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 it to intimidate the Chinese to open trade with the US.
The relationship between Pakistan and the 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 encircling Peshawar and USSR surface-to-surface missiles pointing towards the surreptitious US base at Badhber.
The 1962 Sino-Indian war saw the US cosying up to India, despite its alliances with the Soviets. The 1965 and 1971 Pak-India wars failed to garner the US support for Pakistan, regardless of its defence pacts of Seato and Cento; rather to rub salt into 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 1979-89 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. But 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 Pervez Musharraf’s military coup in 1999 invited further sanctions.
The 9/11 tragedy revived USA’s coercive diplomacy to gain the badly needed support of Pakistan in waging the Afghan war. Despite its estranged relationship, the US was able to gain Pakistan’s support for the war in mere days through a combination of credible threats and incentives. Who can forget Richard Armitage’s ominous statements: “You’re either with us or against us” and “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 its military bases; transit facilities to logistic supplies; and apprehending over 600 al-Qaeda operatives, including some top leaders, came to naught with the Osama bin Laden fiasco at Abbottabad (the US is yet to provide credible evidence to Pakistan and the world that it was a live Osama that the US Navy Seals killed and disposed off on May 2, 2011). It 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 Nato officials 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 organisations including LeT, JM and Quetta Shoora; 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 programmes; and 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 contravening human rights, but the Kerry-Lugar Act insisted on their continuance. To USA’s embarrassment, the doctor has been charged for colluding with miscreants and not aiding and abetting the CIA as envisaged earlier.
n The writer is a political and defence analyst.