Bahri Karam Khan
DR Hennery Kissinger, United States’ former Secretary of State famously stated “In the international politics, there are neither permanent friends nor permanent foes of a state”. Following the same spirit, the United States’ South Asian policy is dictated by its own interests in the region. The 1970’s may rightly be termed as the era of estrangement in Pak-US relationship. Z A Bhutto, in his bid to reshape Pakistan’s foreign policy, withdrew the country from SEATO and diversified its relations. During that period, Sino-Pak ties reached the highest ever and also acquaintance was developed with Soviet Union.
Bhutto endeavoured to materialise a Third World Power and all these developments annoyed Washington to an extent that India’s first nuke detonation in 1974 triggered no major reaction from Carter administration. Instead, when forced by the said explosion, Islamabad embarked on its nuclear program for its own defense, it faced immense wrath of US in the shape of suspension of its military and economic aid and threatening of assailing over its nuclear installations. Alongside, President Carter, as spontaneous reaction, acknowledged India’s hegemony in South Asia and also paid official visit to New Delhi in 1978. The same year, Indian Prime Minister Morarji Desai reciprocated with return visit to Washington. In 1979, Pakistan withdrew from CENTO as well and joined the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM). Then eventually came a landmark occasion for which the Pak-US strategic relationship was actually meant and to be made use of by the US. Yes, it was the Soviet’s military intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 that skyrocketed Pakistan’s strategic importance. The US forged strong partnership with Pakistan and the latter consented to fight as “frontline state” against communism.
End of the Cold-War in early 1990’s caused radical shift in global as well as regional geopolitics. For US, the expansionism peril from its erstwhile rival was over and consequently Pakistan that suffered most in the war against communism sharply lost strategic importance for it. She thus once again fell victim to US’ foreign policy machinations. Selective nonproliferation or, more suitably, ‘nuclear apartheid’ was a handy tool with US in the store Pakistan’s nuclear programme was subjected to. And, with a view to force Islamabad rollback its nuclear program and sign Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) unilaterally, Washington, under discriminatory Pressler Amendment, withheld its military and economic assistance including 38 F-16 air falcons paid for as well. On the contrary, however, since its first nuke detonation in 1974, India had pushed up its nuclear and missile program and had got a stockpile of most sophisticated nuclear weapons including short, medium and long range ‘Akash’, ‘Prithvi’ and ‘Agni’ missiles under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) that virtually ignited arms race in South Asia. But, amazingly, the amendment ibid didn’t have any bearing on it. The 1998’s nuke detonations by both the South Asian rivals nonetheless evoked US’ embargoes alike.
In the post cold-war, the only perceived irritant left for US is China’s growing power, both economically and militarily, in the region which it shares with India for having an unresolved territory-dispute with China. Similarly, for India, Soviet Union didn’t exist anymore to associate with, nor did the concept of non-alignment find room in the post Cold-War global panorama. Thus, it is ‘China peril’ that has brought Indo-US relations from almost all time low to the current close strategic and defense partnership between them. Since India is Pakistan’s arch rival and adversary, therefore, her coming close to Washington is at the cost of distancing Islamabad from it. While announcing his much awaited ‘Afghan policy’ last month, president Trump overtly accused Pakistan of providing “safe havens to agents of chaos, violence and terror”. He boldly and harshly warned “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe-havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.” On this pretext, the Pentagon has already cut down 50 million dollars in military assistance to Pakistan and, following Trumps warning in the policy statement, his administration is considering even more tough actions against Islamabad.
The blame however is bizarre in the sense that Pakistan itself has been victim to worst kind of militancy and terrorism and the sacrifices she has rendered since it commenced fighting as frontline state in US’ declared holy war-on-terror in the wake of 9/11 in 2001 is not a hidden fact. For Pakistan, it is the same war what she had commenced in union with US as its strategic partner in the 1980’s. If the US isn’t ready to accept this undeniable fact then what can Pakistan does except to bear the brunt of the blunder she had committed as ‘fate accompli’. Pakistan understands that her dream for peace on its own soil can only be translated into reality when there’s complete peace on Afghan soil also.
Trump also invited India to play a bigger role in Afghanistan when he said “India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States ___ and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.” But, who can understand better than US policy establishment that New Delhi can be of no use to Washington or Kabul in establishing peace in Afghanistan. Military presence of US and India in Afghanistan thus mean nothing other than to have unrest in the region to hinder China’s economic initiatives like CPEC, One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative and also to deter the potential global block comprising eminently China, Pakistan, Russia and Central Asian states. True, if Trump’s ‘Afghan policy’ and the tones he delivered in ‘tough message’ for Pakistan and ‘praise’ for India, manifested to rub salt on wounds of twenty million Pakistanis, then he successfully accomplished this task. Of course, Pakistan is an important and responsible nuclear Muslim state. In the Pak-US ties, scapegoating Pakistan by US for the sake of its own interests is bygone matter. Islamabad realizes that in the current global scenario, her cordial relationship with the global super power is as necessary as was earlier provided these are based on mutual interests and trust as well.
—The writer, retired officer of Provincial Management Service, is freelance columnist based in Swat.
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Bahri Karam Khan