News & Views
Theoretically, foreign policy goal of any country is to have cordial relations with all countries of the world, focusing on commonality of interests and relegating the divergences to the secondary position. Unfortunately, our foreign policy has been susceptible to manipulations because of political and economic instability brought about by flawed policies of successive governments. Instead of putting in efforts for self-reliance, our governments depended on the US, and it was due to dependency syndrome that Pakistan had to accept unreasonable demands of the US. Over time, Pak-US relations have suffered serious setbacks due to misperceptions and distrust. After having given tremendous sacrifices in men and treasure, first during Afghan war in 1980s and then after joining the war on terror, Pakistan is accused of selective military operation and taking action against those terrorists who pose threat to Pakistan, and sparing Haqqani network.
After terror attack on American University in Kabul, State Department Spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau had told reporters: “We have consistently raised our concerns to the highest level of the government of Pakistan on the need to deny safe haven to extremists. We have pressed the Government of Pakistan to follow up on their expressed commitment, their stated commitment, to not discriminate among terror groups regardless of their agenda or affiliation.” Sixteen people were killed after militants stormed the American University of Afghanistan in August 2016. The question is why the US asks Pakistan to give more sacrifices and to take action against those involved in Mumbai terror attack and Pathankot air force base attack, and never censures India’s lack of progress in Samjhauta Express and Malegaon terror acts.
It has to be mentioned that Pakistan and the US have been allies right from 1950s to 1990 till the collapse of the Soviet Union. In May 1954, Pakistan had signed the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement with the United States. Later in that year it became a member of SEATO. A year later, it joined the Baghdad Pact, and in 1958 when Iraq left this pact after the revolution, it was renamed CENTO comprising Turkey, Iran and Pakistan as its regional members. Early in 1959, Pakistan signed (as did Turkey and Iran) a bilateral Agreement of Cooperation with the United States, which was designed further to reinforce the defensive purposes of CENTO. Thus Pakistan was associated with the United States through not one, but four mutual security arrangements. And Pakistan had earned former Soviet Union’s ire after the U-2 spy plane which was shot down on May 1, 1960.
At first, the United States government denied the plane’s purpose and mission, but was forced to admit its role as a covert surveillance aircraft when the Soviet government produced its remains (largely intact) and surviving pilot, Francis Gary Powers. It has to be mentioned that the USSR had reportedly put a cross on Pakistan with red, and the rest is history. If Pakistan had not gone to that extent, Pakistan would not have disintegrated. In fact, Pakistan has seen many American betrayals, embargoes and sanctions, and every time the US achieved its objective, it ditched Pakistan. During 1965 war, the US stopped its military aid to Pakistan. Yet Pakistan became a frontline state when Soviets occupied Afghanistan in late 1970s. After Soviet forces withdrew with the cooperation of Pakistan, the US slammed sanctions under Pressler Amendment. This was the reward for the sacrifices of Pakistan.
Pakistan and the US are allies since 1950s; of course there have been periods marred with misunderstanding and lack of warmth due to difference in perceptions over regional issues. Nevertheless, America has been generous in granting aid and grants till 1960s, and then in 1980s during Afghan war. Pakistan on its part always honoured its commitments during the Cold War, and then also in war on terror. In the past, was it Suez Canal issue or Vietnam Pakistan government Pakistan government stood by its allies though it was against aspirations of the majority of Pakistanis who stood by Arab brethren and demanded of the govt to become nonaligned. Anyhow, relations during last few years came under strains and stresses over degrading language and observations in Kerry-Lugar Bill on Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies, which even a banana republic will not tolerate.
The US should rationalize its policy, as Pakistan is eager to maintain good relations with super power like USA, and committed to fight the menace of terrorism. But the present mistrust of US officials have angered Pakistani civil and military leadership. American leadership should realize that present day Pakistan military leadership is not the military leadership of 1950s to 1990s, and will have to review its policy and attitude towards Pakistan and its armed forces, otherwise the US is likely to lose an old ally in this region. Pakistan has had chequered history of relations with the US. Pakistan has been sincere with US; and during 1950s to 1980s had discharged its obligations under defence pacts signed or understanding reached with US and West. But every time allies achieved their objectives, they ditched Pakistan.
Pakistan has had always wished to maintain long-term, multi-faceted and durable strategic ties with the US for the realization of shared objectives. However, Pakistan had taken the position that mutual respect and co-operation at military, intelligence and diplomatic levels should be the hallmark of relations between the two countries. Members of US Administration and Generals have been pushing Pakistan to do more, despite the fact it has lost more than 50000 people and five thousand security personnel since joining the war on terror. Yet, they often say that Pakistan must be sensitive to the US security interests. The question is what Pakistan has been doing since the US invasion of Afghanistan, if not this, even to the detriment of its own national interests? In 1960, Pakistan had a close brush of being bombed back into Stone Age by the enraged Soviet Union after it downed U-2 spy plane, which the US should remember.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.