THE United States was amongst those countries that established diplomatic relations with Pakistan shortly after its creation in August 1947. The US provided necessary support, required by the fledgling state to survive after its premature birth, because Americans did not want the newly-born South Asian country to join the Soviet led communist bloc. Pakistan reciprocated US goodwill gestures by providing possible help to the US against the Soviet Union during the Cold War era. In the 1950s, it leased an air base located in Peshawar to the US to keep an eye on Moscow, from a closer proximity. Pakistan also allowed the US to launch spy missions from its territory. Islamabad played a crucial role in bringing the US and China closer to each other by facilitating President Richard Nixon’s first visit to China in 1972.
After the occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in late 1970’s, Pakistan’s significance was further enhanced for the US. When the Afghan resistance started posing a challenge to the Soviet Union, the planners of Afghan War decided to exploit Islam as an effective tool to gain the support of Muslim masses. The strategy produced amazing results; the Soviet Empire was stripped off its status as a superpower by the combined might of Afghan resilience, human and financial resources of the Muslim World, reinforced by modern military technologies provided by the US. Immediately after the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan and collapse of communist bloc in 1988, the US and its allies withdrew the support, they were providing to Pakistan. The sudden withdrawal of major stakeholders from Afghan conflict, left Pakistan exhausted and inadequately equipped to clear the mess created by its role as the frontline state during the Afghan War. After achieving its objectives in Afghanistan, the US not only stopped the support to Pakistan, it also imposed sanctions against Pakistan by passing the Pressler amendment.
Pakistan once again became important for the US in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks, and the subsequent war on terror. Over sixty thousand Pakistani have sacrificed their lives in the war on terror, but to veil its failure in Afghanistan, the US has been blaming Pakistan for not doing enough against the Taliban, while turning a blind eye to the use of Afghan territory by India to carry out terrorist activities inside Pakistan. By suspending the payment of $ 300 million to Pakistan, under the Coalition Support Fund, the US has yet again displayed apathy to the sacrifices made by Pakistani nation.
In addition to the support Pakistan provided to the US during the Cold War era, Pakistan’s geographical location made it figure prominently in the US foreign policy parameters. Stephen Cohn described Pakistan’s geostrategic significance as; “while history has been unkind to Pakistan, its geography has been its greatest advantage”. Pakistan is located at the juncture of the three important parts of the world, South Asia, West Asia and Central Asia. Due to its location, it has remained the focus of attention of great powers, and has also served as an important route for trade for the landlocked Central Asian Republics (CAS). Both Russia, a world power, and China, an emerging world power, are located in the neighbourhood of Pakistan. Lately Pakistan has assumed tremendous importance for China, which is developing its southern provinces. Because its own port is 4500 km away from Sinkiang, Gwader a deep-water port, which is 2500 km from the same destination, has special attraction for China. Gwader also offers an access to China’s western provinces to the Middle Eastern markets.
China’s main apprehension with the US is that the latter could block China’s trade and supply lanes passing through the South China Sea with the support of its allies occupying key location in the South China Sea if the tension between the two further intensifies. China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC) project is mainly motivated by the suspicion about the US intentions to “check China’s rise”. It is intended to establish marine presence at Gwader, located close to the strategic Strait of Hormuz, and to build land routes from the Persian Gulf through Pakistan to Western China. This is China’s insurance to continue trade with the West Asia and Middle East in case of hostilities with the US and its allies in Asia. As to the benefit for Pakistan CPEC will help build infrastructure, stimulate economy and create thousands of much needed job opportunities. Pak-China ties have, therefore, become strategically significant for both the countries.
The real US designs look like establishing a strong foothold in this region to contain the ever-expanding influence of China, and to counter Iran and Pakistan, the only Muslim country having credible nuclear capability. For this purpose the US is trying to rear India as a major global power to protect its interests in the region as a strategic partner. The US immediate concern is peace in the volatile war-ravaged Afghanistan. To pave the way for Indian hegemony in the region, the US wants to reduce Pakistan to a toothless state subservient to India like other South Asian countries, through coercive diplomatic maneuvers. The US administration, right from President Donald Trump to the spokesperson of the State Department, has launched a campaign to malign Pakistan by blaming it for deceptively providing safe havens to the Afghan Taliban. In the backdrop of US strategic objectives, and Pakistan’s compelling economic needs together with the history of hostile Indian posture, the US-Pakistan policies are not likely to converge on mutually agreeable terms, because of their clashing interests. Pakistan cannot either be coerced to accept Indian hegemony in the South Asia, or to withdraw from CPEC, which is considered a game changer by the Pakistani strategists and economists. Along with Kashmir Dispute and nuclear capability, Pakistani nation has developed a national consensus on CPEC project, in the quickest time.
— The writer a retired Brig, is professional educationist based in Islamabad.