Pak-US Relations? By M Fazal Elahi

A question that continues to nudge the minds of the Pakistani nation even after seven decades of its existence is “Would US-Pakistan relations ever reach the pinnacle of genuine and commendable amity”? The question is indeed central to Pakistan’s interest. It must, therefore, be knowledgeably answered if sustainable and meaningful relations were to be established between the US and Pakistan. History of US-Pakistan relations is replete with ignominious episodes of highs and lows. Evidently, and not so astonishingly, if the US has occasionally supported Pakistan, monetarily or otherwise, during this period is not because supporting Pakistan was in the strategic interest of the US, but because Pakistan served the US interest very well, whenever required.
Pakistan, as known to all and sundry, has never been as strategically important to the US as India. It, in fact, has been used by the US, from time to time, to attain its own objectives. On the contrary, India has always been supported and pampered by the US both for strategic as well as business reasons. India has been and will continue to be strategically significant for the US. The strongest of all the reasons for this is that the US strongly desires to see India emerge as a power to reckon with in the region. It wishes to do so with the expressed intent of keeping a tab on China, a country that the US sees rapidly and conspicuously emerging as a world power. How could the US, the incumbent superpower, ever let China endanger its status? Naturally, therefore, a militarily and economically robust India serves the strategic interests of the US better than Pakistan or for that matter any other country in the region.
There are umpteen instances that could be highlighted to prove the arguments regarding US-Pakistan relations cited above. However, an instance that perfectly and justifiably fits into our narrative vis-à-vis US-Pakistan relations is particularly the ‘Soviet–Afghan War’ in which Pakistan and Saudi Arabia joined the US to back some insurgent groups known collectively as the mujahedeen, as well as smaller Maoist groups, to fight a guerrilla war against the Soviet Army and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan government, mostly in the rural countryside.
A research paper jointly penned by Lubna Sunawar and Tatiana Coutto, and published in The Journal of International Relations and Development Studies (a publication by Arcadia University and the American Graduate School in Paris) cogently states that the role of the US in Pakistan’s Foreign Policy throughout the Cold War, the ‘war against the USSR’ in Afghanistan – regarded as the first test case for Pakistan during the Cold War as a frontline ally of the US and currently the fight against terrorism should not be understated. Nevertheless, the paper states, Pakistan-US relations have been described as ‘a tale of exaggerated expectations, broken promises and disastrous misunderstandings’. The paper further states that in this love-hate relationship, attempts to establish cordial ties and periods of economic and military assistance and cooperation have been interspersed with phases characterized by ‘friction and mutual distrust’.
Even today, for obvious reasons, the US. doesn’t seem to be too keen to alter its lucidly interest-based relations with Pakistan to genuine and commendable amity. The two recent blatant measures taken by the U.S. (a) suspension of U.S. military training programs for Pakistani officers (valued at approximately $2.41 million), and (b) cancellation of $300 million in U.S. aid to Pakistan profoundly endorses this inference. As always, through such castigatory measures the United States of America is perpetually engaged in coercing Pakistan to bend on its knees and to follow its diktats out-and-out.
Pakistan has suffered inestimably by being an ally of the US in the Soviet-Afghan War and the war against terrorism. The Soviet-Afghan War cost Pakistan very dearly. As reported in the national and international media, by the end of 2001there were over four million Afghans in Pakistan. Most have returned to Afghanistan since 2002. The UNHCR reported in February 2017 that about 1.3 million registered Afghan citizens still remained in Pakistan. As known to the world, Pakistan has paid heavily for being an ally of the US in the ongoing war against terrorism in Afghanistan. In the process of fighting this dreadful war for the US Pakistan has suffered colossally both in terms of money and loss of innocent lives. For all the sacrifices that Pakistan has made, over the decades, fighting the U.S’ war in Afghanistan and the Soviet-Afghan War, Pakistan has gained nothing. Lubna Sunawar and Tatiana Coutto couldn’t be more apt, when they comment in their paper “Pakistan-U.S. relations have been a tale of exaggerated expectations, broken promises and disastrous misunderstandings”.
What then does the brief history of US-Pakistan relations enunciated above reveal? It lucidly divulges that Pakistan has never been and it never will be in the roster of “Strategic Partners” of the US. Pakistan has been exploited by the US time and again. It would be prepared to do so, yet again, whenever the need arises. Should and could, therefore, the US be blamed for its prejudiced and dogmatic stance against Pakistan? I don’t think so. Why? Because, as stated earlier, Pakistan is not of strategic importance to the US but India is, for obvious reasons. For all that Pakistan has done and continues to do, it is being persistently asked by the US to do more. Not only this, Pakistan is also being blamed for being a ‘safe haven’ for terrorists and supporting some terrorist groups; a charge that Pakistan continues to deny. But the US is not ready to accept Pakistan’s denial. It simply doesn’t trust Pakistan.
What should then Pakistan do in this unfortunate ambience of distrust? It should take tangible measures to prove to the US that its assertion vis-à-vis its involvement in supporting some terrorist groups operating from its soil is erroneous and based on delusion. This can be done by undertaking across-the-board and exhaustive action against all terrorist groups allegedly operating from Pakistan’s soil. Pakistan must also completely wipe out all terrorist ‘safe havens’ from its soil if, as alleged by the US, they exist in the country.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.

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