This paper examines the next U.S. administration’s foreign policy choices toward South Asia. It argues that the turbulent nature of the entrenched India-Pakistan rivalry and the geopolitical realities of South Asia complicate U.S. policy options. While the United States’ national security interests in South Asia are enduring, the nationalist fervor in the region necessitates a rethinking of Washington’s policy choices. Analyzing the U.S. South Asia policy through the lens of national security needs, the report emphasizes:
■ The dangers of misdiagnosing emerging challenges and a need for contextualizing the demographic, environmental, and socio-economic challenges of the region, especially in the post-COVID world;
■ The effects of globalization and nuclearization on U.S. engagement choices;
■ The serious potential consequences of India turning away from its secular democratic principles;
■ The impact of China’s rise as the leading strategic competitor to U.S. global influence on South Asia; and
■ The need for a more vibrant and encompassing U.S. regional engagement agenda to support better governance in South Asia by encouraging religious harmony and countering drug trade, human trafficking, and transnational crime.