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USA and Pakistan, the mercurial friendship

By Rohan Singh

After WWII, America emerged as the strongest power in the world and the developing nations looked towards them for assistance. Pakistan got its independence in 1947 and their foreign policy since then has always been towards America. The first leader of Pakistan, Jinnah, believed that Pakistan had been cheated by the British and India and therefore sought the support of the United States. But the relationship grew only after the rise of Soviet Union when Pakistan made the case that it was a supporter of democracy and was afraid that the USSR would invade Pakistan and take over all of South Asia, a point that distressed America greatly. While America was convinced by Pakistan’s relentless support towards the American cause, the true mastermind of Pakistani politics was only uncovered recently, after years of being deceived and cheated by the Pakistanis. Once the Utopian, idealistic nation for foreign relations, America has been left as a mediocre foreign player in South Asia after their years of “friendship” with Pakistan. While not everything can be traced to Pakistan’s back stabbing tactics, criticism also has to be thrown at America for being naïve when dealing with a nation like Pakistan. For a developing nation to school America is comical in the realistic world while also appalling to the conduct of a sovereign state. With only a few successes on the American side, the foreign policy towards Pakistan has been ridiculous and abysmal.

Pakistan justified its pull towards America by creating a ruckus about being a target for the Soviet Union. While there was doubt about such an action, the United States decided to take such a call seriously and decided to support Pakistan’s claims. While the US believed that Pakistan was acting in accordance with America’s interests, Pakistan was garnering support of America in the off chance of being attacked by India, a tactic of deterrence that has always been the front policy for Pakistan while fooling America about their intentions. While Pakistan’s truths have been unearthed now and the relationship between the two is more standoffish than friendly, we will attempt to create a reconstruction of the foreign policy of America towards Pakistan.

Sugar Coated

Being a new nation with no formal economy, Pakistan relied mostly on foreign investment and aid for which it always looked towards America, considering it was the most powerful nation of the era. “Economic interests created an alignment between two unequal states i.e. USA and Pakistan, newly created Pakistan was in dire need of American assistance for the smooth running of the government”[1]. The reason for economic aid from the American side was to control Soviet Communism from spreading to South Asia. While America should have kept the aid to economic and civilian use, the Pakistani leadership was able to beg and convince the US for heavy military based aid. In 1961, under the Foreign Assistance Act, economic aid to Pakistan remained lower than that given to India but military aid to Pakistan “was increased by many fold as this period was dominated by military government”[2]. In the following years till 1973, Pakistan waged war on India twice thus losing all confidence from the US, as the aid provided by the US was used to fight wars against India and not Communism. Thus the US completely stopped all aid to Pakistan and imposed sanctions, but once again politics were left aside for personal relationships. “ In 1973, Bhutto visited the US and Nixon administration resumed economic assistance to Pakistan”[3].

The US has provided Pakistan with years of aid and assistance in matters of food and energy resources in hopes of developing the Pakistani infrastructure, but spoon-feeding a child will only make it greedier. American governments have authorized money to Pakistan no matter which political party is in power, partly because Americans knew they were liked by Pakistan and partly because they needed an economically stable country to use against the Soviets. While Pakistan gladly accepted the aid, it became reliant on it and for every chance Pakistan was denied aid, anti-Americanism grew. While the US is not wrong in providing aid as it was looking at Pakistan as a long-term ally or base against the Soviets, providing aid at the first tantrum of Pakistan should not have been followed. “If we go through the history of US-Pak relations, we can see that Pakistan has been receiving substantial humanitarian and developmental aid from US since its inception”[4]. While the US has actively supported providing Pakistan with direct assistance with the country’s economic problems, it has never gotten anything in return from Pakistan when it comes to trade. Pakistan has not been able to make even a skid mark on the US economy, which makes the Americans wonder why money is being dished out to a country that is not benefitting the American economic interests.

While Congress has always catered to Pakistani public’s interests by making sure that Anti-Americanism is not prevalent in their South Asian ally, the American people have never been given a justification for the economic assistance provided to Pakistan over the years. Instead of focusing on preventing Anti-Americanism in Pakistan, more focus needs to be on explaining to the average American, why Pakistan, a struggling South Asian country on the verge of radicalism must be given urgent economic assistance in order to keep the ally from falling to non-state actors.

