USA-Pakistan. Allies or Foes?

A very interesting article by Foreign Affairs, titled “An Unworthy Ally: Time for Washington to Cut Pakistan Loose”, August 2015, about the relationship between the US and Pakistan. In the 20th Century Pakistan was fighting the Soviets together with the Arabs of the Persian Gulf and the Americans. Pakistan was also fighting India together with China. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the Americans, the Chinese, the Arabs of the Gulf and the Pakistanis were supporting the islamists of Afghanistan against the communists of Afghanistan, who were supported by India and the Soviets.

During the 20th Century the American and the Pakistani interests were almost perfectly aligned. But things have changed. China is promoting the 45 billion dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), in order to receive raw materials from Africa, and in order to export her products avoiding the South China Sea. China is facing many enemies at the South China Sea due to her desire to completely dominate this sea, by militarizing the small uninhabited islands which are located in the other countries’ exclusive economic zones. China is also developing the Kenyan port of Lamu, in order to ship to China the raw materials of Africa, and in order to ship to Africa the Chinese products.

USA Pakistan

You can see on the map that by using the China Pakistan Economic Corridors, China can save billions of dollars in transport costs, and at the same time increase the security of her exports and imports by avoiding the dangerous straits of the South China Sea, and also encircle India by creating a naval base at the Pakistani port of Gwadar, which is also developed by China. Gwadar will also give China a naval base near the Persian Gulf. Moreover Iran and China will use the China Pakistan Economic Corridor in order to send to China the oil and natural gas of Iran, which means transit fees and investments for Pakistan, and an enhanced energy security for the country. Therefore it seems that Pakistan has more to expect from China than from the US.

It is true that the US is counting on Pakistan to use its great influence in order to promote stability in Afghanistan, so that the oil and natural gas of Kazakhstan and Turkemenistan can reach India and the Indian Ocean. This is a project very desirable by Pakistan too, because the oil and natural gas of the Middle East and of Central Asia will pass from Pakistan, making Pakistan an energy hub. The problem is that Pakistan is India’s number one enemy, together with China of course, and the Americans have to distance themselves from Pakistan if they want to compete with Russia for India’s friendship.

Trying to maintain a balance between Pakistan and India can be very tough for the Americans, and it can hurt the new American-Indian friendship. India cannot count on Russia for help when she is facing China, because Russia and China are allies, but India can count on USA. The problem is Pakistan. The important factor that determines the US strategy is that India is for China a natural competitor, while Pakistan is for China a natural ally. India has an annual GDP of 2 trillion dollars, and she wants to be an independent power, while Pakistan has a GDP of only 250 billion dollar, and it desperately needs China.

Everything seems to imply that the USA should move away from Pakistan and closer to India. India is accusing Pakistan of plotting terrorist attacks in India. As you can read at the following Guardian article, titled “Suspected mastermind of Mumbai terror attack released from Pakistan jail”, April 2015, the man suspected of masterminding the terrorist attack of Mumbai in 2008 was released from the Pakistan prison that he was held, something that greatly upset India.

The US has been traditionally providing Pakistan with military aid, and given the relations between Pakistan and India this can be a great problem for the Indo-American relations. It seems that if the US wants to “steal” India from Russia, it will have to let Pakistan loose. And that’s what the Foreign Affairs article is about. In the first paragraph the article says that the US has provided Pakistan with more than 30 billion dollars assistance since 2002, in order to help Pakistan enforce peace in Afghanistan. The article means that the US is helping Pakistan in order to promote peace in Afghanistan, so that the TAPI pipeline can be constructed (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India). A very difficult task given that the Arabs and the Iranians are united in blocking the pipeline at Afghanistan.

In the 10th paragraph the article says that it is very unfair to accuse the United States for the Islamic jihad in Pakistan, given that the Pakistani officials were using islamist militants a long time before their cooperation with the US against the Soviets in 1979. In the 18th paragraph the article says that the geopolitical landscape today is very different from the one of the Cold War, when the US was pretending that it was not seeing the Pakistani misdeeds, because the US needed Pakistan in order to confront the Soviets. In the 19th paragraph the article says that it is not very realistic to expect Pakistan to change methods, and it is now feasible for the US to achieve its geopolitical goals without having to tolerate Pakistan. The article means that the Pakistanis will not stop their terrorist attacks against India, which will be a problem between the US and India as long as the US provides military assistance to Pakistan.

USA Pakistan

In the 20th paragraph the article says that it is better for the US to start treating Pakistan as an enemy rather than as an ally, but at the same time the US should try to maintain diplomatic relations with Pakistan. The article also says that the US should keep providing assistance to Pakistan, but not military assistance. In the 21st paragraph the article says that the US should stop providing Pakistan with arms which can be used by Pakistan against India.

Give that the Foreign Affairs is one of the oldest and most respected geopolitical magazines of the US, the above opinion should not be taken lightly. Moreover it should not be forgotten that in 2011 two NATO helicopters which operated in Afghanistan attacked the Pakistani borders and killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, as you can read at the following BBC article, titled “Pakistan outrage after ‘Nato attack kills soldiers’”, November 2011. As a result Pakistan closed the Pakistani routes used by NATO to provide supplies to its Afghanistan soldiers. This could not be an accident.

Finally I want to mention an LSE article, titled “India’s quiet acceptance of the annexation of Crimea reflects its vision for a multi-polar world order”, January 2015, which says about India’s discrete support to Russia over the Ukrainian crisis. The article mentions that Russia and India are traditional allies and that India buys most of its armaments from Russia, while at the same time Russia is helping India with her nuclear reactors. Therefore one can assume that there is a lot competition for the US when it comes to India. But if the US distances itself from Pakistan, India and the US might have more in common than India and Russia have. And basically that’s what the Foreign Affairs article is about.

For the Foreign Affairs article see

“An Unworthy Ally:Time for Washington to Cut Pakistan Loose”, August 2015

1st Paragraph

Ever since 9/11, the United States has provided Pakistan with a steady supply of security and nonsecurity assistance. U.S. officials have justified these generous transfers—worth more than $30 billion since 2002—on the grounds that they secure Pakistan’s ongoing cooperation in Afghanistan, bolster Pakistan’s ability to fight terrorism, and give the U.S. government influence over the country’s ever-expanding nuclear weapons program. Failing to deliver this support, the argument runs, could dramatically weaken the will and capacity of Pakistan’s security forces and possibly even lead to the collapse of the Pakistani state. In that event, Pakistan’s nuclear know-how, material, or weapons could well fall into the hands of nefarious actors.

10th Paragraph

As for the claim that Islamabad was drawn into Washington’s Afghan jihad, the chronology suggests otherwise. Seeking leverage against the government in Kabul, Pakistan had been supporting Islamist militants in Afghanistan at its own expense since 1974—five years before Soviet troops crossed into the country. In other words, Pakistan brought the United States, and its wallet, into a campaign it had been pursuing on its own for years.

18th, 19th, 20th and 21st Paragraph

The strategic demands of today’s South Asia are distinct from those of the Cold War era, but the central dynamic of U.S.-Pakistani relations remains constant. The United States turns a blind eye to Pakistan’s misdeeds because it depends on the country’s leaders to counter U.S. enemies in the region—first the Soviets, now the mélange of militant groups active in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As a result, the United States has subsidized both the expansion of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and its stable of Islamist terrorists through programs ostensibly created to manage those same concerns.

Past attempts to induce Pakistan to change its behavior have largely failed, and there is little reason to believe that a change in course is imminent. Indeed, what little convergence of interests existed between Washington and Islamabad during the Cold War has long since disappeared. After six decades of policy predicated on Pakistani blackmail, it should be possible to achieve U.S. interests with a different approach.

A strategy of containment is the United States’ best option. Above all, U.S. relations with Pakistan should be premised on the understanding that Pakistan is a hostile state, rather than an ally or a partner. To be sure, accepting that reality does not mean abandoning Pakistan altogether. The United States should maintain its diplomatic relations with Pakistan, and it should address a long-standing Pakistani complaint by providing Pakistani products greater access to American markets, signaling that Washington takes Islamabad’s legitimate concerns seriously enough to risk the ire of domestic business interests. It should also continue training Pakistanis in critical capacities such as peacekeeping, disaster relief, and civil-military relations through the U.S. government’s International Military Education and Training program. And it should continue to provide Pakistan with modest assistance in such areas as basic health care, gender equality, and primary and occupational education. Yet it must delink that help from the failed counterterrorism programs with which many such human development programs are currently bundled. And above all, Washington must end its support for the country’s turgid military establishment, which sustains a perverse strategic culture that has ill served Pakistani and U.S. interests for decades.

