Dr. Rizwan Naseer
Strategic Security Analyst, Pakistan
The riddle an educated Pakistani attempts to solve is that, “Why was Pakistan so special in American grand strategy during the Cold War and post-Cold War?”
One obvious reason was Pakistan’s geostrategic location to control communist China and the Soviet Union.
No other country could offer such a strategic advantage to American interests in the war in Afghanistan (1979-89) and War on Terror (2001-2021).
But on the other hand, Pakistan has always complained that America remains an unfaithful friend.
To develop US-Pakistani relations, it is necessary to understand the United States’ distant historical engagement with Pakistan.
This article does not cover the entire incident, but some crucial moments when Pakistani-American interests converged and diverged.
It also highlights the moment when US foreign policy turned against the case of Pakistan.
Pakistan’s relationship with the United States has been both cooperative and adversarial since the early years of its formation.
The reason for this very patron-client relationship has been US demands to establish military bases in Pakistan and exert influence over Pakistan’s foreign policy.
During Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaqat Ali KhanDuring Harry S. Truman’s visit to the United States, Harry S. Truman demanded military bases to carry out surveillance missions in the Soviet Union.
But the request was denied due to sovereign rights and security considerations.
During President Ayub’s regime, the United States carried out a spy mission over the Soviet Union using Pakistani territory. Despite years of cooperation between the United States and Pakistan, Ayub Khan said the United States treated Pakistan as a dominating power.
The central theme of Ayub Khan’s memoirs “Friends, Not Masters: A Political Autobiography”is that “people in developing countries ask for help, but on the basis of mutual respect; they want to have friends not masters”.
Pakistan signed the US-sponsored security agreements SEATO and CENTO, which provided economic and military assistance. This economic aid served only to counter the influence of communism, not to protect Pakistan against any external threat of aggression.
During the ZA Bhutto regime, Pakistan retained and improved CENTO membership despite challenges from regional players (China and USSR). with India.
Pakistan’s expectation was not to receive military support but diplomatic support to thwart Indian aggression.
President Yahya Khan had previously written a letter to US President Nixon and informed him of Indian involvement in equipping, training and supporting Mukti Bahini.
The tragedy of the dismemberment of East Pakistan is unforgettable for all Pakistanis and above all it raises questions about what Pakistan got by joining US-sponsored security pacts when its own national security was threatened.
Determined to make up for India’s nuclear status and avoid nuclear blackmail, ZA Bhutto, the architect of Pakistan’s nuclear program, boldly declared “if India builds the bomb, “We will eat grass, we will even be hungry, but we will have one of our own.“Bhutto’s resolve to acquire the atomic bomb has created a certain schism in relations between Pakistan and the United States.
US President Jimmy Carter emerged as a staunch opponent of nuclear proliferation as Pakistan posed a thorny challenge to his administration.
A senior Gerard Smith, State Department official proposed a confrontational approach (Sunshine Policy) to pressure Pakistan as Jimmy Carter’s administration rejected this policy on the grounds of more damaging relations and broader interests in South Asia.
US President Jimmy Carter has ruled Pakistan in violation of the Symington Amendment in 1979 because of Islamabad’s desire to acquire the nuclear bomb.
An Islamabad-based journalist said the United States had achieved the strategic goal of containing Soviet expansion and was no longer in the mood to support Pakistan with finance and military hardware.
Zia’s Islamization campaign, aimed at helping to recruit the Afghan Jihad, continued even after his death and dragged Pakistan into sectarian strife.
An ordinary Pakistani feels betrayed by the United States because of its hostile policies.
Pakistan was drawn into the Afghan War (1979-89) in the name of Jihad just to contain the Red Army in Afghanistan, not to promote Islamization.
The US Congress passed the Pressler Amendment and prohibits the majority of military and economic aid to Pakistan unless the state is able to provide concrete evidence that Pakistan was not spending the aid to develop nuclear weapons.
