Thursday, October 14, 2010

Will the USA and Pakistan ever learn any lesson from history?


Pakistan and the US have very strange relations. Pakistan has always, whenever needed, been a front-line state for the US in order to keep the trouble away from the American soil. First, it was Cold War. Pakistan jumped American bandwagon when all the developing states were joining Non-aligned movement (NAM) when USA was trying to contain the Soviet influence. Then it was American interests being compromised in Afghanistan in the 1980s when Pakistan trained, armed and supported so-called mujahideen.
The US, like a clever client, joined much later after satisfying itself that Pakistan could successfully do its bidding. No doubt, Pakistan was also interested to keep the Soviets out of Afghanistan to protect its own vital interests. Pakistan’s contribution in that war led to break-up of USSR but Pakistan also had to pay the price alone as US had created the mess and then left it to Pakistan and Afghanistan to deal with it. Not only that, it imposed economic sanctions on Pakistan immediately thereafter. In 2001, it needed Pakistan again for the war which was exclusively America’s own war. In order to convince Pakistan to own up this war, TTP started attacking Pakistan leading it to become a fighting partner in the War on Terror.
Like any other affair, Pakistan and USA’s relationship has seen many ups and downs. USA has been violating Pakistan sovereignty through drone attacks, but the last straw on the proverbial camel’s back was its attack on Pakistan’s paramilitary post leading to blocking the route of NATO supply containers. Now the difficult times are ahead again and the Foreign Policy Magazine wonders if Gen. David Petraeus’ ambitious strategy in Afghanistan destroy the goodwill after he forged extremely good relations with Pakistan’s armed forces? Viewed against the hard line that the Pakistan took on the issue of NATO supplies, it is safe to conclude that the resumption of the traffic through Torkham came at a relatively heavy cost, and caused quite a few ripples and ruptures in the U.S.-Pakistan military-to-military relationship that began two summers ago.
The honeymoon between the top military bosses of Pakistan and the United States began on board the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Indian Ocean in the summer of 2008, when General Ashfaq Kayani, accompanied by two aides, sat across the table to discuss his operational plans and limitations with five top American military officials including Admiral Mullen and Gen. Petraeus.
At the center of today’s controversy between Pakistan and the United States stands the man who, along with Admiral Mullen, helped shape what many viewed as an unusual friendship between the two militaries: top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus. Pakistani military officials, who once revered General Petraeus as a talented strategist, are wary of what they call his "ambitious plans" for the Af-Pak region. "We think we have checkmated Petraeus and thwarted his designs to impose a new hot pursuit paradigm on us," a senior Pakistani military official explained to me, amidst the backdrop of border violations by NATO choppers.
Some officials in the Pakistani Army believe Gen. Petraeus deliberately sent his men into hot pursuit of suspected Taliban fighters. With this, he may have wanted to gauge the Pakistani reaction before intensifying the U.S. military campaign into Waziristan, which U.S. military officials say is the source of at least 50 percent of attacks in Afghanistan. This misadventure may have left a scar on the relations which otherwise are not lasting as historical evidence suggests.
Pakistan is suspicious of US intentions after it entered into civil-nuclear deal with India and refusing to give a similar treatment to Pakistan. India is also being used to keep an eye on Pakistan and China through Iran’s Chabahar port developed by India who is not now spending massive amounts of money to link it with Afghanistan. This explains the disturbance in Pakistani Balochistan which was an intended route to connect Chinese-build Pakistani port of Gwadar to Afghanistan. As the US is leaving Afghanistan, it will cease to have any interest in keeping good relations with Pakistan and coming years will unfold more interesting events. Remember 1970 when it established contacts with China and ceased to have any interest in East Pakistan? Pakistan has so far failed to learn any lesson from history. Even the USA has not learned any lesson from the history of the Great Game.

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