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Pakistan-USA: A Bittersweet Alliance

Posted by yourpakistan on January 5, 2011

By Malveer K Hussain for Terminal X

The six decade old bilateral relations between Pakistan and US have seen many up and downs. Their roots can be traced back in the height of Cold War era and South Asian political affairs of 1950s. Pakistan’s desire for defense and financial assistance against Indian hegemonic ambitions backed by Russia, and America’s apprehensions about Russian communist expanding designs as well as a way of US astute foreign policy to access the South Asian regional affairs, encouraged both countries to start a bilateral relationship. For Washington, Pakistan was a significant protecting wall to contain the threat of Soviet Russia’s expansionism, after India’s choice of neutrality.
Pakistan and US came much closer during the tenure of US President Dweight D. Eisenhower who applauded the friendship of Pak-US in these words:

“Americans have a strong feeling of friendship for the
people of Pakistan. We have great admiration for this
young country which is engaged in a valiant and
determined effort to overcome problems of tremendous
magnitude. We are proud to have such staunch
friends as the people of Pakistan.”

Pakistan joined mutual military pacts like SEATO (South Asian Treaty Organisation) and CENTO (Central Treaty Organisation). As a result of these agreements, Pakistan was provided nearly US $2 billion aid including $510 million in military assistance from 1953 to 1959.

The era of 1960s witnessed close ties between US and India along with the unveiling of well-known US carrot and stick policy for Pakistan. United States pro Indian policies influenced South Asian regional politics. President John F. Kennedy gave around $3 billion aid to New Delhi and then backed India in 1962 Sino-Indian conflict by giving military equipment, not only this US pressurized Pakistan to support India by giving Indian military a route via East Pakistan, however Islamabad refused.

Pakistan’s trust thwarted when US ignored Indian aggression on Pakistan and pompously rejected to give any help against Indian multi-dimensional attack in 1965 Pak-Indo war, although US was committed to give support under SEATO, but Washington declined by saying that this SEATO treaty restricted to aggressions from communists only, not from India. Besides, when in the hour of the need China threatened India by moving its troops close to Indian border, America strongly criticized China. At the end of the 1965 war, Washington suspended military aid to Islamabad.

Same attitude was repeated during 1971 Indian military attack on Pakistan, which resulted in the form of Bangladesh. When Islamabad asked Washington for help, this time US president Richard M. Nixon ordered American Navy’s Fleet into Bay of Bengal but surprisingly it never reached its destination. Nixon administration expressed concern but it all remained verbal without any practical approach to contain the Indian attack. Likewise US didn’t use the Veto power while Russia was favouring its old friend India by using Veto power for resolutions against Pakistan. Soon after the split of East and West wings into Bangladesh, Pakistan withdrew from the South Asian treaty Organisation (SEATO).

At Pokharan in 1974 India conducted its first nuclear test; as a defensive measure Pakistan decided to balance the power of the region by starting a peaceful nuclear programme. America strongly opposed this decision. When Pakistan started negotiations with France for a Nuclear Processing Plant and a Heavy Water facility from Germany, US pressurized France that it should not give a plant to Pakistan. In the background of all these hurdles Pakistan started its nuclear programme.

The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979 brought another scenario. Instantaneously for U.S, Pakistan became vital frontline ally in a great effort to remove the most important rival USSR once for all. Washington administration once again opted carrot and stick policy and agreed to give $3 billion assistance for five years to Islamabad. The Afghan war ended a long Cold War era and eventually the rollback of communism. But the end of the Cold War didn’t help in bringing peace and stability to the region. In reality, Pakistan was left alone to clean the debris of the final Cold War clash, such as more than two million Afghan refugees, abundance of narcotics and the proliferation of modern weapons from the unchecked borders of Afghanistan into Pakistan’s areas.

