Is Pak-US Relationship Eyewash?
At this critical hour when Pakistan’s internal and external crises have intensified, the visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the United States and meeting with the President Barack Obama at the White House on October 23, this year is of great significance in wake of rapidly changing scenario in this region.
In the recent years, Pak-US ties have passed through various ups and downs, and trust-deficit still exists between them. In this regard, after the 9/11 tragedy, Pakistan joined the US war against terrorism as frontline state and Islamabad was granted the status of non-NATO ally by Washington because of the successes achieved by Pakistan’s Army and country’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) against the Al Qaeda militants. Within a few years when the US-led NATO forces felt that they are failing in coping with the stiff resistance of the Taliban, they started false allegations against Pak Army and ISI of supporting the Afghan Taliban. On the other side, cross-border terrorism has continued in Pakistan, and heavily-equipped militants have been entering in our country from Afghanistan’s side, who have so far killed several personnel of the security forces.
However, differences increased between Pakistan and the US because ISI thwarted the anti-Pakistan activities of the agents of Blackwater and CIA which had started recruiting Pakistani nationals who were vulnerable. On the information of this top spy agency, Pakistan’s establishment expelled several American spies operating in the country. On the other side, US withheld $800 million in military aid to punish its army and ISI.
High-level strategic dialogue among the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan set for scheduled for February 23-24, 2011 in Washington had been postponed due to a serious crisis, sparked by the arrest of an American, Raymond Davis who was involved in murdering two Pakistani nationals.
Since May 2, 2011, Pak-US relations further deteriorated when without informing Islamabad, US commandos killed Osama Bin Laden in a covert military operation. And in the aftermath of the deliberate air attack on Salala Army outposts on November 26, 2011 in Mohmand Agency, which killed 26 soldiers, Pakistan’s bold steps such as vacation of the Shamsi Airbase and closure of NATO ground supply routes through its territory to Afghanistan for seven months deepened the gulf between both the countries.
Moreover, by setting aside the parliament resolution, the trip of DG ISI Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam to America, rallies and processions of Pakistan’s political and religious parties, while ignoring the Pak-US new rapprochement, CIA-operated drone attacks have kept on going on FATA.
Although by rejecting US pressure and defying the threat of sanctions, on March 11, 2013, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari inaugurated the much-delayed section of a $7.5 billion Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project with Iran, yet American duress continues as part of US duplicity with Islamabad. Particularly, Pakistan’s economic crisis has accelerated, bringing about other-related problems like load shedding, unemployment, soaring prices of products and dependence upon the US-led developed countries, and IMF and World Bank for financial aid.
In these adverse circumstances, Nawaz-Obama meeting is of great importance. In this context, Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar already indicated on October 14 that Pak-US talks would be focused on American aid to stabilize Pakistan in various sectors like defense, economic, trade and investment, while Islamabad would satisfy American concerns regarding anti-terrorism measures including safety of nuclear weapons.
Notably, on October 18, in an official statement, Pakistan has asked Iran to construct the Pakistani side of the gas pipeline because international sanctions were preventing Islamabad from raising funds for this project. Earlier Ishaq Dar also expressed similar thoughts due to American pressure.
Nevertheless, sources suggest that during the Nawaz-Obama dialogue, Pakistan would reiterate its demand of civil nuclear cooperation for power generation and greater access to the US markets or preferential trade agreement for Pakistan so as to upgrade its economy. In this respect, recently, a top US official stated that Washington is also considering supply of civil nuclear technology to Islamabad.
In fact, there is no guarantee that the US administration would fulfill its commitments because it has been playing double game with Pakistan. In this connection, as to how current Pak-US interaction will become positive as America which signed a nuclear deal with New Delhi in 2008, intends to make India a great power of Asia to contain China and destabilize Pakistan as well as Iran. Therefore, it has rapidly been boasting India in various sectors, especially defense.
It is mentionable that Pakistan’s province, Balochistan where China has invested billion of dollars to develop Gwadar seaport which could link Central Asian trade with rest of the world, irritates both America and India. It has even shifted the central gravity of the Great Game to Pakistan. In the recent past, China has signed a number of agreements with Pakistan to help the latter in diverse fields, and Islamabad handed over the Gwader port to Beijing.
As regards US shrewd diplomacy, entrenched in Afghanistan American CIA, Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad have perennially been supporting subversive activities and sectarian violence in various parts of Pakistan—especially in Balochistan through their affiliated militant groups such as Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Jundollah (God’s soldiers) and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) including other insurgent groups to fulfill the secret strategic designs of US, India and Israel. Besides martyring several personnel of security forces, these foreign-backed entities kidnapped and massacred many Punjabis, Pushtuns, Shias, people of Hazara community and patriot Balochis including Iranian Shias. In the past few years, they abducted and killed many Chinese and Iranian nationals in Pakistan.
Nonetheless, reality behind Pak-US strategic partnership is that the US has been playing a double game with Pakistan, sometimes cajoling the latter with economic and military aid, while appreciating its military operations, sometimes blaming it for cross-border insurgency in Afghanistan.
So, Pak-US relationship is just an eyewash. It is confined to American war against terrorism, as US also needs Pakistan’s help till NATO forces complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations