After what should be considered a long time since it has actually helped Pakistan improve its military capabilities, it appears that USA has chosen to once again return to its old ways and provide support to an ally, with whom it has enjoyed a rather inconvenient relationship with both sides having a fair share of trust issues.
The U.S. – Pakistan relations
Pakistan-US relations have always been a roller coaster ride throughout the history and it would not be wrong to say that whenever Washington required help in terms of furthering in agenda, Islamabad has always offered its full support. As we have witnessed during the course of a long history between these two, US has always seemed to abandon Pakistan when the country needed its assistance the most.
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As soon as Pakistan came into being, it had the choice to tilt either towards the Soviet Union or go for an Alliance with the United States. An alliance with the latter was chosen as the best case scenario by the Pakistani leaders at that time and in the next few decades, both states succeeded in reaping the rewards of this relationship even though there were a few instances where both felt wronged by one another.
However, the manner in which US has always deserted Pakistan on several instances, has forced Islamabad into branching out because the leaders and the policymakers do not want to cast their lot to a country which they believe will tuck tail and leave the moment things go south. Indeed, US policy towards Pakistan has always seemed to be more of a case of ‘take and rarely’ give so Pakistan should be forgiven for deciding to start taking measures in order to edge away from an influence that has caused it more harm than good.
Following the events of 9/11, US had no option but to make Pakistan a frontline ally in the war against terrorism. Pakistan faced the most serious consequences of American war on terror and indeed the country’s citizens have lost their lives by the thousands ever since US first attacked Afghanistan.
Now, it appears that Pakistan does not want its citizens to pay a cost for an alliance that seems to be nothing but a relation in which the other side has always flattered to deceive. The fact that US presidents in the last 15 years have never toured Pakistan and have always visited neighboring India clearly shows that for Washington, Pakistan has always been nothing more than an expendable resource. Now, Islamabad has started realizing that.
USA’s loss and Russia and China’s gain?
US might still be the only superpower at the moment but recent shifts suggest that this might not remain the case for long with other hopefuls starting to show up and challenging US hegemony. The likes of China and Russia have been making bold moves in recent years and have already shown a keen willingness in their part to help Pakistan both economically and militarily which means that Islamabad has better and maybe even much more profitable alliances to look forward to.
In August this year, the two countries signed a landmark defense deal that saw Russia sell four Mi-35 ‘Hind E’ helicopters to the country’s military. The deal was being discussed for over a year but now that it has been signed, signals an end to the bitter relations between the two during the cold-war era.
Pakistan Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif’s visit to Russia in June where he spent around 15 hours at an arms expo that featured Russia’s latest weapons and military equipment was a clear sign of Russia’s willingness to help Pakistan. Indeed, Vladimir Putin is aware of the importance of Pakistan as an ally in his grand scheme of things.
Moreover, Russia is also reportedly going to enhance cooperation further following exchange visits of military commanders of both states in recent years.
And if that was not proof enough of the shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy, recent moves made by China are a further proof that Islamabad is already breaking away from an uncomfortable relationship with a state which it believes, has let it down on countless occasions.
For years, Pakistan had been asking US to provide it with drones in order to help eradicate elements responsible for countless suicide attacks and bombings throughout the country. The US however, rejected those requests but chose to use killer drones in a bid to cleanse the country’s volatile border.
Now, Pakistan can manufacture drones indigenously and where its drone program comes up short, China is willing to provide it with expertise.
All this has put US in a very awkward position and it has realized that its traditional policy toward Pakistan is coming back to haunt it. US policymakers it seems, are now trying to minimize the damage their recent decisions have caused and want to be more active in order to make up to a country which is a vital clog for their foreign policy goals.
Several new defense and civil projects have been launched, especially with the help of China, while Islamabad and Moscow are really warming up to each other. In short, Pakistan isn’t really missing US at all.
A little too late?
Although US has agreed to provide Pakistan precision strike capabilities in the near future, one has to question if it’s a really desperate move from Washington to patch things up with a country that is slowly slipping away from its influence?
American policymakers do realize that they have to change their mindset toward Pakistan but on the same hand, they need to realize that the Pakistani authorities would definitely have a trick up their sleeves and will use USA’s efforts as a great chance to fill the gaps it has in its defensive and offensive capabilities while also making sure that a major chunk of assistance is taken from Moscow and Beijing.
U.S trying to retain an ally?
Since its early days, Pakistan has been always an important ally for Pentagon, thanks to its geographical location. And in the coming years, Pakistan’s importance to US cannot be ignored. However, broken promises and duality has really started costing US and it is high time for Washington to wake up before the damage it has done is irrevocable.
Currently US shuffling across the board and doing all it can in a bid to stop the Chinese armada that has already become so influential in Pakistani policy and they are unsuccessful in doing it. With the growing economic corporation with Beijing and rapidly growing bilateral ties with Moscow, has forced Washington to offer Pakistan gifts that China and Russia cannot. And although this is going to help Pakistan from a defensive point of view, it is basically US making attempts to keep a bird in its cage like it has for years.
The growing power of eastern block is alarming for Washington, as not only economically but also militarily, they are getting strong and forming alliances that will help challenge America’s global presence and influence. This alliance can shift the economic hub and can tilt the balance of power towards the east. Though it is not simple as it sounds but the reality is that it is happening, albeit at a slow pace.
Now, it is up to US policymakers how they want to change all that. Changing the tone towards Pakistan might be a good start indeed!