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