Pak-US Marriage: Can it Lead to Divorce?

Pakistan became the key ally of US in its war on terror but there remained a significant trust deficit, which go on till now. The talks about the future of relations between the two countries are under discussion on media, academic and scholarly level. This article aims at to contribute to this discussion in factual and analytical terms.

Present Pakistan-US relations are a story of sole super power’s interest in a strategically strong state of the developing world. This story contains difficulties of diplomacy and policy making between asymmetrical states.

The two countries have had three marriages and two divorces, the first marriage came from Pakistan’s membership of the Baghdad Pact and the divorce came in 1965 during the Pakistan- India war when the U.S. decided to hold back Pakistan’s military aid. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan caused the second marriage between the two so as to defeat USSR in Afghanistan and contain its influence from the region. The separation occurred immediately after Soviet forces withdrawal from Afghanistan, which leading to the divorce in 1998 with Pakistan’s nuclear detonations. The third marriage occurred in 2001 as a result of 9/11 attacks in the United  States ,  Pakistan became the key ally of US in its war on terror but there remained a significant trust deficit, which go on till now and causing several obstacles in the way of successful achievement of the mutual interests.

Currently as a result of some worst crises Pak-US relationship has had set back, the talks about probability or impossibility of the third divorce between the two countries are under discussion on media, academic and scholarly level. This article aims at to contribute to this discussion in factual and analytical terms.

The US-Pakistan relationship has been declining since 2010, but the downward spiral accelerated in 2011 as a result of four grave incidents (i) the killing of two Pakistanis by a CIA contractor Ramyond Davis in Lahore on January 27, 2011 (ii) US raid in Pakistan on May2, 2011 to kill Osama bin Laden (ii) Terrorist attack on the US Embassy in Kabul on September 13, 2011 (iv) NATO aerial attack near Pakistan’s border on November 26, 2011.

The first main crisis of this list was the incident of a killing of two Pakistanis in Lahore at the hands of a CIA contractor Raymond Davis. The incident provoked anger and anti-American sentiments among Pakistani public. Washington hanged tough that Mr. Davis was a diplomatic agent and under law of diplomatic immunities he is immune from prosecution hence pressurized his earlier release. The government of Pakistan was internally and externally under pressure. Month long detention of CIA contractor in Pakistan strained relations between the two countries and finally under American pressure government released Davis Raymond and sacked the foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi who was demanding prosecution of Davis. While discussing the reasons of Mr. Davis’s release it was analyzed that the government took this step to protect three major planning (i) President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to Washington (ii) the next round of US- Pakistan strategic dialogue (iii) trilateral talks involving Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States.

On May 2, 2011 the world’s most wanted person Osama Bin Laden, was raided and killed in Abotabad, by United States Special Sources Military Unit. The immediate questions and criticism were raised by US and International community as to the safe residence of the world’s most wanted culprit in Pakistan close to Pakistan Military Academy. The incident made greater than before the deep-seated mistrust in this relationship. Soon after the incident, The US suspended about a third of its $2.7 billion annual defense aid to Pakistan.

Pakistan army reacted strongly against American action critical of its territorial integrity and warned US for any future raid. Expressing Anger against US action for no prior information, government of Pakistan called it a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and breach of International law and morality.This incident intensified suspicions between the two countries against each other.

The terrorist attacks on US embassy in Kabul on September 13, 2011 turned sour the gradually improving relations. Immediately after the attack, US blamed North Waziristan based Haqani militant network and sent message to Pakistan to take action against Haqqani network or the US will do it unilaterally. It was an open threat from Obama administration to Pakistan. Retaliating American pressure and threats Islamabd stated that Washington should do more about the safe havens and sanctuaries inside Afghanistan from where Pakistanis had been attacked.

Decade long history of the third marriage between Pakistan and United States witnesses that since the deployment of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan has practically experienced several military skirmishes on Durand Line. A similar type of aerial attack occurred on November 26, 2011 near Pakistani border and caused death of 24 Pakistani soldiers. This attack further smashed the stressed relations between the two countries. The attack was vigorously condemned on public and official level. Following the deadly cross border strikes Islamabd order a review of all arrangements with the United State and NATO, including diplomatic, political, military and intelligence activities and shut NATO supply routes into Afghanistan in retaliation for the mortal attack.

In view of consequent upset relations the question about the likelihood of third divorce is being widely discussed in both the countries. However, facts reveal that the nature of mutual interests and objectives are probably stronger than any kind of chance for the split between them.

Despite several controversies and suspicions two main dynamics are their mutual interest (i) Afghanistan, (ii) Regional Stability. US forces are still engaged in a war in Afghanistan and for a positive outcome it’s vastly reliant on Islamabad. Besides, this time Americans will not repeat the previous mistake leaving Afghanistan destabilized without a proper rehabilitation and stable government that’s why they do need Pakistan’s cooperation for peace and stability in Afghanistan in the aftermath of American forces withdrawal. Similarly, Pakistan also needs peace and stable government in Afghanistan for furtherance of its interests in the region. So far as, the issue of Pakistan’s fears concerning pro-Indian government in Afghanistan is concerned in this regard US will have to attempt for a mutually acceptable solutions in Afghanistan in view of the relevance of all the stakeholders  because it is not in the interest of United States as well to have an unstable South Asian region. Secondly, Pakistan is highly dependent upon American aid, which is not limited to military aid.

The factual and analytical results reveal that so far United States and Pakistan are indispensable for each other. While reviewing future relations with United States, Government of Pakistan should apply the Rational Action Model of Foreign Policy in order to avoid any miscalculation about Pakistan’s self-worth, options and the surrounding dynamics. This model comprises four dimension, Goal setting & ranking, Consideration of options, Assessment of consequences and Profit-maximization.

By: Ishrat Abbasi

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