The ways of a superpower

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Do we really think that if the US were to act against Pakistan, it would be in a traditional way? That they would attack us in the conventional sense? That there would be aerial action and that raiders would descend upon safe havens in swift sorties, entering and exiting with speed. Or will it order the terrorist it has nurtured in Afghanistan to conduct cross-border activities as they have been doing so for long? To this effect, even Hillary gave us a certain message when she said that there is no one way to act against terrorists.

Most analysts talk of Pak-US relations as if they were going through some temporary bad patch that will self-correct itself. One member of civil society made the participants at the meet-and-greet with Hillary erupt in laughter when she labelled this relation as one between “mother- and daughter-in-law”. And when Hillary kept laughing at this joke, it wasn’t merely at the joke itself. The idea that this relation could be seen in such terms seemed laughable to her. But many amongst us do see it in such terms. They forget that relations between states are not analogous to relations between individuals. They are based on something larger that is the collective interests of the entire nation.

The change in US attitude towards Pakistan is the expression of a new policy; this policy wasn’t drafted in a day but was meticulously formed after long and laborious deliberation.

The first dent in Pak-US relations appeared way back in 1965 when we decided to use American arms against India in contravention of our military agreement. Then in 1971, Yahya Khan and his associates accused America of deserting us when we needed them whereas America was bound in no way by any agreement to help us out. For long after, the frostbitten relations remained cold.

A new chapter in relations started when the Soviets entered Afghanistan. America now had the golden opportunity to take revenge for the Vietnam debacle and deal a decisive blow to their superpower adversary. Pakistan leapt without looking and let the Americans use its territory against the Soviet forces. There was nothing in it for us. No interest of our own. Our military rulers had merely spun stories to hoodwink the public about us being the next Soviet target so that they could reach warm waters.

America had directly threatened the USSR that if they went towards the Gulf, that would mean all-out war. Our rulers knew very well that the US would never allow the USSR to inch towards the Gulf. Even the Soviets knew that Pakistan has a joint defence agreement with the US and a direct offensive against it could cost the Soviets heavily. Therefore, our military rulers were deliberately duping the public that Russia would attack Pakistan for access to warm waters. It never would’ve. This story was merely so that we could jump in the fray to fight America’s proxy war.

By fighting America’s proxy war, our military rulers were milking money with both hands, getting more arms and using the drug trade to make even more money. All these things were conveniently under the banner of Islam. America had merely hired us to defeat the Soviet forces. Once this was done, they had no use for us and relieved us of our duties. And then our rulers were then indignant about how America had ‘used’ us then abandoned us even though they had paid us for what they asked us to do.

America then was indifferent about Afghanistan. Pakistan then trained the Taliban and installed them in Afghanistan; this was against the rules agreed upon during the great game. The US remained mum despite all this. But Russia and India kept up with their condemnation of the Taliban.

During their rule, the Taliban allowed Al-Qaeda to organise in their country. Al-Qaeda was indeed a consortium of the warriors prepared by the US to fight against the Soviets. Whether Al-Qaeda rebelled against America to take up terrorism or did it dos o to fulfil American ends is still unclear. It shouldn’t be forgotten that people who kill for others, whether they do it because they are astray or they do it for money, still remain killers-for-hire basically.

If Al-Qaeda is still being used to achieve American ends, then something is to be said of their consistency. They were trained to do American bidding. If they were then given the mantle of anti-American duties shouldn’t be surprising. The people who have led the insurgency against Qaddafi are from the Al-Qaeda. First, they fought against the Soviet forces. Then they donned the garb of anti-Americanism to conduct their terrorist activities. But they have taken down this mask of anti-Americanism in Libya are fighting its war there.

The decisive turn for the present tension Pak-US relations came when Pervez Musharraf decided to become an American ally and milk them for cash and state-of-the-art arms. How could American not take umbrage? They say that we are using the arms and money they have given us and patronising people who were killing their troops in Afghanistan. But I think this is not the only backdrop for American ire. I think it is their strategic designs for the region which they perceive are being stilted by Pakistan.

They want to see mutual cooperation between Afghanistan, Pakistan and India which can produce a conducive environment for trade which will make it easy for it to utilise the rich mineral resources of Central Asia. They also want to set up a new bloc as a counterweight to Chinese influence. Thus, there is a clash between America’s strategic ends and Pakistan’s perceived security calculus. Our military mindset makes cooperation with India conditional on a solution to the Kashmir. Whereas the US and the rest of the world are prepared to accept the status quo and just move on.

If Pakistan stays adamant about its position, the US might have to resort to other means to achieve this ultimate end. The most horrific of these would be if it decided to activate terrorists within Pakistan and provide them with arms and aerial assistance which may or may not include bombardment. They could then scare the world of the growing influence of the terrorists within Pakistan and their proximity to its nuclear assets. How America creates this situation? Only time will tell. We would do well to remember that if we do not agree with the US about it regional strategic designs, it could adopt any way. Whatever that means may be, the end will be Pakistan’s nuclear assets.

The writer is one of Pakistan’s most widely read columnists.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Good , level headed , rational analysis.An exception from the usual cacophony of rhetoric that comes from Pakistan.

  2. I am reading this article with great interest. This kind of accurate depiction of history and real-world political analysis are rare in Pakistan's press.

    Very few (in Pakistan) probably heard about US Secretary of State Dean Rusk's comment on '65 war when he said, "Well if you are going to fight, go ahead and fight, but we're not going to pay for it". On money issue, US still operates with the same mind-set. There in no chance Pak military could not get the point. It's just they could not afford to let the people of Pakistan know.

    In the post Afghan era US Pakistan relation started getting strained on nuclear proliferation issues. US (UK is different) is probably o.k. with India being a nuclear power but not so with Pakistan. At this point of time, I think, US wants to lay out a frame-work that would put a halt in Pakistan's ability to blackmail US for money.

    • India never boasts that it is a nuclear power. But Pakistan reminds the world then and there in a threatening way that it has got nuclear weapons. That makes the difference for other countries to form a opinion on Pakistan.

  3. America had directly threatened the USSR that if they went towards the Gulf, that would mean all-out war. Our rulers knew very well that the US would never allow the USSR to inch towards the Gulf. Even the Soviets knew that Pakistan has a joint defence agreement with the US and a direct offensive against it could cost the Soviets heavily. Therefore, our military rulers were deliberately duping the public that Russia would attack Pakistan for access to warm waters. It never would’ve. This story was merely so that we could jump in the fray to fight America’s proxy war.

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