Rationalising Pak-US relations: There is nothing personal; it’s all about business!

April 14, 2013 at 22:52
Muhammad Nadeem Mirza
United   States   is not   an ‘enemy’   of   Pakistan;   it is   neither    a   ‘friend’.   It only  does   business   with Pakistan  and  that  is how  states  should deal to each other  – at least this is what those  belonging to  the  realist school  of thought in international  relations believe. The core of international   relations can be described in one word and that is “national self interest”.  States behave in the international arena only to achieve certain ends determined by their national interests.
As every state pursues its own national interest, so there is a bright chance that they might clash at certain points. In this case, they try to search a “way” which best satisfy the interests of both the states concerned.  And if that  consensus   on  a certain ‘policy issue’ could not be achieved, then  the  stronger   state  using  available means  – political, economic, diplomatic, military – allures or forces the weaker state to redefine its national interest  according to the changed situation.
The  impression,  that   the  weaker  state had  to  submit  to  the  demands of  the stronger, and “put aside” its own national interest,  is not  true.  It simply “redefines” its national interests in the wake of the changed geostrategic environment of the world. This is exactly what happened after September 11, 2001, when Pakistan had to take a u-turn on its Afghan policy and redefine its national interests to be in congruence with those of the American national interests. 
United States had been accused of leaving Pakistan ‘alone’ in the times of crises. The accusations’ list is very long but here, a few will be discussed.
First it is being accused to not come to Pakistan’s support in 1965 war against India. But the question   arises that why United States should have come to Pakistan’s help?  SEATO and CENTO that had   been   signed   were   not   directed against India.
They were directed against communist threat arising from Soviet Union.  United States never said, nor committed, to come to  Pakistan’s help  in  the  times  of a  war with India – though there existed  certain “verbal” promises made by  a number  of American officials in this regard,  which proved to be just “lip service”.
Similarly Pakistan   never   committed to help   United   States   in its ‘possible’ war against Soviet Union.  Both Pakistan and United States came closer to each other for different reasons. . Former Ambassador Tariq Fatimi stated that the same reasons that brought them together became the reasons of their ‘parting away’.  United States  wished  to use Pakistan  against the communists  while   Pakistan   wished   to use  American  weight to  counter-balance Indian hegemonic designs in the region Indeed   throughout  the   early   decades Pakistan   did  what   its  national  interest demanded it to do. It refused to send its troops to help Americans in the Korean War in early 1950S – because that was what Pakistan’s national interest demanded it to do.
It again refuted American pressures and pursued purely its national interest on its ‘Opening up’ to Communist China in late 1950s. Henry Kissinger warned Pakistan of committing a ‘grave mistake’ in this regard, but  Pakistan  did not give a heed to it and afterwards time  proved Pakistan’s  policy on  the  Chinese  issue  to  be  on  the  ‘right’ track.
Scholars again accuse United States of rushing advanced   weaponry to   India in its war against China in 1962.  If  one puts  himself  in the  American  ‘seat’ then one   realizes   that   whatever  Americans did  then,   was  ‘right’ according  to  their national interests. India was fighting  with a  communist  country and  United   Sates was  at  war  (though it  was  ‘cold’)  with the   communists throughout  the   world. So what  other options it had  in this case except to support India – though Pakistan was  also  right   in  its  accusation  that   it was  not  ‘consulted’ before providing any American   weaponry  to   India,   as   was agreed upon between the two.
Besides  if  India  could   have   been ‘won’ and  lured  into  the  Western  bloc  by  the Americans,   then it  could   have   been  a big  achievement  for  the   United   States. Because  India was a much  bigger country than   Pakistan,  and  having  a  big  ‘say’  in the  third  world.  Naturally  United  States preferred India  over  Pakistan  and  it still does  so,  not  because of  some   personal issues, but  simply because that  is what  its national interest demands it to do. Similarly in the  1971  crisis, United  States did not come to Pakistan’s help – although it had  sent  7th Fleet to the  Indian Ocean, but   the   purpose seemed  only  to  force India  not  to  escalate the  conflict  to  the West Pakistan.
If we read the American ‘declassified’ documents around the  era,  we  find  out that   the   American   public,   along-with the  American  diplomats and  other State Department officials, was continuously demanding President Nixon to take a “tough  stance” against Pakistan  because of its actions  in East Pakistan.But President Nixon took the risk and contrary to public pressure showed a behavior, what latter on termed as an American ‘tilt’ towards Pakistan.  He later wrote on a memorandum “to all hands: Don’t squeeze Yahiya at this point”. Reason of this behavior of the   United   States was simple; Nixon was using Pakistan to ‘Open up’ to China at that time. Because at the  international level, American  national interests now  demanded it  to  ‘befriend’ China,  thus  cornering Soviet  Union,  and US did  succeed in her  efforts  – although to a certain  extent.
Pakistan once again defied American pressures and pursued its national interest in its nuclear policy. When it decided to go nuclear, United States left no stone unturned to stop Pakistan from acquiring the technology. But Pakistan simply proved itself to be too slippery to remain clear of the American pressures and developed its nukes.  Yet there is another view  stating that  United  States  deliberately allowed Pakistan to develop nuclear  technology to keep a check on ‘ambitious’ India – but the facts state otherwise.
1980s Afghan Jihad – one of the most controversial decades in the Pak-US relations – was a true test of the nerves for the diplomats at both ends.  Pakistan defined its national interest in supporting the Afghan guerrillas against Soviet supported government at Kabul.
After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan got a chance to be at a better bargaining position with the United States.  The question here is that whether Pakistan used the issue in the better way to achieve the ends defined by its national interest or not?
If one such ‘end’ was keeping Soviet Union ‘at bay’ and to abstain it from reaching ‘Warm waters’ by attacking Pakistan, then it was achieved.
If  one   such  ‘end’  was  the   development of the  nuclear  capability  – United  States could  not  have  risked  antagonizing Pakistan  because of its need in defeating Soviet  Union  in ‘Soviet Vietnam’, thus  it had to close its eyes over Pakistan’s nuclear development – then it was achieved.
If another such ‘end’ was to get the most advanced technological weaponry from the United States, then again it was achieved. There have been reports that Pakistan even managed to convince Americans to sell them AWACS, but the deal could not be materialized because of the   opposition by certain   groups in Pakistan.   Pakistan recently managed to buy the AWACS from Sweden and China.
There is no denying the fact that the current problems  of  Pakistan,   mostly   notably the  rise of militancy  and  the  Kalashnikov culture,  are  a product of Pakistan’s poor handling of the  issues  then?  But that is how the state’s business is being done. Even  United   States   having   one   of  the world’s largest  think-tank pool,  and  most advanced  technology could  not  predict and  avoid  the  ‘blowback’ of its policies  – right  or  wrong.  Pakistan is no different. Miscalculations have been made by the statesmen throughout the history. But the true wisdom lies in learning from those mistakes and avoids repeating them.
Next   accusation leveled   by   most   of the   Pakistanis   against United   States   is that,   they   left the   mess   in Afghanistan for Pakistan to deal with. Even American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during a Congressional hearing accepted it as an ‘American mistake’ to leave Afghanistan in ruins.
United States was here in the region to defeat Soviet Union. It succeeded in this effort. During the decade it had closed its eyes over Pakistan’s nuclear development. But the  Congress had  already  passed the Presser  Amendment in 1985 demanding American  president to  certify every  year, that  Pakistan  is not  possessing a nuclear weapon. Since passing the law, Presidents Reagan and Bush Sr. had been providing this certificate.
But when  the  need for Pakistan  in Afghanistan was over and American minimum objectives were achieved, President Bush Sr. found  no further  reason to ‘lie’ to  Congress,  thus  resulting in the enactment of certain  nuclear  related sanctions against Pakistan.
Since September 11, the national interests of both the states again got redefined. American sanctions against Pakistan were lifted   immediately.   Pakistan   took   the u-turn   on its policy to support Taliban regime at Kabul. American ‘war on terror’ had since then claimed thousands of lives.
 In this war, United States accuses Pakistan from time to time of playing   a ‘double game’. Once asked to comment on these American accusations, a retired   ISI chief said   that   ‘Americans are   also   playing double game with us. So why blame Pakistan   only.’  If   this   is what   national interest of Pakistan   demands, then we should not hesitate to do this.
Recent release  of the Afghan Taliban from Pakistani jails to facilitate the Afghan peace process  –  and   their  refusal  to  go  back to Afghanistan and staying  in Pakistan instead – is also seen  as an action  on the part  of Pakistan  to secure  its interests vis- à-vis Afghanistan.
As far as Pakistan’s overall policy regarding Afghanistan is concerned, this is clear that it has certain legitimate concerns regarding Afghanistan. Besides fearing an anti- Pakistan  government at Kabul that  might fan  the  separatist elements in  Pakistan, they  fear  of  a  rising  Indian influence in Afghanistan,  which  has  already   reached to a very high level – and they seem  to be right  in this  direction. Thus they wish to preserve links with certain elements in the Afghan power game.
United States now promised Pakistan of maintaining a long-term engagement with it. But those who think that it will continue to support Pakistan economically and politically – just like it is doing now
– Even after American withdrawal from Afghanistan, are making a mistake of forgetting the history.
Dr.  Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, Professor  of International Relation in Quaid-i-Azam university,   Islamabad  once   opined  that with  the  withdrawal of  American  forces from Afghanistan ‘there are ample chances that   the   anti-Pakistan  forces  would   be able to convince the Western  powers, particularly, the United States to impose nuclear  related sanctions against Pakistan.’ As soon   as American   ‘minimum’ ends are met in Afghanistan, it will reduce the support to Pakistan to the minimum levels of just making the both ends   meet.   So the question arises that are we prepared enough to deal   with the   mess   left by US after its withdrawal from Afghanistan?
 Have we defined our national interests in accordance with the changing international and regional environment? Have we learnt from the mistakes being committed in the past and prepared ourselves to deal to any sort of eventuality
– arising from both inside and outside?
It is only the ‘time’ which will answer  these questions, and  will tell  us  that  how  the policymakers in Pakistan  will define  or redefine its national interests and whether Pakistan   will  succeed  in  achieving  the ‘Ends’ set by those interests?
But one  thing  is certain  that  in dealing to United  States,  Pakistan  had  to  take  care of  its  own  national interest –  whatever the  situation may  be.  Rather the policy of pursuing the national interest must be followed in its dealing to any other state
– Friend or presumed enemy alike. And it seems  that  those at  the  helm  of policy- making  in Pakistan  – despite having  a lot of constraints – are aware  of this fact very well.
One  of  the   most   interesting  dialogues of  the   film  sequel  ‘godfather’  is  that “there  is nothing personal,  it’s  all about the  business”. But the events in the films suggest that it is always the ‘personal’ “coupled” with the ‘business’ that served the ends. We will have to see that whether it applies to Pak-US relations also or not?

Author is a PhD candidate of International   Relations   in France.   He can be reached at mnadeemmirza@ gmail.com

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