Handshaking with Knives

The economic policy towards Pakistan is the easiest to understand when it comes to looking at the protean relationship between the America and Pakistan. The US decision making towards the Pakistani policies is all over the place and are debated till date. The clear difference between the two nations is clear when free money is taken out of the picture and trust and politics are involved. The prime existence of Pakistan is in itself a contradiction to American ideals. A nation formed on solely religious lines cannot be an ally with a nation that has fought hard to keep the Church and the government separate. Over the years of the alliance many Americans have questioned the choices and policies towards Pakistan as they felt more in sync with India but could not support India openly as they had adopted a neutral stance and were not interested in spreading Americanism. Desperate for an ally in South Asia, America had to settle for Pakistan, a country that valued religious radicalism, as it’s leading ideology. While hesitant in the initial stages, the American-Pakistani friendship bloomed under the Nixon administration and under the Reagan administration. During both these administrations, Pakistan was under the Zia regime, a totalitarian dictatorship with marshal law.

While America advocated democracy all over the world, they had befriended a militaristic state. While the administration was engaged in bilateral ties with Pakistan, they received a lot of criticism from their own people, especially as Pakistan had started to use US support for fighting India rather than for pushing America’s cause. “Pakistan’s security policy has always been India centric and the convergence of security interests between Pakistan and the USA was natural as India was an ally of the USSR”[5]. While USA was convinced by the Pakistani explanation that India was against the US, they felt betrayed when Pakistan waged war with India while not helping USA at all in Vietnam against communists. Such a move was the first major sword in the back of Americans, only to be followed by more in the upcoming years. The US did overlook such actions basing them as coming from an immature nation that did not know how to present them politically on the international stage. America continued its support for Pakistan, no matter how harsh the actions got. “Nixon bent US law to authorize military aid even as American officials understood that Pakistan was committing genocide against the ethnic Bengalis in East Pakistan”[6]. Americans took the first step towards the decline of the relationship when they decided to help Pakistan in its domestic politics.

Nixon and Zia had a great friendship and admired their counterpart well, assuming there would be no backlash, Americans entered Pakistani politics by creating a sense of security to those that favored America and a hope for dialogues amongst the opposition. “The United States became deeply involved in negotiations on internal Pakistani politics, brokering deals between the national leaders and their principal opponents or between political leaders and the military”[7]. This left the United States on the receiving end in cases of failed deals and negotiations among the Pakistani politicians. While American bureaucrats had to deal with internal Pakistani politicians, they also had to deal with the hierarchy in Pakistan of the government, the army and the ISI. Even though Pakistan had civilian governments through some years, the US-Pakistan basis of friendship was military alliance therefore the US felt more at ease talking to the military and dealing with ISI in order to stay away from diplomatic confusions. While Americans understand the segregation of powers in their own country, they could never understand the hierarchy in Pakistan, an on and off democracy. Their failure to deliver in internal politics created uproar against Americans and they were seen as selfish who didn’t care about Pakistan.

The US was constantly trying to increase the status of Pakistan in the world by helping them with their domestic policies but Pakistan only wanted American help to build its deterrence against India, “Pakistan was focusing on building its military before anything else. After all the country was short of resources; poverty, disease and illiteracy were rampant”[8]. While Pakistan wanted only military assistance from the US, the US policy was more accommodating that just militaristic needs, “ The United States supported Pakistan’s territorial integrity and economic growth but it avoided Pakistan’s military buildup”[9]. While to America, aiding Pakistan was all about practicality, to Pakistan it was only about deterrence and appearance to its neighbor. Now that Pakistan was an established ally, America bent its policies in favor of Pakistan to ensure that they did not lose Pakistan. In theory, this makes no sense but in practicality, this is the most brilliant policy towards Pakistan the US has ever had because not only did it help in fighting the Soviets; the ultimate reason for the US taking interest in Pakistan, but it also prevented Pakistan from falling to non-state actors. The State department admitted that there was a fear among the department about Pakistan’s disintegration and radicalization at regular intervals and therefore asked the Congress to approve aid, as though they were the only cure available.[10]While providing Pakistan with so much aid and assistance, the militaries and the intelligence agencies got accustomed to each other and became reliant on each other.

