. He specialises on US security strategy towards Asia-Pacific, especially the South Asia region.
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  • April 2003

    American security policy towards South Asia can basically be divided into three stages: balance of power in the Cold War era, beyond balance of power after the end of Cold War, and new balance of power after September 11.

    The Cold War saw an allied US and Pakistan rival the close relations between the Soviet Union and India in the subcontinent. Yet, South Asia became a low priority in US Asia policy in the early years of the post-Cold War era compared to other regions, especially East Asia and the Middle-East.
    Three events, however, drew US attention to the region in the late 1990s. First, India and Pakistan exploded a total of eleven nuclear devices in May 1998. Then the two powers came into conflict in Kargil from May to July 1999 which resulted in a bloodless military coup in Pakistan in October 1999. Third, President Clinton’s visit to South Asia in March 2000 topped off a changing US South Asia strategy with a warm Washington-New Delhi rapprochement. The Bush Administration continued to transform the US-Indian relationship.

    This paper begins with a brief analysis of the significant changes in US policy towards India and Pakistan during the second term of the Clinton Administration by way of case studies of the three aforementioned events that transpired in the late 1990s. The second part addresses US security policy towards India and Pakistan after September 11. And, after some observations about US policy options in post-9/11 South Asia, the implications for China of the changing US strategy in the region is discussed from the lens of ‘triangles’ (which include a US-China-India triangle, a US-India-Pakistan triangle and a India-China-Pakistan triangle).

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