By Brigadier (retired) Imran Malik

US-Pakistan relations have historically ranged from eras of strong friendships to periods of outright animosities, sanctions and embargoes. This on-again-off-again (non)relationship has been epitomized by the US’ ruthless and brutal exploitation of Pakistan’s peculiar political, economic and strategic vulnerabilities; and her remorseless betrayals of Pakistan at critical times!

 The first betrayal:

 Pakistan joined the US camp in the 1950s and became a member of SEATO and CENTO – earning the abiding animosity of the erstwhile Warsaw Pact/Soviet Union. However, the US’ peculiar role in the  1965 war with India put paid to this Pakistani fantasy as it laid bare the essentials of this non-alliance and opened up her eyes (and mercifully the road to China).

The second betrayal:

The “impotent” US tilt in the 1971 War with India that led to the dismemberment of Pakistan further revealed her regional strategic priorities, her own political and strategic weakness to support an ally or even project power in the face of the then daunting Soviet Union – India’s strategic benefactor!

The third betrayal:  The Nuclear Dimension  

India introduced the nuclear dimension to the strategic environment of the Indo-Pak subcontinent through her so called “peaceful nuclear explosion” in May 1974. Ironically, Pakistan was made to pay the price for India’s international nuclear theft, treachery and debauchery. The US-led free world  penalized Pakistan in anticipation of a crime she had yet to consider much less commit – going  nuclear to restore the lost regional strategic balance! Thus it was Pakistan who got politically, economically and militarily sanctioned and embargoed for India’s original sin of nuclear proliferation and breach of trust, confidence and international contracts! Not surprisingly, Pakistan defiantly decided to go down the same nuclear route that India (the first, original and acknowledged nuclear proliferator of the world after Israel) had so gainfully painted for Pakistan and the rest of the world to follow.

The situation was further worsened by President G W Bush, much later, when he operationalized that brazenly biased pro-India nuclear policy for this region. While Pakistan’s and Iran’s nuclear programmes were unacceptable and were to be neutralized /eliminated India, “the original nuclear sinner of the world” was rewarded for her nuclear debauchery with a special singular nuclear status and the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Deal – a strategic faux pas that not only robbed the various international nuclear regimes like the NSG, NPT, CTBT, FMCT, MTCR, CD et al of their moral and ethical strengths and ascendancy but also effectively consigned them to the dust bins of history. This strategic blunder gave a tremendous urgency and impetus to Pakistan’s and Iran’s nuclear programmes, accelerating the nuclear arms race in the region and hardening Pakistan’s stances at the aforementioned fora. Pakistan was denied a similar deal.

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This US policy has upset the regional strategic and nuclear balance and will have far reaching consequences for the world!  

The fourth betrayal: Afghanistan One (1970s-1990s)

The geopolitical and geostrategic environment of the region changed with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. “The US and the free world needed Pakistan to become the van guard of the war for all freedom loving peoples of the world!!” Pakistan, under General Zia willingly obliged. Pakistan’s dalliances in the nuclear dimension were predictably overlooked, temporarily. She played the cardinal role in defeating the   Soviet Union. No sooner had the Soviets rolled back across the Amu River, the US-led free world withdrew unilaterally, abandoning Pakistan without a modicum of remorse. She was not only left alone to deal with the aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal (armed militants, Afghan refugees, economic burn out etc) but also subjected to crippling economic and military sanctions and embargoes – under the Pressler, Symington, Glenn Amendments etc. These amendments in US laws effectively took away from Pakistan the capacity and capability to deal with the critical aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal – the consequences of which the whole world is facing today in the shape of the extremist militancy in the region and beyond!

 The fifth betrayal:  Afghanistan Two (2001 onwards)

The US’ gross strategic error of abandoning Pakistan post 1989 came back to haunt her in her Afghan Campaign.

When 9/11’s shock waves reverberated all around the world President Bush and the free world again needed the services of Pakistan to hunt OBL and his ilk. He bullied President General Pervaiz Musharraf into joining the GWOT who was granted legitimacy and international acceptance in return. Blatant, unwritten one sided deals were struck and the US went wild chasing militants all over Pakistan hunting and killing them (and poor Pakistanis caught in the crossfires/unilateral US drone attacks) at will. This ruthless exploitation of Pakistani President’s political vulnerability led to thousands of Pakistani deaths, the destruction of her infrastructure, the ruination of her economy and the extreme polarization of her society! The Gillani-Zardari Government carried on the same policy of servile appeasement. Although Pakistan has suffered about 40000 killed (including 3500 plus soldiers) yet her sincerity in the GWOT remains in doubt and the unrelenting mantra of “do more” continues! Apparently, the ghost of the 1989 abandonment is yet to be exorcised!

