US-Pakistan relations: A troubling scenario for South Asia
In international politics, every state is motivated by its national interest, frequently concealed as a moral concern. In other words, there is no friend or enemy when it comes to the national interest of any state in this global world.
Diplomacy, deterrence, bilateralism, multilateralism and blame-game tactics provide grounds for these interests. The ambiguous and confused history of relations between the US and Pakistan is a clear example of this political realism.
Since 1947, relations between the two countries have been disturbed and unclear. Both countries have sabotaged each other’s interests at regional and international levels. Since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Pakistan has paid a very high price in this relationship.
President Donald Trump’s Afghanistan policy and his criticism of Islamabad on the issue of terrorism marked a clear line of conflict between the US and Pakistan. Trump’s allegations against Pakistan and his support of India as a strategic ally on both security and economic fronts prompted Islamabad to review its policy options toward Washington.
Trump tweet prompts chilly response
Pakistan’s cool welcome for visiting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in October demonstrated Islamabad’s grievances over Trump’s Afghanistan policy statement. Trump tweeted Jan. 1 that, “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools” helped Pakistan clarify its relationship with the US. Only cooperation is acceptable and Trump’s demand that Pakistan do more to combat terrorism will be responded with no more.
This is the century of economic ideologies. Economic prosperity, sustainable development, and resource exploration are the best options for a country’s to retain its national integrity. With the One Belt Road Initiative (OBOR) and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China and Pakistan are strengthening their strategic and economic ties which will help Pakistan reduce its dependency on the US and its allies in the West.
It’s in America’s interest to keep Pakistan closer to benefit from political and economic opportunities in the region.
Interestingly, the UK, France, Germany, and Russia have also expressed interest in CPEC, and will probably join this game-changing project. In view of this scenario, it’s in America’s interest to keep Pakistan closer to benefit from political and economic opportunities in the region.
Pakistan is looking to China, Russia, and the five Central Asian republics to enhance economic aims and improve security. Normalization of ties between Russia and Pakistan and Russia’s withdrawal from India indicate a shift in alliances regionally and internationally. Further, the belligerent behavior of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan towards the US, and the country’s friendly ties with Russia are clear efforts to contain US involvement in Asian politics.
Beijing wants relations between the US and Pakistan to deteriorate in order to maintain its influence in the region. OBOR and CPEC will help enhance Chinese naval and military activities in the Arabian Sea and improve its access to the Middle East.
Afghan security concerns worry Beijing
China is concerned about security issues in Afghanistan which pose a threat to the completion of CPEC. Pakistan is the best option for China to get easy access to Afghanistan and increase Beijing’s influence with Kabul. Without Pakistan, China may not be able to secure these goals and to counter US interests in the region.
The American and Nato presence in Afghanistan is a threat to Russian influence in Kabul. Russia is supporting the Taliban to counter Isis and US interests. To counter the US, Russia needs pro-Moscow and pro-Beijing Islamabad in order to cause trouble for US-Nato security forces. Along with China, Russia will support Pakistan to secure Islamabad’s national and global interests.
Last August Pakistan received four latest MI-35 military helicopters fro, Russian and more agreements will be signed between Russia and Pakistan for military and security purposes. These deals can never favor Washington. Pro-Moscow Islamabad is a threat to US interests in South and Central Asia.
Beijing’s tilt towards Pakistan is of concern to India. The uncertainties climate between Islamabad and Washington won muted appreciation in Delhi which has always blamed Islamabad for providing safe havens for terror groups inside Pakistan. Pakistan, in turn, has complained to Washington about US support of India on strategic and economic fronts.
Stronger US ties to India annoy Islamabad
Indian military strategists believe that President Trump will put pressure on Pakistan to eliminate Haqqani network and Taliban terrorists. But Pakistan will resist the pressure because of Washington’s critical stance and its stronger ties with New Delhi, the main reason for sensitivities between US and Pakistan.
India also fears that China’s desire to expand its naval and military might in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean will sabotage India’s interests in South Asia.
New Delhi currently is the best option for Washington to counter hostile states, especially China. Neither geo-political nor geo-strategic scenarios presuppose friendly ties between the US and Pakistan. The Trump administration is more interested in Delhi for future strategic partnership. The uncertain future of US-Pakistan relations will be more influenced by four factors: the Pakistan-China-Russia triangle, US-India relations, the future of OBOR and CPEC and India-China relations and US intentions to secure its interests in the region.