National and International Issues

Pak-U.S. Relations: Convergence of Interests

In international relations, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies. It is only the interests which bring nations close or apart from each other. By the same token, there is no exception in the case of Pak-U.S. relations. Although our relations are spread over seven decades, the road to friendship has been very bumpy. Recent developments show that there seems to be a convergence of interests. Pakistan wants lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan, and the U.S. now seems a bit convinced on this approach, as it has spent trillions of dollars on Afghanistan and cannot sustain it anymore. The U.S.’ decision to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan is a step in the right direction. Civil and military bureaucracy in both countries understand each other very well and can formulate a joint strategy based on mutual consultation. We were close allies and partners for seven decades, so the trust deficit can be overcome easily. U.S. has many overseas operations or bases, which are costing heavily, and its ailing economy may not be able to support such huge expenditures. It will be a wise decision for it to curtail some of its overseas operations. 



Although the two countries have always cooperated with each other for common goals and interests, the U.S. has failed to value Pakistan’s interests and has kept on making demands. “Do More” has been the message of the U.S. leadership in recent years, without understanding Pakistan’s capacity to comply, or its own interests. During the past few years, U.S. has blamed and attempted to coerce Pakistan many times. Of course there exist some concerns on both sides, and some of these may be genuine, others are only based on misunderstandings.
U.S. often alleges that Pakistan has failed to eradicate Taliban from its territory. But the fact remains that U.S. has not been able to eliminate the Taliban from Afghanistan despite being a superpower with a massive army stationed in Afghanistan and advantages like having the latest and most innovative weapons, as well as the political and moral support of the United Nations and the whole international community at its disposal. In contrast, Pakistan, a much weaker state in comparison to the U.S. in terms of the scale of its economy and weapons systems, is blamed for U.S.’ failures in Afghanistan, and used as a scapegoat. The second allegation is that Pakistan is providing safe havens to Taliban from where they continue their operations. However, this allegation ignores Pakistan’s efforts that have successfully eliminated or pushed all terrorists from Pakistan in the last couple of years, a victory which has been witnessed and acknowledged by the world.
Currently, 60% of Afghanistan is controlled by the Taliban. Americans cannot walk freely and fearlessly in the streets of Kabul. They are not safe except inside military camps. In practical terms it is the Taliban who rule most of Afghanistan, not the U.S.-supported government of President Ashraf Ghani. Under these circumstances, why would the Taliban need to seek refuge inside Pakistan if they can freely operate inside Afghanistan? Especially so after the Pakistan Army launched a massive operation in the border areas and cleared the whole region.
A third allegation is that U.S. has provided aid to Pakistan in return for support in its “War on Terror” but has seen little return on that investment. Pakistan has received USD 33 billion in total, over a period of 16 years. However, actual economic assistance during that period was only USD 10.8 billion, or USD 678 million per year on average, which is a meager amount and has no major significance for Pakistan. The rest was actually the expenditure incurred by Pakistan which was then verified by the U.S. and reimbursed to Pakistan or through need-based sales of military hardware to Pakistan. Pakistan suffered a loss of 75,000 lives and worth USD 250 billion loss to the economy, which is much more than what U.S. has provided or reimbursed. 
The mode of economic assistance was also highly politicized and provided through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). A major part of it has gone back to U.S. consultants and some to the ruling or political elite in Pakistan as bribes. The actual amount made as real contributions toward the Pakistani people is negligible, resulting in almost no trickle-down effect on the common man. 
A fourth allegation, though not made very openly, is that Pakistan is providing extra space to China. It is a fact, however, that since the USSR collapsed leaving the U.S. as the world’s only superpower, it has launched direct attacks on the Muslim world and caused massive destruction in many Muslim countries including Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. The U.S. has gained huge economic benefits through these wars and has conducted live tests and trials of new weapons, technologies and war techniques.
But now U.S. is facing challenges, starting in Syria, where Russia has halted the U.S.-led war to remove Bashar al-Assad as the President. The U.S. is also facing difficulties against North Korea and the effort to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In fact, the U.S. faced defeat in a recent UN General Assembly session on the issue of Jerusalem by seeing only nine votes in favor in contrast to 128 against, with 35 abstentions. Even close U.S. allies did not vote in her favor.
In fact, the U.S. has been exposed to the world for its aggressive role during the last several decades which has involved waging wars, killing innocent people, occupying the resources of other countries, carrying out conspiracies against other nations, conducting sabotage and spreading hate etc.
Meanwhile, China is rising as a hope for the developing world. It has launched the massive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), with USD 900 billion worth of investment. It will improve regional connectivity and will help promote economic activities, as well as in creating job opportunities, eliminating poverty, and promoting cooperation and security. Simply put, it give a message of “peace, harmony and development”.
The U.S. fears that China is likely to grow economically, politically, and militarily in the near future. It is apprehensive of China’s rapid development and feels insecure that China may become its competitor in world leadership in the very near future. It is trying to curtail China’s rise and making close alliances with its surrounding countries such as India, Japan, Vietnam, Myanmar and the Philippines.
The U.S. might be expecting to influence or coerce Pakistan to stop China, which is out of question. Pakistan has enjoyed a long history of friendship with China and this relationship is the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy. This all-weather friendship is time-tested in all dimensions. Our relations are based on mutual respect, non-interference, mutual interests, and are in accordance with the best international practices.
Pakistan fully supports the BRI and is one of its biggest partner nation. Pakistan and China are working closely on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to make it a model for the rest of the world. Pakistan cannot compromise on its relations with China at all. Meanwhile the U.S. is using India to disrupt CPEC, providing it with the latest technologies, latest weapons and tactics, logistics, and intelligence support for these efforts.
U.S.’ military support to India is a direct threat to Pakistan’s security. Transfer of advanced technologies will lead India to further amass the weapons of mass destruction, which will destabilize not only this region but the whole world. The recent arms deal signed with India worth billions of dollars is an immediate threat to the whole region as it may start an arms race and confrontation between India and all its neighbors.
U.S.’ policies are offensive to many nations worldwide, forcing them to pick sides. The U.S. is facing isolation globally. It needs to revise its current policies and understand the emerging trends.
In a nutshell, the blame U.S. places on Pakistan for its failure in Afghanistan is not justified at all. The U.S. must accept its defeat and face the mess it has created in Afghanistan. It has become apparent that U.S. wants India to play a role in Afghanistan, replacing Pakistan – a role that ground realities do not permit. India does not have a common border with Afghanistan, and has nothing in common, nor any understanding of Afghan culture, traditions, and history. Meanwhile Pakistan has a common border, a common culture, tradition, religion, and ethnicity. What is more, Pakistan has hosted over three million Afghan refugees since 1980s. The U.S. must understand the ground realities and importance of Pakistan’s role in the resolution of the Afghan predicament.


The writer is a sinologist (ex-diplomat), Non-Resident Fellow of Center for China and Globalization, National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad. E-mail: [email protected]

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