In the new world scenario US re-evaluated its ties with Pakistan and demoted this partnership. As a consequence differences emerged between the two old allies and Pakistan’s nuclear programme came under America’s harsh scrutiny. US stabbed its sincere ally under the famous Presler Amendment, economic and military sanctions were imposed on Pakistan, and not only this US withheld the money approx $1.2 billion that Pakistan paid for the purchase of military equipment such as F-16 fighter aircrafts. More sanctions under the name of MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime) were imposed on Pakistan in 1993 for receiving Chinese missile technology. Surprisingly all this was applied when Pakistan’s teamwork was not needed following the collapse of Soviet Russia. Similarly a further series of sanctions were imposed following Pakistan’s successful nuclear tests in 1998 which were essential to maintain the South Asian regional power equilibrium.
Then all of a sudden the famous incident of 9/11 changed the scenario; US once again regarded Pakistan as a frontline key ally in War on Terrorism. The Bush administration declared Pakistan as a major non-NATO ally of Unites States of America. Interestingly, so far the importance of this title has existed merely emblematically as Pakistan remains subjected to suspicions and mistrusts along with “Do More” rhetoric.

Pakistan has given numerous sacrifices in terms of human life, collateral damage, suicide attacks, lawlessness and economic losses, exports, foreign investment and industrial production paralyzed as the domestic stability suffered massively. Pakistan army has given more sacrifices than US occupied forces in Afghanistan. Pak army has broken the backbone of the militants in different successful military operation of Swat, Malakand and Waziristan but still the echo of “Do More” can be heard in the form of an offensive in North Waziristan against militants specifically against Haqqani group which is not acceptable for Islamabad. Time to time Pakistan has categorically said that if any operation is required, army will not hesitate to start it but operation timing will be in complete accordance with Pakistan’s own interests.

America sees a larger role of India in Afghanistan, while Pakistan apprehends that Indian consulates in Afghanistan are trying to destabilize Pakistan. India has already attained few strategic objectives with the help of CIA’s friendly policies and has entrenched RAW in Afghanistan to run covert operation against Pakistan and to get full strategic depth. It has provoked annoyance, trust-deficit, and fury in Pakistanis. Additionally American drone attacks inside Pakistan’s territory are icing on the cake.

US-Indo civil nuclear deal is intensifying the imbalance in the region. Ironically, Washington is fully aware of Pakistan’s severe energy crisis but isn’t interested in signing any such accord with Islamabad. In contrast has asked details of Pak-China civil nuclear deal. Similarly Obama during a recent visit to India, showered more accords and praises on India but amazingly the atrocities of Kashmiris at the hand of Indian forces remains untouched.

America’s policy makers should think and act wisely to hold on to its true sincere ally Pakistan. Repeatedly blaming Pakistan Intelligence agency ISI, castigating Pak-army for failing in eliminating terrorists and finger pointing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal safety are some major factors that will wider the gap between two allies and make Pakistan’s nation more dubious of US-Pak alliance.

Similarly if America wants to succeed in Afghanistan, it must bridge the trust deficit with Pakistan by assuring that Afghanistan wouldn’t become a nucleus of Indian intrigues and schemes against it. Pakistan is an important element for mediation in Afghanistan, any move to stay it out or to disparage its role in peace talks would be counter-productive. US should make it a vital component of Taliban negotiations because it’s only Pakistan that has potential ability to initiate a reconciliation procedure, without it Afghan war cannot be won. Therefore this stresses to hold India out of this scenario.

Over the years US ignored its honest partner who has worked day and night for “US led counterterrorism efforts”. Now Washington must satisfy Islamabad regarding its regional concerns and should end its double-standards and empty rhetorics. US must provide unconditional military aid, drone technology, nuclear energy cooperation and market access to Pakistan. These are the gestures that will help in bridging the gap between two allies rather than the repetition of “Do More”.

Malveer K. Hussain is an analyst specializing in geostrategic history and current affairs. She can be reached at: malveerkhussain[at]



2 Responses to “Pakistan-USA: A Bittersweet Alliance”

  1. […] the original: Pakistan-USA: A Bittersweet Alliance « Your Pakistan This entry was posted in Technology and tagged chinese, control, control-regime, mtcr, […]

  2. […] Pakistan-USA: A Bittersweet Alliance « Y&#959&#965r Pakistan […]

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