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In order to have a smooth relation with Pakistan, Washington would need to reassess its policies and gave Pakistan due importance as it gave to India and not to ignore its core concerns.

The US-Pakistan security level talks held in Washington previous week before the visit of Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. The senior level talks held between the CIA Chief William Burns and the Pakistani counterpart, Lt. Gen. Nadeem Anjum, Director-General (DG ISI). The talks are believed to have discussed the regional security situation especially Afghanistan since the US withdrawal. 

Security level talks between both the states had held in July when Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf had visited Washington where he met with Jake Sullivan at the White House. Previously, Jake Sullivan had asked the Pakistani counterpart to play its role in reduction of violence in Afghanistan. However, the Taliban in the next month of the talks i.e., in July took control of Kabul days before the US complete withdrawal. 

The US-Pakistan relations are not smooth since the US withdrawal and then the ouster of Imran Khan further damaged the relationship when he accused the US for interfering in the Pakistani politics and helping the opposition in their no-confidence vote. However, the US State Department has plainly rejected the accusations. Yet, the episode has a great impact on US-Pakistan relations on one hand and the anti-Americanism in Pakistan on the other. 

If we look at the history of US-Pakistan relations, the alliances both the countries made were mostly for security purposes that helped push cooperation in other areas as well. However, whether it was political cooperation or security, we have witnessed a trust-deficit between Washington and Islamabad.  

The very first cooperation between the two states was SEAT and CENTO that ended with fragility. Pakistan felt the US did not assist him against India during both its war in 1965 and 1971. Keeping in view both said agreement, Washington was liable to help Islamabad in case of any conflict with an outside state and any external threat. The US secured the badabher airbase in Peshawar from where it used to make surveillance of the USSR and a time came when Russians shot down the U-2 plane and Pakistan came under extreme pressure from Moscow. However, about five years later, when Pakistan was engaged in war with India, the US didn’t come to help Pakistan that caused resentment in Islamabad thus provided for a trust-deficit. 

Similarly, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in late 1979, Washington needed Pakistan to play the role of a frontline state against the Soviets and support the jihadist outfits. This time too, Pakistan fully cooperated in logistics and training the Jihadists that led to the Soviet withdrawal and the subsequent disintegration of the USSR. This time too, the US objective entirely fulfilled. However, soon after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, Washington imposed Pressler Amendment providing for sanctioning Pakistan. This was quite a surprising move for Pakistan as it had helped the US during the last one decade against the Soviets. 

Likewise, the incident of September 11 that changed the dynamics of world politics also brought the US closer to Pakistan that needed the latter to play a role in its war on terror in Afghanistan. This time too, Pakistan captured a handful of Al Qaeda and Taliban members and handed over to the US in addition to logistic and aerial support. However, the US constantly accused Pakistan for double dealing and asked for ‘do more’. Despite this full pledged cooperation, the US gave India a major role in Afghanistan that undermined Pakistan’s security. 

Similarly, Pakistan remained instrumental throughout the Afghan peace process whether it was between the US and the Taliban or between the Taliban and the Afghan government. If Pakistan would not have cooperated, the Doha agreement was not possible and it is acknowledged by the US authorities. However, when it comes to the US relations with India, the former ignores Pakistan’s interests and concerns. Hence, this is the reason Pakistan assume the US as an unreliable partner and even the relationship is tactical rather than strategic. 

In order to have a smooth relation with Pakistan, Washington would need to reassess its policies and gave Pakistan due importance as it gave to India and not to ignore its core concerns. Pakistan’s tilt towards Russia and China is the byproduct of the US policies towards Pakistan. Pakistan lies on an important geostrategic location and is a next-door neighbor of Afghanistan where there is still instability. The US cannot ignore the precarious situation in Afghanistan. Hence, a close US-Pakistan relation can help stabilize Afghanistan. Both US and Pakistan need to adopt a common approach to Afghanistan to make it stabilize. 

About the author:

Zafar Iqbal Yousafzai is Senior Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad. 

A Critical Outsider Exclusive 



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