Ups and downs in US-Pakistan relations: What does it mean for India?

Written By: Pushpesh Pant
Gurgaon, Haryana, India Published: Jan 18, 2019, 11:21 AM(IST)

File photo of US President Donald Trump. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The US continues to equate Pakistan with India and provides generous, ill-deserved economic assistance to keep afloat the ‘failed state’. 

No one has ever suggested that the USA is one of India’s neighbours but events ever since our independence and partition of India have conspired in a strange manner to make that superpower the dominating presence in South Asia. 

One slightly galling reminder of ground reality is the manner in which President Trump mocked Modi’s attempt to help Afghanistan by building libraries in that unfortunate war-torn, landlocked country.

To begin with, it was the cold war compulsions that rendered Pakistan particularly attractive to American establishment. This is not the place to go into details of how the military alliance that was forged to contain communism in Asia derailed Pakistan’s democracy and paved the way for the ruthless and corrupt military dictatorship in that land. 

Ironically, when the chips were down the USA failed to come to Pakistan’s rescue. Despite all the bluster and bullying Nixon and Kissinger failed to browbeat Mrs. Indira Gandhi - who oversaw the break up of Pakistan and assisted in the birth of Bangladesh. Much water has flown under many bridges since then but the US has chosen not to remove its blinkers regarding Pakistan. It continues to equate Pakistan with India and provides generous, ill-deserved economic assistance to keep afloat the ‘failed state’. 

Pakistan exploited to the hilt the presence of Soviet Armed Forces in Afghanistan in the 1970s to ingratiate itself with the USA. To cut a long and convoluted story very short the CIA colluded with ISI to raise a crop of Taliban to oust the Russians from Afghanistan. The strategy bore the desired result and the regime change was accomplished. But very soon the US found out that they had created a Frankenstein’s monster. They were riding a Tiger they dared not dismount. The meltdown of Afghanistan impacted adversely on Pakistan. The influx of refugees, smugglers and assorted outlaws in the provinces adjacent to strife-torn Afghanistan made Pakistan unstable and more difficult than ever before to govern. 

The reign of Gen Zia aggravated the crisis by initiating Islamisation of the polity and the army. As a matter of fact, despite all his suave exterior, it was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who had set Pakistan on an irreversible course of identifying with the aggressive interpretation of Islam. To match India’s nuclear power he swore to make an Islamic Bomb aligning himself with Saudi Arabs and the Libyans. Amazingly, he succeeded in performing brilliantly on the tightrope for quite some time. He persuaded the US that he could be useful in building bridges with the Chinese. Hubris led mercurial Bhutto to his doom but Pakistan’s close ties with the USA survived a period of unprecedented volatility. 

More recently, even after the US blew to smithereens the concept of Pakistan’s national sovereignty by exterminating Osama Bin Laden in a safe house next to the Military Cantonment in Abbottabad, it did not take long to regain equilibrium of sorts. What needs to be underlined here is the fact that the stresses and strains in US-Pak relations have never benefitted India. On the contrary, more than one POTUS, be he a Democrat or a Republican, has in his wisdom advised India to be patient with Pakistan- itself a dubious victim of terrorism!

Our economic and strategic ties with the USA have grown in steadily in the past decade and a half and it is difficult to imagine that they will not critically influence our bilateral and multilateral relations with all of our neighbours. America may not be as proximate as China and Russia but we better start looking at it as a 'Big Brotherly Neighbour'. 

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)

 

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