It is widely believed that Pakistan had lost its strategic importance in American foreign policy after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
Consequently, relations between 1991 and 1998 remained less cordial.
However, after the Indian nuclear tests (Pokhran-II) from 11 to 13 May 1998 and Pakistan’s retaliatory nuclear tests (May 28, 1998) President Clinton invoked sanctions against India and Pakistan.
At another time, when in the aftermath of September 11, the United States had decided to launch a war against terrorism in Afghanistan, US Secretary of State Colin Powell compelled Pakistan by asking “you are with us or against us” Musharraf could negotiate intelligently, but he was a dictator and needed legitimacy for his power, so he was quick to agree to American demands.
The blunder the US made was to seek Musharraf’s approval alone when that was not enough.
The people of Pakistan have never supported the US global war on terror narrative.
This is why the American operations have never received public support.
A war without active public support is counterproductive. Public outrage in response to US drone strikes in Pakistan has grown due to collateral damage.
The United States had poor intelligence on terrorist hideouts, which resulted in collateral damage.
Anti-American sentiment in Pakistan turned into radical anti-Americanism, an obvious example is when Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor, was caught up in the murder of two Pakistanis.
Public outrage mounted and they demanded the death penalty for him, but then Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani helped release him fearing cracks in Pakistani-US relations.
The United States violated Pakistan’s sovereignty by launching “Operation Neptune Spear” to hunt down Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad in May 2011. Public sentiment was at an all-time high, how dare the United States enter the Pakistani territory when Pakistan was a partner in a global war on terrorism and a non-NATO ally?
He was never treated like a non-NATO ally but an enemy.
The Salala checkpoint incident (November 26, 2011) has brought relations between Pakistan and the United States to a low point.
While the unprovoked and indiscriminate attack by NATO forces in the Mohmand tribal area killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and 13 were injured.
Pakistan has stopped NATO supplies and this has affected bilateral relations to a greater extent. America’s tortured relationship with Pakistan seriously lacks sustainability and credibility, and the fragile nature of that relationship evokes a stronger reaction in Pakistan.
After realizing the American failure in Afghanistan, the Trump administration had planned to withdraw American troops, but this was delayed.
Pakistan has assisted the United States in its negotiations with the Taliban by offering its good offices.
It hurts the feelings of the majority of Pakistanis when the United States, instead of acknowledging Pakistan’s sacrifices, demands to “do more”.
Relations between Pakistan and the United States under the popular rule of Imran Khan remained strained due to a bold stance of mutual respect in bilateralism.
As Imran Khan became the first Prime Minister of Pakistan against whom the vote of no confidence passed.
He alleged that the United States supported his ouster. This letter carrier affair brings Pakistan-US relations to another tipping point.
Khan enjoys popular support among the masses and he holds certain US government officials accountable for passing the no-confidence motion.
But the question is, how will this bilateral relationship evolve when anti-Americanism rises again?
Pakistan has entered an era where young people are politically activated and demanding relations with the United States on the basis of equality and not submission. Relations between Pakistan and the United States are crucial to the peace and stability of Afghanistan.
This bilateral relationship is very crucial for both countries with regard to their respective national interests in the region as well as across the world.
It is necessary to renew the commitment in order to promote the common interest.
The United States also fears that Pakistan may turn to Russia after former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Moscow.
Such misconceptions can only be addressed through diplomatic engagement, not processions.
After the Russian-Ukrainian war, the United States needs more diplomatic support from Asia, to defeat Moscow’s narrative on the diplomatic front and get rid of its friends.
It becomes a natural choice for the United States to re-engage with Pakistan.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization for which he works.
# the author can be reached at [email protected]
# The opinions of Dr. Rizwan expressed here in the article are his own: Chief Ed. telegraphnepal.com
#Thanks to eminent author Dr. Rizwan Naseer, Pakistan: Ed. Upadhyaya.
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