Friday, May 25, 2012

Relations between Pakistan and the United States

May 25, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi

In a nutshell the bilateral relations between Pakistan and America have remained overcast, predominantly by mistrust and bickering. America is a super power and Pakistan chose to be cast in a mould of her client or a surrogate state. Pakistan has been looking up to the United States for aid all these years and that is what a client state does. Pakistan joined SEATO and CENTO treaties that primarily served the American global interests with fixation on particular regions and containment of Communism.

In a nascent state of Pakistan, visionary leadership was deficient in the aftermath of the demise of the freedom winning stalwarts in a few years after the independence of Pakistan in 1947. Because of her entanglement in those two pacts, there was no escape route for Pakistan to redeem its non- aligned status that India maintained from the beginning. Although, consequently both these pacts were dissolved, yet Pakistan continued to be tied to the apron string of the United States.

The divergence of interests between the two unequal allies has been manifest all along their mutual journey of friendship. Pakistan wanted American iron-clad guarantees against its traditional foe India while America’s underlying objective to rope Pakistan was to keep it in her fold for the anti-communist global drive.

Pakistan being close in the neighborhood of both former Soviet Union and China was geographically an ideal place to sow intrigues against these antagonists of capitalism. Pakistan did play her assigned role in an extremely befitting manner by ousting Soviet Union, with American funds, from Afghanistan lock stock and barrel. Pakistan used Islamic militants and its soil to force the red army to retreat in utter humiliation.

Ironically, thereafter Pakistan was subjected to embargoes and sanctions for the spurious causes one of which was Pakistan’s endeavor to attain nuclear know-how as a counterpoise to that of India. But that phase was short-lived and mercifully Pakistan again became a favorite ally and apple of the United States’ eyes.  Pakistan was again with U.S., in chasing the dreaded Al-Qaida and Taliban out of Afghanistan.

Pakistan deployed its armed forces in the uncharted tribal regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan to flush out anti-American combatants drawn from Taliban, religious outfits, local warlords and Al-Qaida. Pakistan army is suffering heavy casualties with thousands of troops dead and disabled in the still continuing ten years’ war on terror.

Pakistan has always posed itself as an obliging ally of the United States and has been bending over heavily backward to do a hireling’s role and in return get the bounty money. Pakistan opened its overland routes and allowed the use of its soil for transporting food, medicine and other essential supplies including weapons to NATO troops in Afghanistan.

From its Shamsi air base, pilotless Drones were directed to attack the insurgents and other coveted targets. Pakistan deployed its forces into the rugged and inaccessible mountains, stretching from Balochistan to the peripheries of Hindukush ranges, almost over a two thousand long miles stretch to annihilate the militants and destroy their hideouts.  

America always expects of Pakistan to oblige at the drop of the hat even if in the process, Pakistan would suffer horrendously in various ways. Pakistan is taking casualties on daily basis in tribal belt particularly in Waziristan. Pakistan ‘society and social peace is in tatters because of the swelling antagonism of ferocious Taliban and frenzied Al-Qaida outfits. Every now and then they mount devastating suicide bombing and launch deadly assaults on vital civil and military installations.

Pakistan’s internal shattered peace and abysmal law and order situation and dreadful militancy mounted by Islamic militants are the outcomes of Pakistan’s overtures to oblige and keep American in good humor. Otherwise there was neither any overpowering reason nor indispensable necessity for Pakistan territory to become a war zone for outlaws and especially religious extremists who look upon Pakistan as an enemy of Islam and lackey of imperialism.

The drone attacks on the soil of Pakistan, the barbarous bombing on Pakistan’s military posts and the growing loss of its troops and the whole country engulfed into a state of war, do not matter to a more equal ally. What matters is that NATO or American aircrafts can barge into Pakistan’s territory any time without permission and go back without realizing it was a grave violation of the territorial integrity of a committed and obliging ally.