The sixth betrayal: The Diplomatic Dimension

During the conduct of the Afghan Campaign the US treated Pakistan, her military and people with undisguised arrogance bordering on contempt. First she tried to neuter (or was it neutralize) the ISI and got the pliant Zardari-Gilani Government to make a foolish attempt to place the ISI – one of the world’s most premier intelligence agencies – under the command of the Ministry of Interior headed by a certain Mr Rehman Malik of ostensibly very dubious credentials. Next she tried to undermine the Armed Forces of Pakistan by including some arrogant and highly intrusive conditions in the Kerry Lugar Berman Bill.  These obvious sleights of hand were vociferously resisted and countered by the Pakistan Army.

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Later, taking obscene advantage of the Gillani-Zardari Government’s political vulnerability the US poured in thousands of her intelligence agents, contractors, military and security personnel et al in the garb of diplomats without visa and immigration formalities into Pakistan. Most of these agents went about subverting Pakistan’s national security reportedly encouraging terrorist activities and even targeting her nuclear and other strategic programmes! The Raymond Davis saga is a point in case. Thus the US stabbed its own major non NATO ally in the back again. This ruined the US’ image amongst the Pakistanis irretrievably!

And now she is adamant to give India the major role in Afghanistan post 2014 – literally putting her in Pakistan’s backyard and presenting her with an enormous strategic advantage to threaten Pakistan with a two front war on a regular basis.

The seventh betrayal: The Military Dimension

The US used intelligence and information from the Pakistanis to get  OBL in Abbottabad while completing blotting them out of the entire operation. The apparent aims were manifold; one was to get OBL; another was to deny Pakistan any credit for this coup and unilaterally claim all honours  for herself; and finally to embarrass Pakistan and her Armed Forces into a weak bargaining/negotiating position for the future. Leon Panetta’s hurt ego may have also felt a bit satiated after the Raymond Davis debacle!

Betrayal was yet again personified by Admiral Mike Mullen the former Chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff – an avowed friend of Pakistan – who in his last appearance before a Congressional hearing slanderously termed the Haqqani Network as ‘a veritable arm of the ISI’. Brutus might have been kinder to Caeser! This was patently unworthy of a military commander of his stature and standing!

The Massacre at Salala was another treacherous act. The US Armed Forces and their command echelons could not have stooped lower than this – launching sneak attacks on an unsuspecting ally. This may turn out to be the turning point in the US’ Afghan Campaign.  

And finally, as is her norm, the US has used pressure tactics and “suspended, put on hold or delayed” all economic and military aid to Pakistan while holding on to CSF reimbursements as well.  

And the list goes on and on…………….

The onus is now on the US to determine the future of this non-functioning alliance. Will it be terminated once and for all? Will the US seek to attain her vital interests with other regional allies like India and Afghanistan? Can she do so? Will this alliance remain interrupted as of now? Will it grow albeit in a stunted manner only becoming operational when required – as a transactional deal? Will it eventually gain new roots and blossom into a full-fledged alliance once again but with clearly defined paradigms, parameters and terms of engagement?  The US and Pakistan both need absolute clarity on these issues.

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The US needs to clearly understand the importance of Pakistan in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Region –South Central Asian Region (APR-SCAR). Pakistani support is critical for her to secure her vital national  interests – in particular with respect to Iran, Russia, China, CARs, Afghanistan, SCO, Al Qaeda, GWOT et al. To her abiding dismay she and Pakistan have extreme clashes of interests here. The US’ arrogant exploitation of Pakistan’s various vulnerabilities coupled with her ubiquitous betrayals have caused a major confidence and trust deficit with her. And this may be the raison d etre’ for Pakistan’s inhibitions and doubts with her and her strategic embrace of China in an unbreakable all weather reliable trustworthy relationship that now forms the strongest pillar of her foreign policy. The US may have thus erred to lose a very willing and keen ally! For good?        

The US needs to:

a.        reassess her policy towards India and Pakistan – the hyphen in the Indo-Pak sub-continent must return. Apparently, the CFR and Richard N Haas inspired policy tilt (of the Bill Clinton era) towards India has failed to deliver. US vital interests remain unrealized and unsecured till date. A revision is thus imperative.   

b.      realign strategic direction in the APR-SCAR and win over Pakistan as a genuine and  willing  ally. The two need to maximize convergent national interests, minimize clashing interests and reconcile divergent interests.

c.       revise her biased nuclear policy towards the sub-continent. Pakistan’s genuine energy needs will have to be met at the same level as the Indians. Period.

d.      re-determine her regional policy ends and objectives (seeking mutual harmony with Pakistan’s-?) and the ways and means to attain them. (India must stay out of Afghanistan).

e.      rewrite the Terms of Engagement with Pakistan, in black and white, and deal fairly and squarely with her.

f.         realize that the road to the achievement of her vital national objectives in the APR-SCAR Complex runs through Islamabad and not through New Delhi/Kabul.

g.       recognize that she will have to come across as a genuinely reliable trustworthy ally and not an arrogant, betraying, exploitative master!

revive her alliance with Pakistan, else she will find it impossible to secure her interests in the APR-SCAR- GMER (Greater Middle East Region).