By Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan
During a debate focusing on the situation in the Pak-Afghan region, at National Defence University (NDU), Washington, the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton declared the relationship with Pakistan as of “Paramount importance.” Mr Leon Panetta, the US Defence Secretary, seconded Ms. Clinton and said that US has no choice, but to maintain its relationship with Pakistan, to safeguard its vital interests there. He said that, “there is no choice but to maintain a relationship with Pakistan. Because we are fighting a war there. Because we are fighting Al Qaeda there, and they (Pakistanis) do give us—-some cooperation in that effort.” We thank these two very significant policy makers of United States for their recognition of Pakistani significance for this sole super power in the region. A very significant feature of this recognition of Pakistani role by these hawks is limited to Pakistan’s serving the US interests only. Beyond that, both were very critical to Pakistan role, even to the level of accusing it for having linkages with militants and terrorists.
Indeed, here lies the fault-line in the Pak-US relationships. U.S gives credit to Pakistan for that portion only, where it serves its interest. Nevertheless, once it (Pakistan) tries to secure its own interest, US get annoyed and allege it with multiple charges. For example during the same vary debate in NDU-Washington, Defence Secretary Panetta said that relations with Pakistan have been complicated owing its (Pakistan’s) linkages with the Haqqanis, who cross the Pak-Afghan border to attack ISAF troops in Afghanistan. He said that, “It’s pretty clear that there’s a relationship there.” As if this accusation was not enough, he further charged Pakistan with its alleged relationship with Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT). In this, Mr. Panetta was perhaps pleading the Indian case. He categorically said that, “There’s a relationship with LeT. And, you know, this is a group that goes into India and threatens attacks there. It has conducted attacks there.”
The statement by a very responsible policy maker of US who has been the head of CIA too, clearly exposes the nature of Indo-US alliance and their collective designs against Pakistan. This indeed is a US strategy to compel Pakistan to simply go by its dictates and accommodate Indian desires too. Pakistan can accept neither US dictates nor the Indian hegemony, it believes in the principle of mutual co-existence. Though the following day, US State Department clarified the statement of Secretary Panetta, once the spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, dismissed the speculations, as if U.S consider Pakistan, a state sponsoring the terrorism. In response to a question by a US based Indian journalist, Victoria said, “I think Secretary Panetta spoke to our concern about how these two organisations operate and any relationship that they may have with Pakistan, which is a subject that we talk about with Pakistan, which is a different issue than a state being a sponsor of terrorism itself.” Nevertheless, for a Pakistani, Mr Panetta’s statement in NDU-Washington has a lot of meaning and indeed, the real US mindset.
United States understands that, for any success in Afghanistan, it needs Pakistani support. On its part, Pakistan has been supporting the US cause with devotion. The only issue is that US has always been discrediting the Pakistani support and sacrifices that it has rendered for this coalition over the years. US always got the credit of Pakistani contributions for any success; it got in Afghanistan and accused Pakistan for its own failure. Besides, US always tried to accommodate the Indian interests at the cost of Pakistan. This biased US attitude has always hpw irritated Pakistan, which would like that its interest too be secured at its immediate neighbourhood, rather of a none-contiguous country.
This difference of opinion then creates mistrust between Pakistan and United States. U.S prefers serving irrational Indian interest for many other reasons, one being preparing it to contain China, the peer competitor of US in the global politics. Pakistan perhaps cannot serve such a US purpose against its all weather friend, China, thus repeatedly faces US infuriation. Secretary Clinton accepts this reality once she said, “There are certain attitudes or beliefs that the Pakistanis have which are rooted in their own experience, just like we have our own set of such convictions.”
Like all other Americans, Defence Secretary Panetta was not able to digest the presence of only deterrent; Pakistan has in the form of nuclear weapons. While recognizing Pakistani position, he showed US concern with its nuclear weapons. He said that, Pakistan “happen to be a nuclear power that has nuclear weapons and we have to be concerned about what happens with those nuclear weapons.” This again speaks of a malevolence mindset of US about Pakistani nuclear programme. This creates lot of concern in Pakistan, as to what plan US has for Pakistani nukes. We feel that Pakistani nukes are safest in the world with a very effective command and control system.
About Haqqanis, Pakistan has offered US, many a time to bring them on to the negotiating table. United States should have welcomed this offer, if it is seriously considering this group so hostile and effective against its forces in Afghanistan. US, however, seems fixed on the only option to push Pakistan for a military operation against this group, which is not possible for it under the prevailing situation. Otherwise, as a common sense, if the matter can be resolved through talks, why to go for the use of force. Even after the use of force, issues always settled on the negotiating table.
Unfortunately, U.S and Pakistan have different prisms to see the world. The Secretary of State even has recognized this fact during the same debate once she said, “They (Pakistani) are partners, but they do not always see the world the way we see the world. They do not always cooperate with us on what we think, and I will be very blunt about this–is in their interest.” Surely American interest cannot match Pakistani interest. We are two different nations with different cultures, values, religions and different histories.
American sees the world through the prism of hegemony and imperialism, whereas, we believe in the sovereignty of nation states, their independence and right to live as per their own desire, as determined by UN Charter. It would be in the interest of US to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan through negotiations with the Afghan stakeholders; rather playing politics of imperialism for a long term stay there in the garb of combating militancy. It could not bring stability and peace in that country through its military campaigns in last one decade and would not be able to achieve that with the same mind set in another decade.
Furthermore, antagonism with Pakistan would not serve US interest too, as Pakistan is not its subservient state. It should consider Pakistan an equal partner and give weightage to its peace proposals seriously, and talk with Afghan factions for a consensus. Such an approach would bring long-term peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan only desires to see a stable Afghanistan, as its people have suffered a lot in last thirty-four years. Afghan sufferance is a Pakistani sufferance, as we are brothers.