“Arrogance pays but not always; sometimes it gets you in a hole from where you may never come out.” Raja Mujtaba

By Dr Raja Muhammad Khan

As announced by United States, it has a special significance for the Asia-Pacific region. This fact can be imagined from the fact that, this super power has decided to base 60 percent of its naval fleet in the Asia-Pacific region, as recently announced by US Defense Secretary. Ever since the end of the cold war, this is major part of US global agenda, which it is pursuing through its allies in the region. Apart from its East Asian allies like Japan and South Korea, India fits into this US Asia-Pacific policy well from South Asia.  In the same context, on June 6, 2012, while addressing Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), a renowned Indian think tank, US Defense Secretary Mr Leon Panetta said that, “Defence cooperation with India is a linchpin in this strategy.” He further said that, this new strategy of the United States would indeed seek to, “expand our military partnerships and our presence in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia.”

US desire to make India, as its strategic partner is not new. Indeed, its relationship with India began in 1942, during World- war-II.  Following its success in World War-II, United States attained the status of a major global power together with former Soviet Union. However, its position was more illustrious viz-a-viz Soviet Union, mainly because of its nuclear capability, which later could only attained in 1949. This was a time that, United Kingdom was rapidly losing its control over its colonies in Asia and Africa. Perhaps, Britain has gone economically bankrupt, owing to its massive involvement in successive two world wars. Thus, it was an opportunity for the US to safeguard its interest in various parts of the globe to replace UK. In South Asia, U.S was closely observing the developments, with reference to the partition of the Sub-continent into India and Pakistan. This great power even tried to resist this partition, considering that, a united India would better serve its global interests in its future strategy.  During the cold war, India though remained closer to the former Soviet Union in the garb of non-alliance, yet, maintained a very good relationship with US, which has been assisting it in all, fields viz; military, economic, political and diplomatic.

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Indeed, declaring India as the linchpin in new US military strategy by this super power is not a new development, rather a continuation of its old policy. From many decades, US presidents have been regularly visiting India during their term of presidencies. In November 2010, the incumbent President of the US, Barack Obama made his historic visit to India and finalized many defence and business deals, the biggest being a $10 billon business deal, securing 50,000 jobs for US nationals. During the visit, President Obama said, “We visit here to send a very clear message that in our determination to give our people a future of security and prosperity, the United States and India stand united.” Apart from previous presidents, Obama considers that Indo-US relationship “will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.”

In the persuasion of the same policy, US Defense Secretary said in IDSA said that, “In particular, I believe our relationship can and should become more strategic, more practical, and more collaborative.” Indeed, with the beginning of new millennium, both undertook many steps to redefine their relationship for the mutual benefit of each other at the global and regional level. They have regular defence policy exchanges and looking forward to be, “more collaborative with more advanced research and development, share new technologies and enter into joint production of defense articles.”  Earlier, in the beginning of May 2012, US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton made a three days Indian visit and to pursue a deeper US-India strategic relationship. During her visit, she pursued India to reduce its dependency on Iranian oil. During her visit, the Secretary of State was very critical about Pakistan. She even accused Pakistan that, Al-Qaeda leader, Ayman-al-Zawahiri is in Pakistan and Pakistan needs to do more to please India in the case of Mumbai terror attack of November 2008.

Later During his visit to Afghanistan, US Defense Secretary was more critical and threatening to Pakistan. He said that, “We are reaching the limits of our patience here, and for that reason it is extremely important that Pakistan take action to prevent this kind of safe haven from taking place and allowing terrorists to use their country as a safety net in order to conduct their attacks on our forces.” Indeed, what is more worrisome for Pakistan is not the rapidly developing Indo-US strategic relationship, but the tone; it is using from its immediate neighbourhood; New Delhi and Kabul. In a way, U.S is provoking its neighbours; India and Afghanistan to join hands in sorting out Pakistan on account of various unfounded excuses.  Unfortunately, both these neighbours of Pakistan have been its traditional adversaries. They otherwise need a pretext to pressurize Pakistan, so that it stops pursuing the settlements of its disputes with them. With US at their back, they would not hesitate to harm Pakistan, whenever they get a chance.

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For the United States, the main problem is how to pressurize and persuade Pakistan for the acceptance of its demand, the immediate being the opening of the route for the NATO supplies from Pakistani soil. US could not persuade Pakistan since November 27, 2011 for opening the route, thus now using its allies, covering eastern and western flanks of Pakistan. Certainly, such tactics would not help US in getting closer to Pakistan. After all, US is regularly violating the Pakistani sovereignty through drone attacks and physical ground attacks, killing dozen of its soldiers and innocent civilians. This great power must realize should this be the way to get its objectives fulfilled. Pakistan is an independent state and has the eminence to be nuclear power. People of Pakistan are concerned and Foreign Office of Pakistan has rightly protested these remarks of Defense Secretary by calling its acting Ambassador in the Foreign Office.  Sherry Rehman, the Pakistani Ambassador to US has also categorically said that, “This kind of public messaging from a senior member of the US Administration is taken very seriously in Pakistan, and reduces the space for narrowing our bilateral differences at a critical time in the negotiations. She further said that, “It adds an unhelpful twist to the process and leaves little oxygen for those of us seeking to break a stalemate.”

While these developments are taking place at the global and regional level, what options Pakistan has to safeguard its sovereignty and integrity.  Should it accept the mounting US pressure, concede to its demands and once again become a compliant state of the US, the way, it did since 1950s. Or else, it should redefine its priorities to fit in, in the rapidly changing global political and security environment to live with respect and dignity in the comity of nations. Certainly, it cannot and indeed should not get into a conflict with US or for that matter with any other country; however, it has to safeguard its sovereignty as an independent country.  For this purpose, the Parliamentary recommendations for defining the future relationship with US are the best guidelines to follow. In this regard, all political parties, the military leadership and of course the experience members of diplomatic corps, academia and civil society must sit together to make a consensus decision as the way forward.

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Pakistani leadership must understand that, now it is a battle of nerve between US and Pakistan. The party, whose nerves would be weak and breaks down earlier, would lose, whereas the party with strong nerves will carry the day. Pakistan must understand that, at this time, US needs Pakistan more than, Pakistan needs US. Pakistani assistance is required by US in connection with the opening of supply route, thus it should adopt soft approach, rather dictating and threatening tone towards Pakistan. Pakistan should remain cool and calm and maintain a steady pace forward, rather being emotional and reactionary. It should not accept US pressure, nor should over react. Owing to financial problems, should never be lured in for financial aid, which ultimately goes back to US on various pretexts or used by few individuals, rather spend on national projects. Allah Almighty has given us an opportunity to restore our lost glory, therefore, let us work as a nation to preserve it.

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