July 07, 2020
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The Diplomatic Waltz In South Asia

India and Pakistan’s historical and current ties with the US, China and Russia—vital if a conflict breaks out between the two

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The Diplomatic Waltz In South Asia
The Diplomatic Waltz In South Asia

India-United States

The large democracies kept a cordial but safe distance from each other during the Cold War. US-Pak close ties and Washington dispatching USS Enterprise against Delhi during the 1971 Indo-Pak war strained ties further. Later, relations improved; after the 1998 nuclear tests, it went on an upswing, but US maintained a balance among the rivals. How the US under the Trump presidency reacts to a conflict is mired in uncertainty.

Pakistan-United States

Close allies since the Cold War, with Pakistan part of a military alliance with the US. Ties deepen further in early ’70s; Sino-US rapprochement begins with Islamabad’s help. America’s engagement in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan elevates Pakistan’s position further. Osama bin Laden’s killing in Abbotabad sours ties, but US Afghan war veterans as key Trump advisers will keep Islamabad’s stocks high.


Initial bonhomie between the two new republics ended in a war over disputed boundary in 1962. Much of the current strain stems from that armed conflict, complicated further by growing Sino-Pak ties. Though ties are marked by cooperation and competition, fresh strains have entered over Arunachal and the Dalai Lama. Islamabad’s embrace of the CPEC raises doubts if Beijing will remain neutral during a war.


Growing closeness since 1960s; Pakistan gifts part of Kashmir under its control to China. Islamabad’s willingness to play the role of Beijing’s key ally to keep India boxed in South Asia strengthens ties further. China’s investment of over $50 billion in the CPEC, linking Gwadar port to Xinjiang, making it the key project in China’s Belt-Road Initiative. Both countries’ strained relations with India bring them even closer.



Despite India’s non-aligned stance, ties between Delhi and Moscow flourished during the Cold War. Russia’s support to India during the 1971 War, countering a US threat,  brings them closer. But after USSR’s break-up and India’s drift towards US, strains appear in ties. Russia remains a close partner, but overtures towards Pakistan, dependency on China raise doubts if its neutrality will suffice in case of a war with Pak.


No warmth during the Cold War, as Pakistan joined the US alliance against USSR. In later years, attempts were made by Islamabad to cosy up to Moscow. Growing Indo-US relations allowed closer Pak-Russia ties. Moscow ended its arms embargo in 2014, supplied Pakistan attack copters in search for markets for hardware. In 2016, they held joint military exercises—ties could be even closer, for Russia wants to keep out US from Afghanistan.

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