The relationship between Pakistan and USA has persistently been on the rollercoaster ride. In 1950’s they were found close allies, later words Pakistan joined CENTO and SEATO. In 1960’s they were what Denis Kux call “estranged allies”. Later than 9/11 Pakistan was called Non-NATO strategic partner and now yet again they are hostile to each other.
The malicious twist has come about in Pakistan vs. US relationship after NATO attack on Salala military check-post on Nov 26, killing 25 soldiers. Pakistan has retaliated. It has clogged all kind of supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan, vacating Shamsi airbase from US in Balochistan, boycotted Bonn conference held recently in Germany and reviewing foreign policy with regard to relationship with US on war on terror.
This has raised alarm bells in Pentagon. Leon Panetta, US Defense Secretary, has alleged this combat cannot be won without Pakistan’s support. Obama administration is making frantic diplomatic and military overtures to Pakistan’s civilian leadership to win back the Pakistan’s support. If Pakistan continues its policy of non-cooperation with US, there is a greater possibility that it could upset the drawdown plan, under which US forces will be pulled out of Afghanistan by year 2014 as a part of Obama’s election commitment with US citizens.
Also there are serious implications for Pakistan. If it continues the policy of ‘blockade’; it could face international isolation, economic sanctions and possibly military action. What frightens me here, if major powers come to conclusion that Pakistan is part of the problem, not solution and is the major source of terrorism in the region, then it can face action Germany and Japan had to faced during WWII where the Allied Powers had drawn conclusion that without defeating Germany and Japan, there cannot be peace in the World.
Some analysts attribute NATO attack on Pakistan military base to the difference between civilian leadership and military establishment in US. As election is approaching near in US, Obama wants to pull out troops from Afghanistan due to the cost of war. It has put more financial pressure on the already war-crippled economy of US – It is facing around $15 trillion budget deficit. Mike Mullen, former Joint Chief of Staff, had to say that the biggest enemy of US is not China, nor Taliban or Al-Qaeda but mounting budget deficit. Pentagon wants more budgets to beef up its military operation in Afghanistan to weaken Taliban and bring them on the negotiation table. McChrystal, the former commander of US forces in Afghanistan had recommended increase in the US forces on the ground in Afghanistan. David Petraeus, current chief of CIA, also shares the same opinion that Taliban need to be whacked first then negotiated.
Discrepancy between military and civilian leadership in Pakistan are also aggravating the situation. Civilian leadership wants to see the end of military or ISI supporting some of the Taliban groups and their affiliates in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which have created more anarchy in the country in the shape of suicide bombing. It has contributed more to political instability and economic chaos. Pakistan has suffered around Rs 68 billion economically and 35 thousand people have died so far.
No FDIs are coming and capital is flying out of the country due to uncertain socio-economic and political conditions.
Another driving force behind the revisiting Foreign Policy is deep-seated realization on the part of civilian leadership that it is not party to the agreements – verbal or written – done by military dictators with US. Dictators lent unflinching support to US in order to get Washington’s support to legitimize their rule in pre and post-cold war. Gen. Auyb Khan offered military base to US in Peshawar to be used for reconnaissance activity against former USSR. Zia offered same support to US to fight against USSR in Afghanistan in return for $3.2 billion military and economic assistance. Musharraf did the same when he received call from Collin Powel, former secretary of state “with us or against us”, he surrendered completely and offered more than what US demanded. 2nd May incident, in which Osama was killed in air raid on his Abbottabad compound, also reveals the same nature of military having mysteries relationship with militants and ISI harboring allegedly the world’s notorious terrorist in the shadow of military academy, without the knowledge of civilian leadership. The issue of drone attacks is also shrouded in mystery as no one knows under what agreement US is violating Pakistan’s territorial and ariel sovereignty. Such violations are turning the public opinion against US and interestingly 55% of Americans hold opinion that Pakistan is enemy.
Basically, the dilemma that has been bedeviling Pak-US relations is the approach of Pentagon using Pakistan as mercenary fighting against its enemies, whether, former USSR or Al-Qaeda or Taliban, rather than strategic partner. What annoys Pakistan leadership is the tilt of US in favor of India which faultily military leadership considers as sworn enemy. Ironically, US being hegemonic power distribute more power in the region in favor of India to create it as countervailing force in the region though Pakistan was the major contributor in war on terror. In this regard, the agreement about transfer of nuclear technology for civilian use is important indicator of US tilt in favor of India.
From the perspective of realist school of thought, it is right of every nation to define and redefine its foreign policy on the basis of its national interest. It is therefore right of Pakistan to redefine its Foreign Policy in the face of changing conditions and US should show magnanimity to recognize this right of Pakistan as prudently said by Hina Rabbani Khar that relationship between Pakistan and US should be guided by rationality and mutual respect. I totally concur with this view of HRK.