Always in a muddle
“There can be no greater error than to expect, or calculate, upon real favours from nation to nation,” said the first President of the United States, George Washington. This very precept underpins the American foreign policy. From the vantage point of realist school of thought, to which America has fervidly subscribed in the post World War II era, it is no less than a folly to look at states through rose-tinted glasses. It is beyond a shadow of a doubt that the only beneficiary of American ventures in other states has been none other than the United States itself. The US engagement with Pakistan needs to be analyzed through this prism.
The United States and Pakistan have been on a paradoxical roller coaster in which both are intertwined in a friendly, yet unfriendly, relationship and where stakes are always too high to part ways. However, of late, the relations between the two countries have steadily taken a nosedive with the US having slapped economic and military sanctions on Pakistan, with more curbs coming to make the country ‘mend its ways’.
On January 04, the US State Department announced to suspend security assistance to Pakistan. Later, it confirmed that it had withheld $900 million authorized under Coalition Support Funds (CSF). In the same month, in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act, 1998, the US nominated Pakistan for a Special Watch List for gross violations of religious freedoms. At the end of February this year, the United States pressed for inclusion of Pakistan in a terrorism financing watch list under the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Later, in April, the US imposed a new travel regime on Pakistani diplomats – something that attracted tit-for-tat restrictions by Pakistan within a few days. Pakistan also withdrew a number of facilities and privileges being enjoyed by the US diplomats. The Trump Administration is also entertaining the idea of revoking the country’s major non-NATO ally status.
Historically, relations between the two states have remained under a constant strain, save some brief rounds of bonhomie during which ‘America co-opted Pakistan as a pivot into advancement of its own strategic interests’. In fact, the US is one of the first nations to have established relations with Pakistan after its inception. Pakistan’s birth in the Cold War era necessitated its alignment with one of the two power blocs in the world, led by the erstwhile Soviet Union and the United States. However, Pakistan opted for the latter. It also entered into SEATO and CENTO defence pacts in 1954 and 1955, respectively, thereby turning into America’s principal ally. The US funds flowed to Pakistan, which peaked at over $2.3 billion in 1962. However, as the time proved, the relationship was more cosmetic and more transactional than being robust and time-tested. The US betrayal of Pakistan during the 1965 Pakistan-India War exposed the desultory and half-hearted bilateral engagement. Again in 1971 Indo-Pakistani War, the US ditched Pakistan in disillusionment by halting military aid to it, while covertly facilitating India in the secession of East Pakistan.
The factor of trust-deficit has always been extant in this bilateral relationship. Neither side truly reposes confidence in the other. The existing trust is further crippled by the historical baggage and the burden of the past. The American treachery in times of exigency when Pakistan’s survival was at stake is traumatically itched on the minds of the Pakistanis, exacerbated further by the Indo-US entente.
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