To that end, the United States should stop supplying Pakistan with strategic weapons systems, and it should prevent Pakistan from replacing and repairing those pieces of equipment that it has already received. The provision of U.S. weapons cannot reshape Pakistan’s will to maintain its militant proxies, but those weapons do equip Pakistan to challenge India. Indeed, the vast majority of the weapons systems provided to Pakistan since 2001 are better suited for a conventional conflict with its neighbor than for internal security operations. These transfers undermine U.S. efforts to cultivate a relationship with India, an important democratic partner on a range of crucial issues, from securing regional sea-lanes to managing China’s rise.

For the BBC article see

“Pakistan outrage after ‘Nato attack kills soldiers’”, November 2011

1st Paragraph

Pakistani officials have responded with fury to an apparent attack by Nato helicopters on a border checkpoint they say killed at least 24 soldiers.

9th Paragraph

Within hours of the alleged attack it was reported Pakistan had closed the border crossing for supplies bound for Nato forces in Afghanistan – a move which has been used in the past as a protest.

For the LSE article see

India’s quiet acceptance of the annexation of Crimea reflects its vision for a multi-polar world order”, January 2015

2nd Paragraph

India’s unwillingness to openly criticise Russian actions in the Ukraine has been associated with lingering socialist sentiments from stronger relations during the Cold War or else with India’s increasingly pragmatic foreign policy based on economic linkages. However, under closer scrutiny India’s response to the Ukraine Crisis illuminates a nascent Indian vision of the world order with a specific end goal in mind – to restore India’s destined greatness. India’s perception of how the international system ought to be structured is expressed first through India’s scepticism towards democracy promotion abroad, and secondly through India’s desire for a multi-polar world, in which Russia is one of the key actors.

4th, 5th and 6th Paragraph

Aside from Indian foreign policy values, part of the unwillingness to promote democracy internationally could be that it would open up the black box of past Indian interventions on the subcontinent, such as in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. In addition, actively supporting democracy and enhanced democratisation processes on the international stage could lead to a too critical reflection and a consequential debate of the value of democracy at home: India still suffers from high levels of political corruption, lack of genuine and effective poverty relief programmes, and a persistent caste system that can inhibit social mobility. Therefore, the dearth of democracy promotion efforts and rhetoric could be seen as a tool to protect India’s own perceptions of inherent greatness and maintain external views that India is an emerging power.

India does not seek to completely alienate or isolate Russia in the same way as many Western states. For India, international stage should not be constructed around an American hegemonic order; but rather the coordination and existence of multiple great powers ought to be realised. Russia not only has a vital role in India’s view of the multi-polar international stage, but Russia offers direct benefits to the further development of India as an emerged power. Under the Modi government relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia seem to be improving. In July during a BRICS meeting Modi, in a private comment, reportedly told Putin that “Even a child in India, if asked to say who is India’s best friend, will reply it is Russia because Russia has been with India in times of crisis.” Russia is a top supplier of defence materials to India, and since India is currently the world’s leading weapons importer, this relationship is crucial to bolstering India’s domestic defence apparatus with future potential for enhanced R&D and manufacturing capabilities. In terms of engagement within international institutions, Russia is willing to use its United Nations Security Council veto power to support India, for instance from deterring votes on the Kashmir issue.

On 11th December 2014, Putin arrived in New Delhi. As a result of this brief summit, India will build ten new nuclear reactors with the help of Russia and the two states will work on jointly-manufacturing a fifth generation fighter aircraft. However, Putin did not come alone. Also on Putin’s flight was Sergey Aksyonov, the leader of Crimea, who proceeded to his own meeting to sign a memorandum with the Indian-Crimean Partnership in an effort to increase Indian trade with the Black Sea Region. This annual summit and the presence of Aksyonov highlights the importance of Russia as one of the pieces of India’s ideal international relations that is based on a multi-polar reality rather than utopian visions of democracy promotion.

For the Guardian article see

“Suspected mastermind of Mumbai terror attack released from Pakistan jail”, April 2015

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