After the demise of the Soviet Union, the United States emerged as the sole super power in the international arena, which was also the beginning of a unipolar world in global politics and power. But in the recent years, the American failures, particularly in Asia, has created a significant power vacuum. As a result, new regional alliances are taking place. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, Turkey, China and Pakistan, were all once under the tight grip of US sphere of influence, but are now acting unilaterally in order to pursue their national interests and hence giving rise to a multipolar world with many power centres.
Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen sent a clear message to Washington that Riyadh is no more dependent on American forces to protect its regional interests. Saudi Arabia has also recently formed a 39 country Islamic Military Alliance to counter growing terrorism in the Muslim world. And there are speculations that former Pakistani Army Chief, General Raheel Shareef, is going to lead the alliance. Many analysts believe that appointment of a Pakistani general will irk Kingdom’s arch rival Iran, which fears that the bloc is an attempt by Riyadh to regain its lost influence and also intimidate Tehran.
On the other hand, Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is also active in the Middle East. IRGC is fighting alongside pro-Assad forces in Syria against the Saudi and Western backed rebels. According to media reports, General Sulemani, head of IRGC, is supervising the Iraq military operations against ISIS. Furthermore, Iranian backed Lebanese group Hezbollah is also fighting against anti Assad forces in Syria. Middle East, which was also under a strong US influence, is now witnessing key regional actors taking part in proxy wars.
Relations between Turkey and USA are also strained due to divergence of national interests in Syria and Iraq. Turkey has serious reservations regarding American support to Kurdish Peshmerga. Ankara fears that after the defeat of ISIL, the focus of Kurds will turn to fighting Turkish government and their long suppressed insurgency will gain new momentum. In light of these events, Turkey has taken several unilateral decisions undermining their NATO allies. But Washington and Ankara’s policy on the fate of Assad regime is still the same. Both want the removal of the Syrian dictator. Moreover, in the recent days, Turkey has softened its stance on the Syrian regime.
In the Asian regions, new alliances and flagship projects such as the One Belt One Road, and its offshoots such as the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), are also changing the regional power dynamics. CPEC will help reduce the distance for China importance, and more importantly it will be safer than the current routes used by China, which are also heavily militarized by the US and India.
According to Economists, China will be the largest economy by 2030 surpassing the United States. Furthermore, Beijing is rapidly militarising the Spratly Islands. Washington and Beijing has divergent claims on the issue of South China sea, in which Spratly Islands are located. United States wants the solution of the dispute according to the “United Nations Convention on the Law and Sea”. While Beijing’s claim is based on nine dash line, according to which South China Sea is an integral part of China. Many political scientists believe that South China Sea will be the epicentre of international politics in the near future. In order to tackle the dragon’s rise, United States has initiated the policy of pivot to Asia.
The rise of multipolar world has pros and cons for Pakistan. According to senior journalist Zahid Hussain, the Trump administration will deal India and Pakistan separately. Also, Trump’s position on China will make things more complicated and Washington’s pressure will increase on Pakistan to take action against anti-Afghan and anti-India militant groups.
In order to contain China, United States will increase its support to India, ultimately increasing pressure on Pakistan. Despite American foreign policy in retreat, USA is still the strongest nation on the planet. United States has the largest and technologically most advanced military with more than 700 bases all around the world. United States has an economy of 17 trillion dollars, the biggest in the world.
It would not be wise for Pakistan to completely sever its ties with Washington, as it would only make the matters worse for Islamabad. According to Vali Nasr, an expert on international affairs, “The world is not used to America’s disappearing abruptly”. Therefore, Pakistan needs to keep engaging with the US and the emerging big powers including China and Russia and keep on reaping benefits from the important position that it occupies in the strategic makeup of the new rising multipolar world.