By S. M. Hali

Diplomacy is “the art or practice of conducting international relations, as in negotiating alliances, treaties, and agreements.” Unfortunately, great powers have been using coercion and threat like Gunboat Diplomacy, which is often used in reference to Theodore Roosevelt because he used gunboat diplomacy to intimidate the Chinese to open trade with the United States.

One would have hoped that what transpired at the beginning of the twentieth century would have paved the way for mature, polished and rational diplomacy.  Unfortunately, the process of evolution was lost on some species and we are witnessing a repeat of the gunboat diplomacy by the sole super power USA, except that along with the use of brute force, financial leverage as an instrument of statecraft and coercion has also come into play. The relationship between Pakistan and USA is like a sine curve with extreme highs and lows. The 1950s saw Pakistan drawn into the US fold as a bulwark to contain Communism.  This was more of a bogey, with Pakistan ending up being used to conduct high level aerial espionage. Who can forget the May 1, 1960, Gary Powers’ U-2 saga and Nikita Khrushchev’s warning Pakistan with a red pencil circling Peshawar and USSR Surface to Surface Missiles pointing towards the surreptitious US base at Badhber. The 1962 Sino-Indian war saw the US cozying up to India, despite its alliances with the Soviets. The 1965 and 1971 Pak-India Wars failed to garner US support for Pakistan regardless of its defence pacts of SEATO and CENTO, rather to rub salt in the wound; sanctions were placed on both Pakistan and India. The embargo affected only Pakistan, since India did not receive any weapons from the US but continued to rearm itself with Soviet weapons. The 1979-1989 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan caused the US to ignore reports of Pakistan’s development of nuclear weapons since it needed Pakistani support to confront the Soviets in Afghanistan. The moment the Soviets were defeated, Pakistan was “back in the barrel” with the infamous Pressler Amendment being slapped on its military acquisitions from the US. The 1998 nuclear tests and General Musharraf’s military coup in 1999 invited further sanctions.

9/11 revived US coercive diplomacy to gain the badly needed support of Pakistan in waging war in Afghanistan. Despite its estranged relationship, the U.S. was able to gain Pakistan’s support for the war in mere days through a combination of credible threats and incentives. Who can forget the ominous “You are with us or against us?”  & “We will bomb you into the stone-age!” intimidation?

Following the invasion of Afghanistan and the rise of the Taliban, relations between the erstwhile allies again soured, with mutual distrust replacing the intelligence sharing and comradeship in tackling the common enemy. Pakistan’s good work in providing staging posts, the use of its military bases and transit facilities to logistic supplies on top of apprehending over 600 Al-Qaeda operatives including some top leaders came to naught with the Osama bin Laden fiasco at Abbotabad (the US is yet to provide credible evidence to Pakistan and the world that it was a live Osama the US Navy Seals apprehended, killed and disposed off on May 2, 2011). Pakistan became the target of aspersions and snide comments of both the US media and State Department. All diplomatic niceties were dropped on November 26, 2011, when in an apparently premeditated attack, 25 Pakistani troops were gunned down at Salala. Pakistan retorted by closing down the NATO supply route. However, instead of the NATO negotiating with Pakistan, the US is dealing directly, using its infamous gunboat diplomacy. The US is demanding resumption of the NATO supply routes, cooperation in GWOT, action against Al-Qaeda remnants and Haqqani Network in North Waziristan, curbing domestic terrorist organizations including LeT, JM and Quetta Shoora etc, dismantling improvised explosive devices (lEDs),  interdicting antecedent chemicals to prepare lEDs, preventing proliferation of nuclear material/expertise and issue of visas to US experts engaged in counterterrorism efforts and other assistance programs, treating Pakistan as a vanquished nation. Dr. Shakil Afridi’s sentencing under the Frontier Crimes Rules (FCR) has caused the US to react sharply by levying further economic sanctions on Pakistan. It is interesting that the Supreme Court of Pakistan had asked the FCR to be repealed as they were contravene to human rights but the Kerry Lugar Act insisted on their continuance. To the embarrassment of the US, Dr. Shakil Afridi has been charged with colluding with miscreants and not aiding and abetting the CIA as envisaged earlier.