Pak-US Relations in Historical Perspective

There is lot of resentment in Pakistan against the US policy of aggression in the region, and discrimination and intimidation of Pakistan.

Immediately after the creation of Pakistan its leadership came in the US trap of encircling and stopping former Soviet Union’s expansion into West and South Asia. Pakistan had three options: First to pursue a non-aligned policy, second to align itself with the Socialist bloc headed by Moscow, and third to join the West, led by the US. However, when Pakistan was in the deciding stage, an anti-Pakistan statement by Soviet’s Prime Minister Marshal Stalin during his Indian visit affected Pakistan’s policy. This compelled the Pakistani leadership to tilt towards the West and Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan rejected Marshal Stalin’s invitation to visit Moscow. The reason given for the pro-West policy was that in Europe and the US there was democracy whereas in former Soviet Union there was a fascist-Communist dictatorship.

Pakistan adopted a pro-West policy from the very beginning with a desire to be friend of the US and with the hope that it will help in ending Indian control of Kashmir and its monopoly in the region. On the other hand, there was also a lobby which dubbed Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan’s refusal to visit Moscow, as a wrong decision. These people still consider Liaquat’s decision to prefer US over USSR a mistake and cause of all decisions Washington has been imposing on us till today. Later Pakistan’s ties with the US improved after Republican President Eisenhower came to power in 1952. Secretary of State Dulles, pushed Pakistan’s case as a close ally, and supported Pakistan’s requests for economic and military aid. Pakistan was asked to join the Middle East Defence Organisation (MEDO) which later on renamed as Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO); and South Asian Treaty Organisation (SEATO). Pakistan became a tool of US strategy and policy.

Thus the US decided to strengthen Pakistan economically and militarily. To attract the leadership of the newly formed country, the US gave dollars and arms and ammunition. US economic and military aid helped Pakistan in creating an industrial infrastructure, build dams, modernise the agriculture sector, acquire first rate military capability to defend itself. This policy served the purpose of the US government but when Pakistan fought war with India on Kashmir, Washington showed a lukewarm attitude by not supporting Pakistan diplomatically and morally. This diplomacy disappointed Pakistanis and the government circles. On the contrary, the US showed its anger that weapons meant for fighting the Soviet Union were used against India. Under the Indian pressure, the US halted arms and spare parts’ supply to Pakistan. Therefore, Pakistan had to see other options to cope with the situation. China came to the rescue of Pakistan by providing it arms and technology, thus proving to be an ‘all weather friend’ whereas the US proved itself to be a Fair weather friend. These relations with both countries continue to be the same till today.

The US expressed its displeasure over using its weapons against India. When it stopped the supply of arms and spare parts to Pakistan. While Americans let betrayed Pakistan in its hour of need, China offered weapons with technology. In 1971 Pakistan and India fought another war in which Pakistan was axed into two by the wrong policies of its leadership. The 1965 and 1971 wars proved that the US was not a trustworthy friend. However, later President Nixon used Pakistan’s friendship with China in secret diplomacy. US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s secret visit to Beijing in July 1971 via Islamabad was facilitated by Pakistani leadership. The opening of China was essential in the US plan for creating global balance of power.

US policy during the five-year rule of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was capricious and suspect. PPP regime’s Socialist Policies, quest for nuclear weapons, large-scale nationalisation, the 1974 Islamic Summit in Lahore, formation of Federal Security Force, and Bhutto emerging as a leader of the Islamic Ummah was suspect in the US eyes. In Washington’s view Bhutto become too big for his boots, and had to be cut down to size. President Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter imposed sanctions on aid to Pakistan. During the 1977 Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) movement, Bhutto got cornered for election rigging, but claimed that America was behind the PNA movement to topple his government. He alleged that his government was being punished for the nuclear weapon programme, and alignment with the Arab states.

Later, President Ziaul Haq refused the US aid offer, and called it “peanuts”. Pak-US relations took a U-turn for the better when the former Soviet Army invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. Jimmy Carter’s covert action programme to provide weapons to Afghan Mujahideen was unworkable without Pakistan’s cooperation. President Ronald Reagan aware of Pakistan’s importance offered aid package. With Pakistani cooperation, the Red Army was defeated, and its retreat and humiliation triggered the collapse of the Soviet Empire. Pakistan’s graph was high in Washington. The fallout of the 10 years war in Afghanistan was arrival of three million Afghan refugees along with Klashnikov, drug, and extremist sectarian culture in Pakistan, which have damaged Pakistani society till todate. After getting the desired result from Pakistan, the US withdrew its support from Pakistan and General Ziaul Haq was killed in the plane crash near Bahawalpur on August 17, 1988.

After the October 1988 election Benazir Bhutto’s become Prime Minister and the US welcomed return of democracy to Pakistan. In October 1990 US imposed sanctions on Pakistan which was a setback to the governments of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. Not only this, it blocked the supply of F-16s to Pakistan, but also refused to return the money. Pakistan’s nuclear test was bitterly opposed and India exploited Kargil and defamed Pakistan. US print and electronic media termed Pakistan a failed state. This period was worst in Pak-US relations. In 1999 General Musharraf dismissed the government of Nawaz Sharif. The US was again annoyed with Pakistan.

President Clinton’s visit to India, and brief stopover in Islamabad made basic change in the US policy towards Pakistan. The “most allied ally” was rebuffed, because democracy had been thrown out of the window. But 9/11incident changed US policy towards Pakistan after Musharraf’s response to Collin Powell’s blatant ultimatum. The relations with America now hinge on Pakistan’s ability to contain terrorism. There is lot of resentment in the country against US policy of aggression in the region, and discrimination and intimidation of Pakistan.

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