Pakistan’s positive relevance in relations with the US


We were at the US State Department somewhere around 2003-04, and the lady presenter was painstakingly elaborating the Washington’s efforts to burnish American image globally, particularly in the world of Islam

She had no answer when I reminded her that the US government levied (and continues to levy, I believe) a hefty visa fee on all visa applicants irrespective of whether they succeed or not

And that it was a substantial sum in poor countries, and that it betrayed latent racism by discouraging applications from the poor global South

Commenting on the US image, I reminded her about 1950s and 60s, when to combat malnutrition, school kids across Pakistan would be provided with milk in aluminum tins bearing the traditional handshake logo of USAID

And then the late 1980s

While processing visa for study leave ex-Pakistan, how profusely respectful the visa officer at the US Embassy in Islamabad was, asking me to send my driver to collect the passport the following day

I had to inform him that an Army Captain does not have a driver

Pak-US relations, critical for both countries, are a case of over-expectation, transactional relevance and spasmodic neglect

Leaders, on both sides, often struggle with this innate reality

The US, in particular, has repeatedly been drawn towards criticality of this relationship by urgency of the circumstances

Every bilateral relationship has ‘constants and variables’

While the ‘constants’ firmly anchor the relationship, the ‘variables’ adjust it to the dictates of environment, fine-tuning it

And then there are perceptions and expectations on either side, especially the smaller and weaker side, that need to be carefully managed

Let’s start with the ‘constants’

Pakistan-America bilateralism is firmly anchored in history; has societal moorings; Pakistan being a springboard and balancer for the US geo-political aspirations (and not relevant only through the narrow prism of ‘counterterrorism’)

Their ties span politico-economic and military-technological cooperation and have a lot of ‘positive relevance’ rather than the much-hyped military dimension, on display since the war on terror

Historically, Pakistan’s journey towards independence, its cultural heritage, and the romanticism of its geography have always captured the American public imagination

This bilateralism was not fed upon geo-strategy alone, as commonly believed

The US recognised an independent Pakistan on the very first day of its nationhood on August 15, 1947, when the State Department established the US Embassy at Karachi

President Truman’s message to Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah congratulated Pakistan for ‘emergence among the family of nations

’ In 1954, Pakistan alongside the US, the UK, France, New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand formed the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO)

Pakistan alongside the UK, Turkey, Iran and Iraq partnered with the US in Baghdad Pact (1955), which morphed into Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) in 1959

On the very first page, President Nixon in his memoirs, In the Arena (1990), confesses, as early as 1964 to President Ayub’s advice to visit China

Chou Enlai’s invitation was later delivered through President Yahya Khan to President Nixon

This was truly an epic moment for the US, as Nixon and Henry Kissinger celebrated the invite, drinking a very old brandy, unusually after dinner

Bringing the US closer to China, weaning it away from the Soviet orbit had substantial benefits to the US

And Pakistan was a frontline state in dismantling the Soviet nightmare for America and the West

Training, provisioning and mentoring Afghans to defeat the USSR was never possible without Pakistan’s steadfast and persistent support

Given the enormity of this undertaking, if Pakistan was repaid in the process, that was, that is and that will never be enough

Although, the US could have been more high-minded in ‘doing more’ for Pakistan, rather than turning its ‘major non-NATO ally’ into most sanctioned ally on flimsy technicalities

If America and its Western Alliance today are relieved of the looming shadow of Soviet Hammer and Sickle, it is because of Pakistan

All this while their new love/strategic partner, India, was in bed with the Soviet Union

Islamabad was kingpin in this geo-strategic coup of global consequences and historic implications

The remnants of Soviet order still terrify the Western alliance, as substantiated by their proxy war in Ukraine

Lest the US forget

President Reagan while addressing UNGA (1987) said: “… Pakistan, in the face of enormous pressure and intimidation, has given sanctuary to Afghan refugees

We salute the courage of Pakistan and the Pakistani people

They deserve strong support from all of us

” One feels pity on the small people occupying Pakistan’s high offices, who do not, cannot and will not use this potent historic leverage optimally, and will sell so cheap

English-speaking moderate Pakistan has always remained a crucial bridge between the US/West and the Middle East especially with the Islamic World

Its weight and clout in the OIC, its fraternal ties with Saudi Arabia and GCC countries and Turkey provide it with unique leverage

Our first-rate diplomatic corps has nurtured our profound relations with China and now with Russia

The ‘critical’ noise to the contrary is best ignored as our habit

Pakistani diaspora in the US is enriching to the US cultural, financial and societal milieu

Pakistan’s inexpensive exports greatly help the US consumers tide over these times of high inflation

Our military diplomacy has greatly helped the US in various complex situations

Pakistan’s critical military equipment is still US-made, paid for fully by Pakistan through its meagre resources, sometimes in advance

While the US often reneges on supply promises

So, it is not a one-sided relationship where Pakistan is always on receiving end

Pakistan does bring a lot of ‘positive relevance’ that needs to be acknowledged by America

During Pakistan’s present hour of need, the US support is not visible

Chinook’s presence during the 2006 Earthquake was noticeable; people in Kashmir would draw ‘H’ for them to land; their replicas were sold in the local markets out of public fondness

This time the Super Power is miserly, calculating and leveraging

And that does not go down well with well-wishers of Pak-US bilateralism, Pakistan’s flood-affected humanity and the pro-US elements within/outside the government

This is the time to burnish images and mould perceptions rather than spending millions in wasteful bureaucratic junkets later on

Next week we discuss the ‘variables’ of Pak-US ties with reference to perceptions, anti-Americanism and the tilt away from Pakistan in the US corridors of power

Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2022

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Date:23-Sep-2022 Reference:View Original Link