Pakistan-United States Partnership: A Review

Pakistan-United States Partnership: A Review

Liaquat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, visited the United State in 1950, though he had been firstly invited by the former Soviet Union but the invitation never materialized due to Moscow’s geo-political priorities and its intentions to keep closer to India rather than Pakistan. However, Liaquat Ali Khan’s visit to the US was well-acknowledged and warmly received by the US administration. The statements during this visit manifested a strong pro-West disposition of Pakistan. Pakistan alignment policy was shaped by its acute sense of insecurity within the regional context, primarily with India and secondly with Afghanistan and for revival of economy. The Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement, South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and Baghdad Pact later called as CENTO (1953-54) were signed with the US.

This resulted in severing relations with former USSR which extended her co-operation to India on Kashmir question. Despite these pacts, the US continued with its policy of cultivating India in total disregard to Pakistan concerns. The US and a number of other Western states rushed weapons and military equipments to India after the Sino-India border war in October 1962. The divergence between the two states widened as Pakistan was unable to invoke any security arrangement with the US during the course of its war with India in 1965 and 1971.  The  US  imposed  an  arms  embargo  on  South  Asia  which  adversely  affected  Pakistan combative effectiveness.

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Sharp difference arose between Pakistan and the US when in 1976 Pakistan entered into an agreement with France to acquire a nuclear reprocessing plant. To block the deal, the US took several steps to displease Pakistan as withdrawal of A-7 air craft offer (1977), suspension of new economic assistance and military sales (1977-78) and exclusion of Pakistan from President Carter‟s trip to Asia (1977-78). The relation highly severed when in November 1979 the US embassy in Islamabad was burnt by mobs and the US threatened Pakistan of dire consequences. The Afghan war (1979) proved a turning point in Pakistan-US relations which moved from the lowest point of 1979 to close political, economic and security ties in the 1980s. The US offered two packages of economic assistance and military sales to support Pakistan’s role in the war against communism.

The post cold war era saw the reversal of Pakistan-US relation. The US was no longer willing to underwrite Pakistan economic development and modernization of its military because it had lost its strategic relevance for the US caused by a host of factors like the Soviet withdrawal and its subsequent disintegration, the absence of competing super power and a triumph of Western values of liberal democracy and free economy. The shifting of the US priorities in South Asia from seeking Pakistan co-operation to non-proliferation and repairing of damage caused to its relation with India due to its Pakistan-Afghanistan policies in 1980, sanctions like Pressler Amendment, economic sanctions in pursuance to nuclear explosions, sanction after military takeover on October 12, 1999 and sanction for its revision of missile technology with China were imposed.

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There was a complete stalemate in US relations with Pakistan in Clinton’s final year as President. The administration had little incentive to offer with congressional nuclear- and democracy related sanctions against Pakistan. The US „stick heavy‟ policy failed to force Pakistan to.

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When President Bush came to power, he raised the issue of terrorism with Pakistan’s  military ruler. President Bush sent a letter to General Musharraf in February 2001 seeking Musharraf’s support in dealing with terrorism. He insisted that al-Qaeda were a direct threat to the US and its interests and that this threat had to be addressed.

However, there was a clear shift in the policy of the new US administration. Instead of just using the stick, Secretary of State Colin Powell suggested providing some incentives to persuade Pakistan to cooperate. To break the blockage, the US administration moved to pursue a policy of enhanced engagement with Islamabad and also considered lifting some of the sanctions against the military government. But, because of a negative view of Pakistan on Capitol Hill, the idea of lifting sanctions could not make much headway. On 4 August, President Bush again wrote to President Musharraf showing his displeasure over terrorism originating from Afghanistan and requested him to engage actively against al-Qaeda. 9/11 (2001) again changed the Pak-US relation from confrontation to co-operation. The quick U-turn of the American authorities towards Pakistan was no different than the one at the aftermath of the Soviet aggression in Afghanistan. Concern for the state of Pakistan’s democracy melted away and the military government was hailed by the West as an exemplary country in the fight against terrorism.

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By: Jamal Shah
Lecturer in Political Science, Government College Takht Bhai, KP, Pakistan and currently a Doctorate Student, Department of Political Science, Hacettepe University Ankara, Turkey

Nasir Riaz
Doctorate Student, Department of Political Science, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey who is financially supported by The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) in the conduction of his study.

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