The tilt towards Pakistani army came solely on two reasons; an expectation of support in global American strategy from Pakistan and that the US could not allow a Soviet ally (India) to defeat an American ally.[11]The request for aid and arms from Pakistan became increasingly annoying for the Americans and illogical. Pakistan started asking for latest fighter jets and tanks with no way to pay for them and thus asked America to donate such technology in order to fight Communist USSR. While on paper this made sense, in practicality it is absurd, as items asked by Pakistan, “such as tanks could not be conceivably used along Pakistan’s mountainous border with Afghanistan; they were clearly intended for the plains of the Punjab along the border with India”.[12]The relationship reached its peak when USSR invaded Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s claims since its existence came true. While Pakistan had promised the United States in its fight against communism, when the actual time came to put boots on the ground, Pakistan created a proxy war policy as its main policy to fight communism. This was the birth of the Mujahedeen, a fighting force trained by the Zia headed ISI regime as Pakistan agreed to run the show for the CIA. Pakistani led proxy war was immensely successful in driving the Soviets out with the economic and materialistic help from America, solely because Pakistan had been engaged in proxy wars ever since its existence as an independent state.[13]The friendship between the US and Pakistan was booming and the defeat of the Soviets overruled any doubts that had popped in the American minds about creating a Mujahedeen and creating proxy wars, not realizing that America had just sponsored the new age Jihad[14].

Jihad: The two-headed snake

While Pakistanis blame Americans for dragging them into Jihad after the Soviet invasion, their claim is actually false. America only provided funds and weapons to a program that they thought was going to bring democracy to Afghanistan. The fact that Islamic radicals, trained by the ISI advocating open terrorism was never discussed or thought of. While US had been providing aid to Pakistan they never checked where it was utilized only to find out later that the aid provided was used for supporting Islamic militants in Afghanistan and Kashmir by Pakistan.[15]All this while Washington had hoped to gain some leverage over Pakistan after providing them with arms and aid, but Pakistan was not taking the bait and hard balled the Americans back in context of being a sovereign state that was independent. Once the US knew about Pakistan’s strategy, it was time to begin the firefighting. The Islamic radicals had started creating havoc among American intelligence agencies, as more and more Americans were being targets of terrorist attacks. The largest transformation to the US policy towards Pakistan came after the 9/11 attacks, ironically, the origins of those terrorist attacks could be traced to the radical Islamic groups that had been raised and trained in Pakistan with covert US funds.[16]

Many terror attack on Pakistan’s own soil had them running to America to support for more military aid in an attempt to “fight” in grown terrorism, only to back stab the US again, by using the weapons for use against India. “By now the Americans understood that whipping up public sentiment was often the Pakistani military’s modus operandi for seeking a new deal for aid and arms”.[17]The US failed to stop Pakistan from continuing such proxy wars and paid the price by facing a terrorist attack on their home soil. But another chance was given to Pakistan to fight terrorism during 2008 and Pakistan showed some promise to gain back a few trust points but it all came crashing down in 2011. The Obama administration pulled off the most impressive covert and Special Forces operation to kill Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks who was garrisoned in Pakistan. This angered the Pakistanis as they felt that their sovereignty was violated and they wished that America had performed the operation in accordance with Pakistan, America had now declared Pakistan as a terror-sponsoring state.[18]All these years Pakistan had been involved in proxy wars and now they were getting their own medicine. American policy towards Pakistan after Osama’s operation was of secretly declaring a covert proxy war on Pakistan and its support of Islamic radicals. The CIA, making it a covert operation, so responsibility can never be pointed to a particular position in the government, runs the program. This has led to rampant use of drones and drone strikes in Pakistan against Islamic extremists. “The predator provided the United States the ability to hunt and kill terrorists who sought refuge in Pakistan without the risk of capture or killing of American forces going into Pakistani territory and reducing political sensitivities for the Pakistani government”.[19]

