Snags in Pak-US Relationship By M Omar Iftikhar

THE United States of America was the first country to bridge friendly, diplomatic relations with Pakistan following the latter’s independence in 1947. Whether it was the United States’ trying to bring Pakistan under its wing or making an effort to move Pakistan away from Russia’s influence, the strategy did work. Pakistan and the United States did become diplomatic allies; their relationship was further cemented during the Cold War. During the Afghan War, a period of the Cold War where the Afghan Mujahideen were fighting against the Russians, the US assisted Pakistan in supplying weapons to the Mujahideen to win the battle against the Russians. This further cemented the ties between Washington and Islamabad. Moreover, it was Pakistan which facilitated the US in garnering diplomatic ties with China. Had it not been Pakistan, then first official visit of a US President to China would not have been possible and then US President, Richard Nixon, would have never stepped on Chinese soil.
While the US-Pakistan ties were solidifying during the Cold War and it felt the two countries would continue on with their joint mission of supporting each other, it was Washington’s withdrawal from assisting Pakistan that caused the first crack in their relationship. Pakistan had to fight its socio-political dilemmas now that the US was no longer backing Pakistan. Moreover, another act leaving Pakistan in shock was the Pressler Agreement, sponsored by a US Senator, Larry Lee Pressler. Under this agreement, the United States imposed sanctions on Pakistan. The US banned most economic and military assistance to Pakistan unless the President certified on an annual basis that “Pakistan does not possess a nuclear explosive device and that the proposed United States assistance program will reduce significantly the risk that Pakistan will possess a nuclear explosive device.” However, following the 9/11 incident, Pakistan had to move towards the United States to join hands in becoming an ally in the fight against terrorism. Although Pakistan did facilitate the United States in hunting down its targets, it was Pakistan that also paid the price of its positive intentions. According to an estimate, Pakistan lost over fifty-thousand lives when fighting this war side by side with the United States. However, Washington never patted on Pakistan’s back but through its various Senators convinced and compelled Pakistan to ‘do more.’ Under the tenure of President Donald Trump, Washington is again showing the same resentment against Pakistan. In a shocking turn of events, Trump called to suspend the $300 billion Coalition Support Fund because according to Trump, Pakistan had nothing but lies and deceit for the United States.
Despite the animosity often showed by the United States towards Pakistan on various political forefronts, it was the US that keenly observed and comprehended Pakistan’s geostrategic location in South Asia. While Pakistan’s location can make it easily establish trade and diplomatic routes in South Asia and Central Asia, it has also an access to all of its bordering nations and a trade route by the sea. Moreover, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has also established the importance of Pakistan’s strategic location in which China is capitalizing under the CPEC projects. Along with China, Pakistan has been building its ties with Russia as well. The US will continuously monitor how well Pakistan and Russia blend in for the Pak-Russia ties will have an obvious impact on the US-Pakistan relationship. If Pakistan and Russia fortify their diplomatic stance and with Pakistan moving ahead with CPEC, the Pakistan-Russia-China bloc, if formed with full force and positive intention, will stand akin to a wall against the US and its allies. The US, in fact, is being cautious regarding China and its close association with Pakistan. However, China is afraid that the US will sever China’s trade routes in the South China Sea because the US wants to contain China’s rise as an economic power.
While the US aims at creating a stronghold in South Asia to limit or closely check Chian’s rise, it also wants to have its say in CPEC. The US also wants to exercise coercive diplomacy to lessen Pakistan’s diplomatic and trade impact in the region. However, this is where India will play a role. How will India affect CPEC or US-China is yet to be seen but it will not a sight that either Pakistan or China will fathom. However, Washington may keep nurturing its relationship with India to remain a problem for Pakistan and for China. The diplomatic equation between Pakistan-India-US will not make sense for Pakistan and the US have different interests and Pakistan will not accept Indian hegemony. As far as Pakistan’s ties with Russia and China are concerned, the US perhaps has not devised a counter strategy as yet.
— The writer is a freelance columnist based in Karachi.

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