Pakistan USA Relations: Challenges & Response

  1. Historical Path-determination
  1. Mutual Cooperation: February 1954-Pakistan started developing close cooperation with Turkey, later expanded to include other allies May 1954-US Pakistan Mutual Defence Assistance Agreement. A Bilateral Agreement of Cooperation was signed between Pakistan and the United States in March 1959 whereby the United States agreed to supply military and economic assistance to Pakistan
  2. Defence Pacts: In September 1954, Pakistan joined the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) created to counter communist aggression or subversion. Pakistan’s plea to include all kinds of aggression was not accepted. One year later (September 1955) Pakistan joined the Baghdad Pact (renamed CENTO in 1959 after Iraq’s withdrawal) for strengthening the defensive capability of the member states “solely” against the communist menace.
  3. Joint Exercises: Pakistan’s armed forces participated in several joint military exercises with the western countries
  4. Military Base: 1956: President Dwight Eisenhower requested prime minister Suhrawardy to lease Peshawar Air Station to the American Army for keeping an eye on the Soviet Union and its ballistic missile programme. The request was granted by the prime minister and in 1958, Pakistan leased out Badaber, near Peshawar, for ten years
  1. Economic Assistance: American economic assistance grants, loans, goods and services gave a boost to Pakistan’s faltering economy. Pakistan received grant assistance valued at US $ 650 million, and credit facilities worth US $ 55 million.
  2. Capacity Building: U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group was set up to advise on the modernisation of armed forces and security arrangements. Similarly in the civilian field
  3. Military Modernisation: Several divisions were re-equipped, a few new ones were raised, and restructuring of the defence system/came in handy in subsequent wars with India. Training facilities improved and Pakistan military officers were sent to the United States on different training courses
  4. Recognition & Image: Pakistan became an important member of the Western lobby and got prominence on the regional/global stage
  1. No Independent Foreign Policy: Pakistan’s independent foreign policy was compromised and the prospects for improvement of its relations with the Soviet Union suffered heavily. The Soviet Union made a blistering criticism of Pakistan’s alignment with the U.S. and threatened Pakistan with dire consequences if Pakistan allowed its territory to be used against the Soviet Union. Besides extending support to India on the Kashmir question, it also supported Afghanistan’s irredentist claims on Pakistani territory. The Soviet Union paid back its revenge on the Indo-Pakistani war of 1965, emerged as the biggest supplier of military hardware to India
  2. Muslim World Alienation: Although Pakistan vigorously championed the right of self-determination for Muslims around the world. Pakistan’s efforts for the independence movements of Indonesia, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Eritrea were significant and initially led to close ties between these countries and Pakistan. However, Pakistan’s participation in defence pacts came in conflict with its desire to cultivate close and cordial relations with the Muslim states. Except for Iran and Turkey which shared the defence arrangements, the Middle Eastern states responded negatively to Pakistan’s security ties with the West. Earlier, Pakistan adopted an ambiguous policy towards the Suez Crisis of1956, which alienated Egypt.
  3. Exclusion from NAM: Pakistan also lost ground with the developing countries. Pakistan was very active in organising the Bandung Conference in 1955 but, when the spirit of Bandung crystallised into the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961, Pakistan was excluded because it participated in defence pacts.
  4. Distance from Socialist Block: It kept its relations with the socialist/communist countries at a low level to strengthen its credentials as a Western ally. Although China avoided an open condemnation of Pakistan’s participation in these pacts and showed a remarkable understanding of the factors that led Pakistan to join the Western camp, Pakistan maintained a safe distance from China and its policy on the seating of China in the UN was more in line with the U.S. perspective.
  5. Lukewarm Support from Allies: Despite Pakistan’s full support to the USA in all issues, the latter was not prepared to extend enough diplomatic support to Pakistan in its problems with India This raised doubts in Pakistan about the credibility of American support.
  6. Institutional Imbalance: Pakistan had already inherited an over-developed military machine as a colonial legacy in contrast with the civilian institutions, American military aid further strengthened their power vis a vis other institutions resulting in the derailment of the democratic train at the start of the journey.
  1. Geostrategic Relevance: Geo-strategically, South Asia is the most important region for the USA because of its proximity to Central Asia, the soft belly of its rival Russia, and to Tibet, the soft belly of its other rival, China. It’s bordering the Indian Ocean from where 80% of ships carrying goods to and from its Allies pass, making it even more significant. Similarly, it is the outer border of the Middle East where the USA and its allies are fighting for resources, markets and hegemony.
  2. Geopolitical Significance: Geopolitically, South Asia is again a very important region for the USA as the two nuclear powers of the day, India and Pakistan, are at daggers drawn with each other. Any miscalculation and the world can easily plunge into 3rd World War with the possible use of nuclear arms. Additionally, it has India which could be a perfect counterpoise to China. Last but not the least, it is the hotbed of international terrorism-presently the biggest worry of the USA. And if any terrorist group gets hold of the nuclear arm, it will end up being used against its Allies or maybe against the USA forces stationed on various bases
  3. Geo-economic Importance: Geoeconomically, it is one of the most lucrative regions with a huge market and vast reservoir of educated and skilled manpower. Witnessing impressive growth rates, there is an increasing and prosperous middle-class yearning for western goods and services. Its developmental needs attract a lot of FDI every year

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