While the Pakistani media and public make a fuss about having their airspace violated they do not know that the Americans had an agreement with Musharraf and the ISI to fly drones in Pakistan to eliminate enemy combatants and that the Pakistani leadership decided to keep the agreement a secret.[20]While involved in Covert war, the United States had to maintain a good relation with the Pakistani army as the Pakistani army had ties with the Taliban through ISI, which would be helpful to make attempts toward peace talks.[21]According to the Pew Global Research Center, the drone strikes have created an atmosphere of Anti-Americanism in Pakistan with 70% of Pakistani population resorting to Anti-American emotions.[22]America’s move to go ahead with the proxy war is justified, as Pakistan has been known to harbor terrorists and also send terrorists across the border to India. Pakistan supports Taliban and by extension the Al Qaeda. ISI also has camps where they trains Islamist insurgents who fight in Kashmir[23]. While America knows the need for such drone attacks it is also actively trying to educate the Pakistani people that these drone strikes are meant to take out terrorists and are for the better of the general public. “The Secretary of State spelled out in detail the whole spectrum of on going US-Pak relations recognizing that there was a need for better understanding between the people of Pakistan and the American Administration”.[24]The Obama administration has upped the use of drone strikes and while the use of drones is extremely controversial and can be questioned over it’s legality the need for the use of drones is necessary as Pakistan cannot keep up with the cost of fighting terror. While the Americans justify it, the Pakistanis have a different feeling, “Despite the many strains in US-Pak relations, drones are depicted as the single most significant irritant”[25]. Arguably, it is the biggest strain in current US-Pak policies, one must draw attention to the future strain that is on the horizon, which will cause tremors all the way from Islamabad to Washington DC.

Not Nuking Around

Pakistan’s nuclear program came into effect many years after India first successfully tested nuclear weapons. While India had to face the international criticism for going ahead with the nuclear program, the main concern was Pakistan getting nuclear weapons, as Pakistan was untrustworthy and was known to act like a rogue nation. In order to tackle this, or slow down the process, the US implemented the Pressler act, which meant that Pakistan could only get aid and military resources if they proved that they were not pursuing the bomb. For Pakistan, this was another chance to deceive the US and make the most of what they could get. Zia said, “I am an honorable man. We are an honorable people. I ask you to tell your president that I am not and will not develop a nuclear weapon[26]”. While Pakistani leadership did lie and eventually get the nuclear weapon, America on the other hand also did not uphold the Pressler amendment and kept providing aid to Pakistan in hopes of convincing them not to attain the bomb. Over the years America and Pakistan came to terms with Pakistan’s nuclear program, as Pakistan showed no signs of backing down. “This country will never roll back its nuclear assets, its missile assets. I will be the last man doing it” Musharraf said in Washington.[27]While the US tried to threaten to abandon Pakistan and stop it’s aid, it was not able to stop Pakistan from proliferating and sharing vital information with other “unstable” states as Pakistan went ahead and proliferated to Libya and North Korea.[28]The rise of Taliban and other rogue actors in Pakistan have put the security of the nuclear weapons at risk and the task of securing them will be the next agenda on US Policy to Pakistan.

Conclusion

While both countries are to blame for the poor foreign relations, the United States has been deceived and back-stabbed repeatedly by Pakistan in terms of promises regarding security measures, war on terror and the welfare of the Pakistani people. The US must step up the use of drones to ensure the safety of Pakistani nuclear sites with collaboration with ISI. The policy of providing arms to Pakistan in hopes of keeping it as a US ally has backfired as Pakistan has found new love in China, while the US scrambles to gather the support of India, the US-Pak relationship is almost over. The US was not able to prevent the Balkanization of Pakistan, no matter how much aid and support was provided. Pakistan’s uncertainty creates the chances of the nation falling to non-state actors such as Taliban. Since Washington has not been able to stop Pakistan’s noxious proxy war behaviors, it should at least stop sponsoring them[29]. Not only has the US failed to influence Pakistani policies by providing them with unquestioned aid in all sectors, but they have also not been able to get full support of the Pakistanis either, who feel that they are entitled to the American generosity.

With Pakistan now in China’s camp, the US must move on from the untrustworthy partner to India, a country they have always felt more comfortable with as Secretary of State Elliot Richardson once said, “India is relatively more important to our interests than Pakistan”[30]. Pakistani and US relationship flourished among friendships, but not on levels that matter. There was only military and intelligence exchange; tourism, education, medical research were basically dormant in the American policy towards Pakistan. Two countries can never be friends when one depends on the other for everything and still does not promise full support. The US policy to Pakistan has been an interesting one but looking at the current situation it is clear that it has failed miserably and needs to look at devaluing Pakistan and detaching from Pakistan while slowly moving towards a new partnership with India.

References:

[1]Sultana, Saeeda, Syed Khawaja Alqama, and Muhammad Farooq. “U.S. Economics Assistance to India & Pakistan: A Comparative Study.” Pakistan Journal Of Social Sciences (PJSS) 33, no. 1 (June 2013): 25-35.

