|The future of Pak-US relations
Daily: Daily Times
Pakistan discovered its ideology in 1958 under the auspices of General Ayub Khan who
also used the ideology to justify his martial law, the first utility of the ideology nationally.
This ideology also served Pakistan by justifying its anti-communist stance in the Cold War,
the second utility of this ideology regionally and internationally. The Cold War was formally
over in 1991 but Pakistan and its ideology still stand at the same crossroads. The Cold War
obliged Pakistan both economically and militarily. Now, Pakistan wishes to revel in the same
era and obdurately refuses to move forward.
After 1991, certain new realities dawned on the world such as the importance of
collaboration for the sake of economic prosperity. From ideology, the rest of the world
entered the next phase of orientation: corporate (or market) culture. Economic blocs took
precedence over political (or ideological) blocs. This point led some countries to search for
new (even unexplored) economic frontiers. Primarily, this is the point where Pakistan
became incongruent with US economic needs and, instead, India found a place in it. The
Kargil war that started in early 1999 produced the added effect, convincing the world —
including the US — that the elected political leadership of Pakistan was not in charge of the
country. This apprehension proved true afterwards when General Pervez Musharraf
toppled the elected government in October 1999.
By the end of 1999, the US had realised that, in the post-Cold War era, there existed a flaw
in its foreign policy towards South Asia. The US was hedging its bets on a country (i.e.
Pakistan) that was in turn relying on the US itself rather than the US relying on a country(i.
e. India) independent from its political and economic sway. At the time, India was
experiencing an economic surge with a growth rate of six percent, coupled with introducing
a rapidly expanding software industry. Secondly, by the end of 1999, the US had realised
that Pakistan was likelier to subsist under a military dictatorship whereas India was an
established democracy. Yet, during the post-Cold War era, it took the US about eight years
(1991 to 1999) to realise these two points. Conversely, during these eight years Pakistan
failed to make the US realise its economic significance as a trade partner and its political
significance as a democratic country. Subsequently, by engaging China economically, both
India and the US carefully fostered their bilateral relationship not to be perceived as anti-
China whereas the persistent dependence of Pakistan on the US demeaned Pakistan’s
In March 2000, the US made a major stride in its foreign policy and the then President Bill
Clinton paid a five day long visit to India, 22 years after a visit by another US president in
1978, namely Jimmy Carter. Clinton addressed the Indian parliament’s joint session and
signified a major shift in the US’s foreign policy. During the visit, not only did India-US
economic relations advance but also the India-US strategic partnership started afresh. In
retrospect, this single visit changed the history of South Asia, though, on his way back to
the US, Clinton spent about five hours in Pakistan too, offering a sort of face saving.
Nevertheless, Pakistan failed to fathom its loss. It lost its much-vaunted parity with India,
both regionally and internationally. Subsequently, 9/11 discredited Pakistan further even
though it was not involved in that dastardly act. However, the US did not hesitate to siphon
off warmth from its relations with Pakistan. In contrast, being encouraged by the US, India
started aspiring to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC).
One of the interesting points of the visit was that, at the time, the coalition government, led
by an extreme right wing Hindu chauvinist political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),
led by then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, was ruling India and the US had imposed
economic sanctions on it in the wake of the 1998 nuclear tests. Despite that, Clinton visited
India and offered overtures of friendship. Clinton’s visit opened the door for India to the US.
Though Barack Obama is about to visit India, the face saving provided by Clinton is no
more available to Pakistan.
Post-9/11 relations between the US and Pakistan are different. Pakistan might be thinking
that the war on terror has brought it closer to the US (and the international community) but
the situation is the other way round. Pakistan has been asked to fulfill its international
obligations to fight because Pakistan is considered a country that produced the Taliban
and sympathised with (and sheltered) al Qaeda operatives, the two main elements against
whom this war was waged. Secondly, Pakistan’s identity is unique in the sense that it
possesses both nuclear weapons and religious extremists together in the same land.
Interestingly, the world does not respect Pakistan for its positive contributions, if any, to the
world. It is fearful of Pakistan for its potential to destroy regional and international peace
wittingly or unwittingly.
Pakistan has yet to realise that the Pak-US coalition for the war on terror is ephemeral and
bound to collapse, whether or not instability persists in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, Pakistan
is the victim of another dilemma. Pakistan has been abandoned with regards to its
boisterous claims of regional geo-strategic importance, which has proved to be more the
bane of its existence than anything else. The same ideology (that Pakistan is proud of) and
its consequent products are now asking Pakistan to be part of an Islamic empire aspiring to
take birth in Iraq and Syria. Pakistan is shying away from that and is in conflict with itself.
Currently, instead of making the country a sustained democracy and attain some economic
independence, Pakistan fears another military intervention and has fallen into heavy
foreign debt. It appears that the future of Pak-US relations is bleak, to say the least. It
definitely is not bright. Pakistan needs to change its perception of global realities.
Back to columns in 2014