Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pakistan and the US: the uneasy relationship

image from article

Recently, Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani gave a strong statement regarding the bilateral relationship between Pakistan and the United States while chairing a session of the Senate. He was of the view that the relation is unbalanced, and unfair towards Pakistan due to America’s tilt towards India, as the F-16 deal between Pakistan and the US remains in a limbo, one alleged reason negative role played by Indian lobbyists in Washington. Moreover, he believed that the US blatantly disrespects Pakistani courts and laws signalling towards the Raymond Davis and Shakil Afridi cases. Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs, also agreed with the Senate chairman’s stance on this matter.

This perception also echoes across Pakistan’s diplomatic and defence circles that the US is allegedly playing a double role with Pakistan. On one side, it is apparently playing a positive role in the Afghan peace process and has also given Pakistan a central role in the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG). Not only this, the US is also providing necessary financial aid and investment opportunities for Pakistan, and the recent US assistance in the rescue mission of Ali Haider Gillani — the kidnapped son of former prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani — has been greatly appreciated in Pakistan. However, its overall role has remained lackluster in pursuing Pakistan’s legitimate security concerns on Pakistan-Afghanistan border region that is allegedly being used by Indian intelligence agencies for fomenting terrorism in Pakistan.

In addition, it also failed to protect Pakistan’s interests in the US Congress and took the Indian concerns rather more seriously. The F-16 deal was vital for countering militancy in FATA and its adjoining areas, but Senator Bob Corker of the US Foreign Relations Committee did not pay any heed to Pakistan’s concerns. Funding was also cut for financial aid to Pakistan. It is being said in some quarters of media that certain officials in the US fail to recognise Pakistan’s immense sacrifices in the War on Terror, and how Pakistan helped the US counter the threat of the former Soviet Union in the region in the in the past.

Looking back to the days of the Cold War, the relations between the two states used to be far more stable and reciprocal with Pakistani leaders and officials given utmost respect in US government circles. Pakistan also helped the US defeat the Soviet Union in Afghanistan under the Operation Cyclone in the 1980s, but the US abandoned the region in 1989. Due to this, Pakistan had to single-handedly bring stability in the region but the consequences were huge, as the aftermath of the Soviet-Afghan turned out to be detrimental for Pakistan’s internal security over the years.

Nevertheless, US inclination towards India and its ignorance on multi-faceted concerns of Pakistan have gradually brought uncertainty in the relations regardless of the improvements in the last few years. Pakistan is also to blame for this situation, as it has failed to adopt an effective strategy for cultural and public diplomacy in the US. Diplomacy is the key to an effective foreign policy, and Pakistan needs to reevaluate its policy regarding improvement of ties with the US for the short and long-term regional stability, and its own personal relationship with the US. *

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