[2]Sultana, Saeeda, Syed Khawaja Alqama, and Muhammad Farooq. “U.S. Economics Assistance to India & Pakistan: A Comparative Study.” Pakistan Journal Of Social Sciences (PJSS) 33, no. 1 (June 2013): 25-35.

[3]Sultana, Saeeda, Syed Khawaja Alqama, and Muhammad Farooq. “U.S. Economics Assistance to India & Pakistan: A Comparative Study.” Pakistan Journal Of Social Sciences (PJSS) 33, no. 1 (June 2013): 25-35.

[4]Bashir, Faiza, and Muhammad Ayub Jan. 2014. “Pak-US Relations: Convergence of Interests.” Putaj Humanities & Social Sciences 21, no. 2: 117-133.

[5]Khan, Ijaz, Shahid Ali Khattak, and Minhas Majeed Marwat. 2014. “Pak US Relations: Allies under Compulsion?.” Journal Of Political Studies 21, no. 2: 81-90.

[6]Fair, C. Christine, and Sumit Ganguly. 2015. “An Unworthy Ally.” Foreign Affairs 94, no. 5: 160

[7]Schaffer, Howard B., and Teresita C. Schaffer. How Pakistan Negotiates with the United States: Riding the Roller Coaster. Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace, 2011.

[8]Ḥaqqānī, Ḥusain. Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding. New York: Public Affairs, 2013.

[9]Ḥaqqānī, Ḥusain. Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding. New York: Public Affairs, 2013.

[10]Ḥaqqānī, Ḥusain. Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding. New York: Public Affairs, 2013, 235.

[11]Ḥaqqānī, Ḥusain. Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding. New York: Public Affairs, 2013, 125.

[12]Ḥaqqānī, Ḥusain. Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding. New York: Public Affairs, 2013, 248.

[13]Fair, C. Christine, and Sumit Ganguly. 2015. “An Unworthy Ally.” Foreign Affairs 94, no. 5: 160

[14]Caldwell, Dan. Vortex of Conflict: U.S. Policy toward Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. Stanford, CA: Stanford Security Studies, 2011, 131.

[15]Fair, C. Christine, and Sumit Ganguly. 2015. “An Unworthy Ally.” Foreign Affairs 94, no. 5: 160

[16]Ḥaqqānī, Ḥusain. Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding. New York: Public Affairs, 2013, 270.

[17]Ḥaqqānī, Ḥusain. Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding. New York: Public Affairs, 2013, 318.

[18]Ḥaqqānī, Ḥusain. Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding. New York: Public Affairs, 2013, 317.

[19]Caldwell, Dan. Vortex of Conflict: U.S. Policy toward Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. Stanford, CA: Stanford Security Studies, 2011, 138.

[20]Ḥaqqānī, Ḥusain. Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding. New York: Public Affairs, 2013, 327,

[21]Crowe, Matthew, and Ron Connolly. 2015. “PAKISTAN’S SIGNIFICANCE TO U.S. FOREIGN POLICY IN SOUTH ASIA.” FAOA Journal Of International Affairs 18, no. 2: 15-19

[22]http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2013/02/07-drones-anti-americanism-pakistan-afzal

[23]Ḥaqqānī, Ḥusain. Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding. New York: Public Affairs, 2013, 298,

[24]Hasnat, Syed Farooq. 2011. “Pakistan – U.S. Relations on Slippery Grounds: An Account of Trust and its Deficit.” Pakistan Vision 12, no. 1: 23-69.

[25]FAIR, C. CHRISTINE, KARL KALTENTHALER, and WILLIAM J. MILLER. 2014. “Pakistani Opposition to American Drone Strikes.” Political Science Quarterly (Wiley-Blackwell) 129, no. 1: 1-33

[26]Ḥaqqānī, Ḥusain. Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding. New York: Public Affairs, 2013, 228.

[27]Levy, Adrian, and Catherine Scott Clark. Deception. New York: Walter and Company, 2007, 392.

[28]Ḥaqqānī, Ḥusain. Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding. New York: Public Affairs, 2013, 322.

[29]Fair, C. Christine, and Sumit Ganguly. 2015. “An Unworthy Ally.” Foreign Affairs 94, no. 5: 160

[30]Ḥaqqānī, Ḥusain. Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding. New York: Public Affairs, 2013, 135.

Rohan Khattar Singh is a student of International Affairs at Jindal School of International Affairs at O.P Jindal Global University, India. He is enrolled in the Masters of Arts program majoring in Diplomacy, Law and Business.

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