What matters is that Dr. Afridi should be released and not Dr. Afia although the nature of their charges are poles apart. It is all a one-sided business in which Pakistan is not assigned any say or to uphold or to look after its interests. Pakistan is bereft of making independent decisions in foreign policy domain and is coerced to readily submit with folded hands what it is ordained to do by the United States.

The argument is tenable that the war on terror has cost Pakistan’s economy $70 billion dollars. According to Wikipedia “a significant proportion of US economic aid for Pakistan has ended up back in the US as funds are channeled through large US contractors”. Large sums of the pledged US economic aid do not leave the US because it is spent on consulting fees and overhead cost within U. S. before it is disbursed to Pakistan. The paltry aid and Pakistan’s association as the second fiddle of the United States carries the degrading tag of being a vassal state of that super power.

Pakistan acted as a conduit for opening up contacts between the United States and China in 1972 with the landmark visit of then secretary of state Henry Kissinger. That visit was followed by President Nixon’s state visit to China in February 1972. While China acknowledges Pakistan historic role in opening the first chapter of Sino-American relations, the United States has gingerly expressed the gratitude for which Pakistan is genuinely entitled to.

America should understand that if it was an unachievable tall order for NATO to defeat Taliban and other militants and achieve a clear-cut victory, how Pakistan with limited resources can make than happen. Moreover, there is no earthly or convincing reason for Pakistan to remain engaged with Taliban in a perpetual military conflict.

Nevertheless, Pakistan played its part of clearing the FATA and agencies from the elements that posed looming danger to the NATO presence in Afghanistan and a religious takeover in Pakistan. To vacate Swat valley from the dogged Taliban and religious fanatics convincingly demonstrates that Pakistan has been a committed and serious partner against the dogmatic forces, the reactionaries and religious militants who could have imposed their obscurantist fiat all over Pakistan. That should launder any doubt about the sincerity and earnestness of Pakistan in being a strong bulwark against the forces inimical to a stable, modern, democratic and Pakistan.

Despite being close allies, the relations between the United States and Pakistan have been eclipsed by deficit of trust. Neither side places complete and untainted trust in each other’s friendship. The obvious reason is the mutually bloated expectations: America wanting Pakistan to go an all out war on the anti-American elements and factions and defeat them.

Pakistan on the other hand, expects of the United States to be treated with a modicum of reasonableness and understanding of its limits in delivering the needful. Pakistan feels that while she has been fighting a proxy war for the United States now for two decades, it is not the beneficiary of the grand perks and privileges that have been bestowed upon its regional rival India.

In his policy speech on December 1, 2009 president Obama lauded Pakistan in these words “In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly. Those days are over.... The Pakistani people must know America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan’s security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed." 
The shaky nature of relations between Pakistan and the United States continues to spur blame game. However, the United States must be convinced that after NATO and American troops’ withdrawal, no other regional power, except Pakistan, can safeguard the interests of United States in the war torn and badly ravaged Afghanistan. Pakistan enjoys an uncontested position to maintain peace in Afghanistan and also collaborate with America in reconstruction programs.

Pakistan possesses the good will as well as the military muscle to subdue the dissidents, the war lords and insurgents like Taliban. With the guns going silent, a phase of rehabilitation can be initiated also in the tribal belt that has been mauled by drone attacks and Pakistan army’s onslaughts against the miscreants.

Pakistan army’s role thereafter would be to rebuild the infrastructure, roads, schools and hospitals in FATA and Afghanistan.  A host of other similar projects can bring prosperity, peace, awareness and good governance in those primitive regions lorded over by the local lords. The people of Afghanistan or FATA will not accept any other regional solicitor as willingly as Pakistan.

As such Pakistan can be a reliable, competent and acceptable successor of the United States in Afghanistan. Pakistan could renew good will for USA and recreate a new modern, stable democratic and peaceful Afghanistan which is what the rest of the world and particularly America would cherish after it leaves that country.

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