The US-Pakistan alliance has been epitomised by America’s ruthless exploitation of Pakistan’s peculiar political, economic and strategic vulnerabilities; and its remorseless betrayals of Pakistan at critical times!
The first betrayal: The 1965 war
America’s peculiar role in the 1965 war with India crushed all Pakistani fantasies about this (non) alliance, opening its eyes (and mercifully the road to China).
The second betrayal: The 1971 war
The “impotent” US tilt in the 1971 war with India, which led to the dismemberment of Pakistan further revealed its actual regional strategic priorities.
The third betrayal: The nuclear dimension
India introduced the nuclear dimension to the strategic environment of South Asia through its 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 penalised Pakistan in anticipation of a crime it had yet to commit - i.e. going nuclear to restore the lost regional strategic balance! Pakistan’s determined defiance eventually paid off!
The situation worsened later, when President George Bush gifted India, “the original nuclear sinner of the world”, with the Indo-US civil nuclear deal - a strategic faux pas that robbed various international nuclear regimes, like the NSG, NPT, CTBT, FMCT, MTCR, CD et.al, of their moral and ethical strengths to justly and fairly regulate international nuclear issues. This strategic blunder gave a tremendous urgency and impetus to Pakistan’s and Iran’s nuclear programmes, accelerated the nuclear arms race in the region and hardened Islamabad’s stance at the aforementioned fora.
The fourth betrayal: Afghanistan one
Pakistan played the cardinal role in defeating and evicting the Soviets from Afghanistan. No sooner had they rolled back across the Amu River, the US-led free world withdrew unilaterally, abandoning Pakistan to deal with the aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal alone. Ungraciously, then the country was slapped with the crippling Pressler, Symington and Glenn Amendments, which effectively took away from it the capacity to manage the critical wake of the Soviet withdrawal. The resultant extremist militancy threatens the whole world even now!
The fifth betrayal: Afghanistan two
Consequent to 9/11, President Bush announced the global war on terror (GWOT) and literally bullied President General Pervez Musharraf into joining it. Blatant, unwritten, unilateral deals were struck and the US went wild chasing the militants all over Pakistan, hunting and killing them (and “collateral damage” Pakistanis) at will. This ruthless exploitation of Pakistani President’s political vulnerability led to thousands of Pakistani deaths, the destruction of its infrastructure, the ruination of its economy and the extreme polarisation of its society! Unfortunately, it still goes on!
The sixth betrayal: The diplomatic dimension
The US shamelessly attacked Pakistan’s centre of gravity - its armed forces. First, it unsuccessfully tried to neuter the ISI and then attempted to shackle them through some highly intrusive conditions in the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill. These diabolical sleights of hand were efficiently countered by the Pakistan Army.
Later, exploiting the Gilani-Zardari government’s spineless servility, the US poured in thousands of its intelligence agents, contractors, military and security personnel et.al, some 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 its nuclear and other strategic programmes! (Raymond Davis!)
And by giving India a major role in post-2014 Afghanistan, Washington gives it an unfair strategic advantage vis–à–vis Pakistan!
The seventh betrayal: The military dimension
The US killed OBL in Abbottabad, cunningly keeping the Pakistanis out of the loop, hogging all the credit for itself and embarrassing them into a weak bargaining or negotiating position in the future.
Betrayal was personified by Admiral Mike Mullen - an avowed friend of Pakistan - who slanderously told a Congressional hearing that the Haqqani network was “a veritable arm of the ISI.” Brutus was, perhaps, kinder to Caesar!
The senseless massacre at Salalah will prove to be the turning point in this non-alliance.
And then, predictably, the US “suspended, laid conditions on or delayed” all economic and military aid to Pakistan - even holding back the CSF reimbursements.
And the list goes 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 its vital interests with other regional allies, like India and Afghanistan? 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.
However, the US needs to:
a Reassess its policy towards India and Pakistan - the hyphen in the Indo-Pak subcontinent must return. Apparently, the CFR and Richard N. Haass inspired policy tilt towards India has failed to secure USA’s vital interests till date.
a Realign strategic direction in the APR-SCAR and win over Pakistan, as a genuine and willing ally. The two need to maximise convergent national interests, minimise clashing interests and reconcile divergent interests.
a Revise its biased nuclear policy towards the subcontinent, meeting Pakistan’s genuine energy needs at the same level as the Indians. Period.
a Redetermine its regional policy ends and objectives, seeking mutual harmony with Pakistan (India must stay out of Afghanistan).
a Rewrite fair and unambiguous terms of engagement with Pakistan.
a Realise that the road to the achievement of its vital national objectives in the APR-SCAR Complex runs through Islamabad and not through New Delhi or Kabul.
a Recognise that it will have to become a genuinely reliable and trustworthy ally, and not an arrogant, betraying and exploitative master!
a Revive its alliance with Pakistan. Otherwise, the US will find it impossible to secure any of its interests in the APR-SCAR- GMER (Greater Middle East Region).
The writer is a retired brigadier and a former defence advisor in Australia and New Zealand. He is secretary general of the Pakistan Forum for Security and Development.