Ukraine Crisis: South Asia is finding a “Grey Zone”

By Agha Iqrar Haroon

Ukraine Crisis is now a full-fledged military conflict while South Asian countries are trying to find “Grey Zones” in a world where creating a diplomatic Grey Zone has become as difficult as finding a needle in an ocean.  


India is a strategic partner of the United States since the historic contract that was signed by former US President Donald Trump. Pakistan is a strategic partner of China for ages and both are trying to keep themselves away from the Ukraine crisis. Both decided to abstain from UN resolutions over Ukraine. Both have deep economic linkages with EU member states and United States.

We remember that over 70 percent of the total exports of Pakistan (mostly cotton-based products) are linked with EU and US markets.  One decision of the EU and the US can put Pakistan in a further critical economic condition that is already facing exceptionally fragile economic health under PM Khan.

Opposition circles claim that ruling party-friendly media is portraying Prime Minister Imran Khan as a hero who says “Absolutely not” to every demand that comes from the western world. Now, this media is saying that PM Khan has refused to stand with the western world over the Ukraine crisis therefore the US has started its plan for a regime change. Now everything that would come from the opposition for Vote of No Confidence against PM Khan would be put under the theory of “Regime Change”.


We have a long history of regime changes in Pakistan triggered and even funded by the United States but in all changes, the military establishment took the regime. Therefore, chanting slogans that PM Khan can be a victim of any regime change is actually creating doubts against the military leadership of the country and is an attempt to drag Army again into politics that must not be encouraged.

Will PM Khan portray himself as a victim of “international Conspiracy” if ever Vote of No Confidence becomes successful? If the EU or US refuses to buy goods from Pakistan then it will jolt an already ruined economy. In such a situation, PM Khan would be justified to say Pakistan was the victim of taking an independent stance and of refusing to accept the hegemony of the western world. Opposition circles are of the view that one thing is clear Pakistan’s decision of abstaining from UN resolutions and the decision of PM Khan to visit Moscow when Russia had plans to enter sovereign Ukraine would undoubtedly benefit PM Khan in the future. I believe that dragging politics by the opposition at international decision-making of government is not helpful for the country.

Pakistan, Iran, India, Bangladesh, China, and Sri Lanka refrained from supporting Ukraine sending a message that South Asia does not care what is going on in Ukraine. This is quite a strange situation because Ukraine did not do anything wrong with these countries except rough behavior at border entries for South Asians when they travel to Ukraine with valid Ukrainian visas. Ukraine had not been a part of any military invasion against South Asian countries as it was in Iraq.


I am concerned why did a majority of South Asian countries are refraining from this very sensitive situation that can spread all over the world?  Many former diplomats are of the view that abandoning Ukraine is due to avoiding becoming part of the fight between two elephants— the United States and Russia. Is it the only reason?

Pakistan can say that Ukraine always avoids supporting the Kashmir issue and stands with India. Then why India is avoiding Ukraine? Bangladesh has around 65 percent export to the United States and EU then why Bangladesh is refraining from supporting the United States over this issue?

While covering Eastern Europe for decades I know that Ukraine has always been Europe-centric and does not care and give attention to its relations with South Asian countries but it does not mean that Ukraine has no diplomatic missions and relations with South Asian countries.

Another theory is that India is avoiding to stand with the United States due to US abrupt withdrawal from Afghanistan and its historic defeat because India stood with the western world in Afghanistan and nobody asked it before midnight withdrawal from Afghanistan and now Indian think tanks believe that the United States is a weaker state and cannot ensure the security of any country and it also does not take consent from its partners before taking important decisions. If this theory is valid then it happened with all European countries who supported the United States under ISAF but they were never taken into confidence over US Afghanistan policy before the US ran away from Kabul.

There is no doubt that the US and Europe are still strangulating the Afghan economy and waiting for the collapse of the interim Taliban government but this act would not reverse history and would not delete images of scenes of Kabul airport when helpless US-NATO allies were begging Afghans to leave the airport and let them run away.

What is happening in Ukraine is the result of dictions powerful always use against weaker nations. NATO had reasons to believe that Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Afghanistan were dangerous for humanity so they bombed these nations. Now Russia has reason to believe that Ukraine is being used to invade Russian borders so it is bombing Ukraine.

Right now only China is a real power that is refraining from taking sides against or far Russia but China since eight years is murmuring that the United States is using eastern European countries against the core issue of “One China Policy” and also instigating unrest in Muslim populated regimes of China while the United States officially has tagged China as an economic enemy. The debate that the world is unipolar, bipolar, or multi-polar can get its results out of the US-Russia tug of war in Ukraine.

We can see ruined cities of Syria where the US and Russia fought through their proxies. We saw what happened in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya in the recent past where the US equipped the population with weapons and now weaponization of civilians has been done in Ukraine therefore Ukraine’s situation looks like new wine in an old bottle. However, Ukraine’s situation indicates that the old theory that Europe will not fight within Europe and quest of bloodshed and game of headshot would remain in the Middle East or elsewhere is no more a valid theory. Moreover, the invitation of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to all nations to reach Ukraine to protect it from Russia can pave a way for NATO soldiers without uniforms to enter and fight against Russian forces and such a situation would be critical for Russia. We still remember the diction of “Jihadi Johns” when thousands of Europeans went to Syria to fight against the anti-US regime. Will such a situation be in Ukraine?

I believe that China is in the most critical situation right now as this war has halted Chinese economic growth. I believe that China cannot be indifferent if Russia is ever attacked by NATO because it is a neighboring country of Russia while India and Pakistan are neighboring China therefore situation is quite complex for South Asia. Central Asia also refrained from UN voting because it will be the first to receive jolts of an attack on Russia being neighboring Russia and China.

Moreover, Central Asian citizens depend upon the Russian economy as immigrant laborers. The collapse of the Russian economy would immediately ruin the economies of the majority of Central Asian states. Can we say that the Ukraine crisis that is today haunting Europe may soon spread eastward to South Asia?

In these circumstances, Pakistan, India, and China cannot stay indifferent or aloof for a longer period and all three important South Asian countries would take some decisions because the world is no more “grey Zones”. I believe that Pakistan will take decisions from regional perspectives instead of thinking domestically.


The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk News Agency.

Central Desk
Central Desk
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