Reopening of Nato Supply Routes;

A Case of Pakistan’s Flawed Use of Leverage

Finally, it came out to be what was expected, Pakistan has allowed the Nato supplies through its territory. Resuming the Nato supplies may be something unpalatable for the far right elements in Pakistan, but it is not entirely bad. The thing to be understood is that the suspension of Nato supplies was not only hurting the US, but the international community was also in a quandary as the efforts for stability in Afghanistan were frustrated. The reopening was inevitable also because Pakistan had to honour its agreements with the International community. However, the way this standoff ended was quite disappointing as Pakistan remained unable to extract even a penny more as compared to what it was being paid. Succumbing to the US pressure on opening the supply routes with just a simple ‘sorry’ will surely have a domestic backlash. It is also a grim reminder of our leaders’ lack of diplomatic farsightedness. In its entire history, Pakistan has always failed to get advantage of the leverage bestowed upon it by its geopolitical situation.

Leverage is the power that enables one actor to influence the other to reach agreements more favourable to the first actor. It operates on many dimensions. Firstly, on the premise of positive sanctions or rewards, secondly, on threat of negative sanctions like damage to valued items and thirdly, it operates on appeal to other’s feelings of sympathy and respect. It gives additional power to bargain and enables a party to transact additional outcomes along with original outcomes.

The instruments of leverage are employed usually outside the corridors of formal negotiations. In international diplomacy, the leverage is a time and space bond concept. According to Hans J Morgenthau, ‘Foreign policy of a country should be moulded in accordance with the exigency of time and place’. In terms of theories of IR, blocking of the Nato supplies through its land was an attempt by Pakistan to reach an exchange of values that tangibly or intangibly are valued by both US and Pakistan. This bargaining can also take place through action without the exchange of words.

International affairs can be seen as a series of bargaining interactions in which states use power capabilities or geopolitical situations as leverage to gain the favourable outcomes. Unfortunately, Pakistan has never been able to utilise its geographical leverage to its advantage. Our rulers had never been able to draw out concessions and privileges that Pakistan could, given its enviable geographical position. The causes of this declination are multifarious, ranging from the ineptness of our political leadership, faulty dealings and decisions with marked unscrupulousness in understanding the exact scenarios. In cases, tight military control on some areas of our foreign policy has also caused our geographical leverage to evaporate. Pakistan faces the problem of incoherent policy-making and experimenting with different policies has been a hallmark of our diplomatic history.

In 1950s, the west enlisted Pakistan’s help against communism and Soviet expansionism, considering Pakistan’s geopolitical situation. The help that it gave to Pakistan always fell short of Pakistan’s expectations. Pakistan could never convince the US and the west about its strategic needs. The west’s indifference to our security needs during 1965 and 1971 wars with India also had been a cause of frustration to the Pakistanis. This instigated Pakistan into seeking friendship with the Socialist block however, being a reactionary plan, it also ended in disaster. During the Soviet-Afghan war, US realigned with Pakistan to defeat the Soviets while Pakistan consented again to give its services, but without extracting reasonable privileges. Those were desperate times for the US, and Pakistan could have got any kind of demands fulfilled. But Pakistan couldn’t cash the leverage that its geographical location provided to it. Then came the 9/11 events, and due to international pressure, the previous policies were changed overnight, and thus Pakistan brought to home the war of others. By now, Pakistan is seen as part of problem, not the solution.

The decision of stopping the Nato supply, after the Salala attacks, was something open for debate. Apparently, Pakistan didn’t get anything out of this conundrum. From 26th Nov 2011, the day when Salala incident took place, to this day, Pakistan has missed the Bonn Conference. If it had missed the Chicago Summit of the Nato and non-Nato allies, it would surely have run the risk of being left out of serious discussions on the region’s future. The emergency in the Pakistan government and military circles, to resume the Nato supply, was evident as new found urgency for catching the bus for future deliberations on Afghanistan. Our policy-makers knew from day one that this decision was not sustainable, and in the recent days, the government itself was in a hurry for reopening of supplies. It was quite clear that even a nominal apology will be sufficient to resolve the crisis.

The US also, at times, resorted to coercive diplomacy, drawing undue concessions and favours from Pakistan, and that too on Pakistan’s peril. This coercive approach of the US coupled with offers of meagre economic help also made Pakistan virtually unable to avail its leverage properly. In the aftermath of 9/11, the then president of US, George W. Bush, told President Musharraf that he had to decide whether Pakistan is with the US or with the terrorists, thus leaving Pakistan with no other choice but to join the global alliance on war on terror, albeit half-heartedly, this is a flagrant example of coercive diplomacy.
Unfortunately, Pakistan has never been able to utilise its geographical leverage to its advantage. Our rulers had never been able to draw out concessions and privileges that Pakistan could, given its enviable geographical position.
On the other hand our leadership has also given priority to their myopic self-interests over the greater national interests. Gen Musharraf conceded to the American pressure just to get de-facto international recognition for his dictatorial government. Thus, instead of using Pakistan’s geographical position and other strategic aspects as leverages for gaining a better bargain, Gen Musharraf just squandered Pakistan’s better leveraging for the sake of legalising his own regime. Such an air of life was also given to Gen Zia ul Haq’s dictatorial regime by the outbreak of Afghan war. The fact of the matter is that both the countries have never been able to be at the same page on any issue afflicting this region. This had been a relationship of compulsion, in which the real potentials of both the countries have never been utilised for improvement in relations.

If the greater geostrategic, economic and political interests of both are taken into account while formulating the future relationship, then only both countries will be able to strike a balance in this troubled relationship and only then can evolve a sustainable relationship based on trust, equality and respect for each other’s sovereignty. Such shared interests need to be worked out which will serve to glue together both the countries even beyond war on terror. US need to appreciate geopolitical potential of Pakistan and try to shun adhocism in its relations with Pakistan, which have always premised on abstract relationship with particular regimes rather than comprehensively-worked out relations. Pakistan needs to plan a comprehensive strategy to pursue a foreign policy that should give it the rightful leverage for its geo-political location.

By: Murad Kassi


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